31% take part in arts activities
Northern Ireland may be home to the UK's first City of Culture but a new study has revealed that less than a third of the population took part in arts activities last year.
The government-commissioned research found just 31% of adults played a musical instrument, painted or knitted for pleasure during 2011/12. And, of the 77% who said they had attended an arts event, most went to watch a film with only 21% going to the theatre and 22% to a museum.
The figures were compiled in the latest household survey carried out by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. Costs were cited by 30% of respondents as the main reason for not going out or engaging with the arts.
Roisin McDonough, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Arts Council, said efforts were being made to make the arts more affordable.
Ms McDonough said: "We have long recognised that cost is a barrier for many people wishing to attend arts events and we continue to advocate the need for public funding to enable access to the arts for all.
"We're working with Audiences Northern Ireland and their Test Drive the Arts, as well as encouraging other clients to develop their own initiatives that will help build audiences and create accessibility. The Lyric Theatre's SuperSaver scheme, which is open to community groups at the vastly discounted rate of £5 per person, is just one such example of a way to help make theatre more affordable for all."
The study, which is used to inform government policy, also found that religion, age, health status and the level of deprivation where people live also affected the levels of participation.
Fewer Catholics (28%) than Protestants (32%) took part in arts activities. There was also a decrease in the number of women taking part - which dropped from 36% in 2010/11 to 32% in 2011/12.
However, Ms McDonagh explained how she was encouraged by some of the study's findings, adding: "I am particularly pleased to see that participation rates in arts activities and attendance at arts events have increased significantly, by 6% and 10%, when compared to the 2008/9 survey and, whilst the rates haven't risen since 2010/11, the overall trend is upwards."
Derry beat off competition from Birmingham, Norwich and Sheffield to be named as the inaugural UK City of Culture.