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Whether it was the work we did for The Reading Agency on the outcomes of reading for pleasure, the ongoing cultural impact study of the WOMAD festivals, the evaluation of the BFI Film Academy, or the current evaluation we’re conducting for Plymouth Music Zone, there are some nagging questions that keep coming up when I’m analysing the data and writing the reports:


  • How does culture impact on those interested in the arts differently than those who aren’t?

  • How can we better consider the experiences of those not participating in cultural activities?

  • How can we create inclusive cultural policy for people who don’t have an interest in the arts?



Culture is good for you

Whether coming from policy makers, researchers and consultants, cultural organisations or practitioners, there is a prevailing notion that culture is good and everyone should be doing more of it. It’s good for the economy (our Chancellor said so a couple of weeks ago), it’s good for cities (we said so last month), it’s good for your health, it’s even good if you just want to find something to do other than work (although I’m not sure this applied to Spectre).


However, one thing that constantly keeps being missed in many studies and conversations is the really crucial variable that some people just feel more cultural, arty or creative than others, and that this will have a massive impact on the effects that cultural experiences, ‘interventions’, and ultimately investment, will have on them.


I don’t just mean in the Bourdieu/Cultural Capital/Culture as ‘Distinction’ sense; where one person’s an Opera Buff and someone else is into dubstep (and we can presumably therefore make assumptions about their social class, wealth and education). I mean that at certain times we feel more creative or artistic than at others, and sometimes we feel more or less creative, cultural, or artistic than other people. It’s not because we haven’t ever done anything cultural, or neglected music or art lessons, it’s really to do with a heap of socio-cultural experiences that make up our identities, and by extension our behaviour, tastes and perspectives, which change over the life course.


Those of us working in the sector tend to immerse ourselves in cultural activities and discuss and exchange our experiences and interests, but we may at the same time be forgetting about the many others who don’t.


Some people simply are not engaged by music, books, dance, cinema, theatre, or visual art. Some people prefer sport, shopping, hanging out with family, engineering, economics or IACGMOOH. It is these activities and interests that shape their worldviews, interactions and presentations of the self.


I like culture as much as the next guy, but there are quite significant ideological and democratic implications of ignoring those who don’t. The significance of cultural identities being hugely variable across the population is a tricky fact. But it’s something we should bear in mind when developing policy, or at the very least something we should measure when exploring the impacts of cultural engagement and activity. The work continues.




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Further reading


  • Is education still a key determinant in how we are identified in social and class standing? Allison Sullivan from Oxford University takes on Bourdieu and offers some insights for present day researchers.

  • Are our identities becoming more fluid and blurry with the rise of the ‘Cultural Omnivore’?


Please have a digest of some of our further reading suggestions and get in touch with us if you have any questions.

We need to talk about our cultural identities

How often do we consider ‘identity’ as a variable in cultural research? Probably not enough.

Dec 11, 2015

Green Cities helping climate change through culture and sustainability

Nov 4, 2021

How are major cities around the world responding to climate change through cultural policies and programmes?

The Green World Cities of Tomorrow: Culture and Sustainability

Paul Owens

Culture and the Climate Emergency

Apr 22, 2021

5 Priorities for World Cities in the post-covid recovery period

Culture and the Climate Emergency

Paul Owens

Culture and the Recovery: Levelling Up Culture?

Dec 4, 2020

Culture can play an important role in recovery and renewal across the UK, if the right local decision-making is put in place

Culture and the Recovery: Levelling Up Culture?

Callum Lee

Central London’s celebrated

Sep 23, 2020

This focused, coordinated set of measures can not only rescue the sector, but position it to lead the recovery

Central London’s celebrated cultural offer is in peril

Jonathan Todd

COVID-19: Government support packages for culture and creative industries #3

Aug 21, 2020

Three big questions as applications close for Arts Council England’s Cultural Recovery Fund

COVID-19: Government support packages for culture and creative industries #3

Paul Owens

COVID-19: Government support packages for culture and creative industries #2

Jul 30, 2020

The UK’s £1.57 billion recovery package: priorities for a New Deal

COVID-19: Government support packages for culture and creative industries #2

Paul Owens

COVID-19: Cities, Culture and the 3 ‘P’s: powers, partnerships, place

Jul 20, 2020

Cities are using their unique capabilities to lead recovery and renewal

COVID-19: Cities, Culture and the 3 ‘P’s: powers, partnerships, place

Paul Owens

COVID-19: Government support packages for culture and creative industries #1

Jul 7, 2020

Investing in recovery, planning for transformation

COVID-19: Government support packages for culture and creative industries #1

Paul Owens

COVID-19 is a triple blow to culture and the creative industries

Jun 30, 2020

Recovery and renewal will depend on how we address the three dimensions of the crisis

COVID-19 is a triple blow to culture and the creative industries

Paul Owens

Take planning and collaboration to whole a new level.

Jun 3, 2020

In the face of radical uncertainty leaders and policy-makers will have to take planning and collaboration to whole a new level

‘Plans are useless, planning is essential’

Paul Owens

Relief, Recovery and Renewal

May 13, 2020

Nobody knows what will happen next, but we have a good idea of the three necessary steps out of the crisis

Relief, Recovery and Renewal: navigating our way to a new kind of future

Paul Owens

The Golden Thread in the 2020s

Dec 20, 2019

A cause for optimism

Weaving the Golden Thread into the 2020s

Paul Owens

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By BOP Consulting

Douglas Lonie

Associate

Douglas is an Associate at BOP Consulting, leading on major multi-stakeholder research and evaluation projects in the UK and internationally.

Douglas Lonie - Associate | BOP Consulting

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Douglas Lonie

Douglas Lonie

Associate