Sometimes in Ireland it seems as if there isn’t a month that goes by that there isn’t another lively debate, or even controversy, in the arts. It could be artists’ pushing the boundaries with new work, arts organisations choosing one path over another, or key figures in the arts sector speaking their minds about current events – it is usually played out on social media, and on the pages of our newspapers for the entire Irish public to see and perhaps join in.
But whenever someone says it must be terrible for us at the Arts Council to see all that disagreement in public, I laugh! There is only ever a public controversy about things that actually matter to the public, and in this country, clearly, the arts matter a great deal.
That conclusion is more than proven by the results of survey of public opinion we commissioned recently from Red C, one of Ireland’s leading polling companies.
We asked a series of questions designed to find out how people representative of all demographic groups in every part of the State engaged personally with the arts, and whether they felt there were additional social and economic benefits from the arts. What they said back to us is very encouraging.
In brief, the arts are a major part of people’s lives, whether it is listening to music, reading books, going to performances, exhibitions or the cinema, or actually taking part in the arts themselves. The results are similar regardless of region or social class. In any given week, fully 96 percent of the population will engage with the arts.
When it comes to the additional benefits of the arts, ordinary people turn out to be a lot smarter than some of the pundits – and well capable of ‘joined-up thinking’.
For example, almost four in five people say the arts locally help give their county or region is distinctive identity, while 87 percent believe Ireland’s reputation for the arts attracts tourists.
People say the arts is a driver of job creation too: Four-fifths believe our reputation for creativity and innovation is underpinned by the arts, and 53 percent state that our reputation for the arts influences the locating of multinational corporations here.
These results are all the more encouraging as they are broadly in line with the data from our report with Kantar Media TGI, The Arts in Irish Life 2014 (MS Word, 2.2 MB) which we published some months ago.
You can see the full infographic here (PDF, 2.4 MB) and download the full Red C report here (MS PowerPoint. 15.1 MB)
And, as a bonus, you can read Oscar Wilde’s languid Lord Henry Wotton remarking to the artist Basil Hallward that 'there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about' here!