How Surrey’s arts organisations impact the social and economic health of the county

If you’ve ever been to the theatre or a gallery, you will know how the arts can transform our mood or our outlook. Life in lockdown has shown us how powerful creativity can be, and why many people are so desperate to get out and enjoy these activities again.

An audience fills out the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre auditorium back before the lockdown.

Thanks to a recent study by the School of Hospitality at the University of Surrey, in partnership with the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, The Lightbox gallery and museum and Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village, the direct impact of these three local arts organisations on the social and economic health of the county can
be seen clearly.

The research reveals that besides the economic benefits to the three organisations, for every £10 of visitors’ on-site spending, up to £13.28 is likely to be spent in the local area. The retail, and food and drink sectors are likely to benefit the most. According to the post-visit survey, nearly 70% of the visitors surveyed would not have come to the area if they weren’t attending the theatre or galleries.

Life in lockdown has shown us how powerful creativity can be, and why many people are so desperate to get out and enjoy these activities again.

The research also highlights the ways through which the arts organisations provide opportunities for vital community engagement. These initiatives include health and wellbeing, education and skills development, social inclusion, and social justice, as well as activities that increase community engagement with the arts. They instigate projects which connect with the needs of vulnerable groups and those who might otherwise remain physically distanced from the venues. Covid-19 has challenged each venue differently, but they have all responded positively with socially distanced theatre and music, where possible, as well as numerous digital workshops and performances.

The research reveals that besides the economic benefits to the three organisations, for every £10 of visitors’ on-site spending, up to £13.28 is likely to be spent in the local area.

The study finds that opportunities for interaction and meeting at the theatre become vital for many. One participant commented, activities at the theatre ‘engage drama skills to boost their confidence and communication skills as well as self-expression’ and another felt ‘fulfilled through their engagement’.

We hope it won’t be too long before the full impacts of these three organisations will be felt again.

If you would like to read the Executive Summary of the ‘The Economic and Social Impact of Arts in Surrey’ study you can download it here.

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