Less than half of adults taken to theatre as kids, study finds

UK audiences pay an average of £71 per theatregoer for a show and drinks
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Fewer UK adults attended the theatre than any other cultural activity when they were growing up, a new study has revealed, which also shows that price and distance are the main barriers to people attending cultural events.

Results of the first wave of a ‘tracking study’ conducted by King’s College London’s Culture and Major Events Consortium, commissioned by KCL as part of its Culture at King’s programme, showed that 46% of respondents went to the theatre as children, compared with 86% who went to libraries and 75% who visited museums and art galleries.

Fran Hegyi, director of the project, said: “When I was growing up, what you did was go to the museum or a library. I think looking at how this changes over time will be fascinating, particularly when you look at the local library closures we’re having.

“I think a lot more people are going to the theatre now, but when you put it against things like museums, which are free entry, it’s not going to be as accessible for everybody.”

More than 2,000 adults in the UK were surveyed about their habits and attitudes towards cultural events, with 87% declaring some interest in the arts, and 12% attending some form of arts or cultural event at least once a month.

The public tracking study was created with global information company Nielsen and “will act as a barometer for attitudes to culture in the UK”, according to KCL.

The survey also found that 42% of respondents believed the price of today’s live cultural events prevented them going, and 37% said these took place too far from their home for them to attend.
When asked whether local arts and cultural spaces were important, only 8% said that they strongly agreed, with the largest proportion (35%) declaring themselves ambivalent. Almost one in five (18%) disagreed; 11% strongly.

Hegyi said that, despite this, appetite for cultural activity remains strong among UK adults.

“When you look at the sporting or cultural events and activities people are planning, eight out of the top 10 are cultural. It just shows how into culture the British public is, which is really encouraging,” she said.

The study is the result of £110,000 of funding given to Culture at King’s to continue its first cultural enquiry, Beyond Performance, which explored the role arts and culture play in maximising the value of high-profile sporting events. It found that 54% thought cultural events enhanced sporting events of which they were a part, such as the 2012 Olympics.

Half of UK adults agreed there should be a mix of free and paid-for events, revealed the study, with most saying they were prepared to pay between £11 and £30 for a cultural event associated with an international sporting occasion.

Deborah Bull, director of cultural partnerships at King’s College London, said: “The success of the Cultural Olympiad was a high point in public engagement with culture. However, now that the organisations that made it possible have dissolved, there’s a genuine risk we will lose this expertise.”


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