Arts audiences are 92% white, survey claims

More than nine out of 10 members of arts audiences are white, according to Audience Agency figures. Photo: aerogondo2
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White people make up 92% of arts audiences, according to a major new study that highlights an underrepresentation of black and Asian people.

Figures from the Audience Agency found that those with disabilities are also missing out on cultural experiences.

But the figures, gathered from a survey of 100,400 people, also show that younger audiences are markedly more diverse than audiences overall.

Arts organisations across the country helped gather the data by asking their audience members to fill in a questionnaire about their ethnic background, age and disability status.

The data was collected by 276 organisations before being passed back to the Audience Agency.

Overall, 92% of the audience members who completed the questionnaire described themselves as white. This compares to 86% of the overall UK population.

Asian audiences were markedly underrepresented, making up just 3.2% of survey respondents compared to 7.5% of the population.

Black audiences were also smaller than expected, at just 1% of the total audience data compared to 3.3% of the population.

However, the ethnic make-up of audience members under 35 was much closer to the census figures for the UK population. Those aged 16 to 24 were closer still to the nationwide diversity of the population.

The data also shows that those with major disabilities are much less likely to attend the theatre than those with minor disabilities or no disability at all.

Audience members were asked whether their day-to-day activities were limited “a little”, “a lot” or “not at all” by a health problem or disability – in line with the wording in the most recent UK census.

Only 2.1% of audience members answered “a lot”, compared to 8.5% of the population, while 8% of audiences said they were affected “a little”, next to 9.4% in the census.

Announcing the findings, Audience Agency chief executive Anne Torreggiani said the study “to some extent corroborates what we thought we already knew, which is that arts audiences come from better-off people who are more privileged, generally”.

On younger audiences appearing to be more diverse, she said: “I don’t think that means we can sit back and be complacent about it. But the profile of those younger audiences looks much closer to the ethnicity of the population than it does for the overall sample.”

Listing its findings, the Audience Agency noted the survey was based on a “huge sample” and claimed this assured the results were “robust and representative of real attenders”.