Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Grassroots arts activity makes ‘significant contribution’ to civil society, says research

A report, released today by the Third Sector Research Centre, states that grassroots arts activity makes a ‘very significant and positive contribution’ to the development of Civil Society.

Researchers from TSRC, in partnership with Universities of Exeter and Glamorgan as well as Voluntary Arts, reviewed a large amount of information on grassroots arts activity. They drew the ‘overwhelming conclusion’ that these activities help improve the well being of both individuals and communities.

There are currently more than 49,000 amateur arts groups in England. It is estimated that around 9.4 million people participate in these activities. This participation enables people to gain new skills, improve their learning, and increase feelings of self confidence and self-worth. Research studies show a strong association between cultural participation and increased literacy, maths and behaviour.

Participation in voluntary arts groups also helps create social networks, promote social cohesion and empower people and communities.

For groups such as ethnic minorities, participation in activities relating to their own culture can lead to greater pride in their identity and an empowered sense of community. For disabled people, participation can reduce isolation, increase social networks and enhance quality of life. Older people gain significant health benefits by being more socially connected.

The research also identifies economic impacts by amateur arts organisations, for example in sustaining community buildings and providing young people with a route into employment.

The report also highlights the need for more consistent empirical research to fully understand and quantify the impact of these activities.

Angus McCabe from the Third Sector Research Centre said ‘We found such a huge range of positive benefits associated amateur and community arts activity. Most research had been carried out on a single project basis, rather than looking at the effect of ongoing activities in communities. A large-scale project could help make information available at local authority level, and provide statistical data to help develop and implement policy.’

The research partners intend to further this research by developing a practical toolkit for assessing the outcomes of amateur arts activities in communities.

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