Costs, anxiety and locating events barriers to youth arts engagement

Press Office

A new report by Kent-based youth arts organisation ART31 has found that young people see the arts as an important part of their lives, but there are issues that hold them back from fully engaging that need tackling.

ART31 was founded in 2013 to increase engagement between young people and arts organisations in Kent. It is based at the Gulbenkian Theatre at University of Kent and its board consists of 20 young people who meet once a month to support and promote the ART31 programme across the county.

The new report from the organisation, entitled Young People and Arts Engagement: What We Need, was commissioned by Arts Council England and launched at the Gulbenkian Theatre on 3 September. The aim of the report is to identify the positive experiences young people have with the arts, but also the issues they face that can discourage them from getting involved and how these can be addressed.

As such the organisation surveyed 659 young people aged seven to 25 about their thoughts on arts and culture as well as holding artist-led workshops and engagement events with local young people.

The results showed that 67.8% of respondents said the arts was ‘very important’ or ‘important’ to them and 49% said they would consider a career in the arts in the future. Furthermore, with regards why young people want to take part in arts and culture activities, the report found that fun, relaxation and learning new skills were seen as the biggest positives. As such the report says these attributes should be central to the promotion of relevant arts events to young people.

However, the results also showed that costs, not knowing where to find creative events taking place and anxieties about taking part in arts activities were considered the biggest barriers to engagement.

As such the report says more must be done to promote the opportunities that exist, whether at a school level or through art organisations, to ensure young people know what is taking part and how they can get involved.

Furthermore, ART31 suggests that travel costs may need to be funded by arts providers to overcome this issue, particularly in rural locations such as in parts of Kent, where it can be difficult for people to reach certain venues easily. The time and location of events also needs to be given proper consideration with regards the feasibility of young people getting to them and back again, particularly during school terms.

The report also says that arts providers must make sure they address the issue of anxiety that young people said put them off taking part in events, as this is the biggest barrier to taking part.

Hedley Swain, Area Director, South East, Arts Council England, said: ‘It is incredibly rewarding to see so many children and young people saying that the arts are important to them. But we know there is more to do. It is essential that everyone, but particularly children and young people, have the opportunity to experience everything that creativity has to offer. I hope that arts and cultural organisations across the country use the insights outlined in this report to overcome barriers to participation.’

Director of Arts and Culture at the University of Kent, Liz Moran said: ‘This report demonstrates the importance of creativity in the lives of young people and that action is urgently needed to address the inequality of opportunity that currently exists within, and outside, of education.  The report is all the more powerful as it has been put together by young people themselves.’

Head of creative learning at the Gulbenkian, Eleanor Cocks, said: This report is a fantastic insight into the challenges and opportunities that exist when promoting the arts and will be vital in helping ensure we continue to engage as many young people as possible across Kent.’