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Wednesday, 25 July, 2001, 10:45 GMT 11:45 UK
Arts audiences 'falling'
English Arts Council
Contemporary dance saw audiences rise by 1%
New research suggests that arts audiences are declining, despite record levels of public funding.

A report, compiled by a team of 25 experts over two years, looked at film, libraries, heritage buildings, literature, the arts and public broadcasting.

It estimates audiences for ballet fell by 14%, theatre by 8% and even cinema failed to rise by more than 6% between 1986 and 1996.

Contemporary dance managed an audience rise of 1%.

The 600-page report, by the think-tank The Policy Studies Institute (PSI), also said that publicly funded bodies in the arts are failing to account for how their grants are spent.

The British Museum
Museum-going hit a high in 94-95 but then declined
Sara Selwood, who edited The UK Cultural Sector, said there was a "shocking" lack of information on what happened to some 5bn of public money invested in the arts during 1998-99.

"How can we know if we're getting value for money if the official bodies don't even know where all the money is going, where it comes from or how it is spent?" she said.

The report claims to be the first comprehensive profile of the UK arts world.

It says that the lack of clear information on spending and audiences have made it difficult to make decisions for the future.

It also claims that the inadequate data has made it impossible to access the efficacy of past arts policy decisions and funding grants.

The data is so fragmented that it is difficult to confirm what happened to audiences in that period, it adds.

Alan Bates in Anthony and Cleopatra
Theatre-going is still the most popular cultural activity
"Little information is available - or known - about how many organisations receive subsidies; how many people go to subsidised events and activities; who those people are; how many people work in the subsidised cultural sector; or the level and kind of impact cultural subsidies are actually having," said Ms Selwood.

Public funding for the arts in the period is estimated to have increased by 10% since the last PSI study in 1993-1994.

But the main provider of funds involved, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), decreased its spending on the arts by 20% in the time as National Lottery cash began to be available for the arts.

This appears to break government pledges that Lottery cash would be extra spending rather than a substitute for public funding.

But the DCMS said since the years covered by the report its contribution had increased and would do so further.

A DCMS spokesman said funding between 1999-2000 and 2003-2004 would rise by 60%.

"We have got targets and they're closely monitored," he said.

Ailing arts?
Are we losing interest in the arts?
See also:

07 Mar 01 | Budget 2001
Museums and galleries will be free
14 Mar 01 | Education
Museums 'bring history alive'
09 Feb 01 | Education
Private schools in museum charge row
24 Jan 01 | Entertainment
UK box office hits 26-year high
06 Jul 99 | Education
2.5m for museums to educate pupils
11 Jan 00 | Education
24-hour museum for schools
19 Oct 98 | Education
Extra backing for museum projects
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