Editorial: Get The Picture

Which social groups are more likely to attend different music events? Why are some people many times more likely to be involved in music than others? Are some people excluded from musical life? In February, the Economic and Social Research Institute issued...

Which social groups are more likely to attend different music events? Why are some people many times more likely to be involved in music than others? Are some people excluded from musical life? In February, the Economic and Social Research Institute issued a report on the arts, In the Frame or Out of the Picture?, which attempted to answer these questions. It concluded that educational attainment was hugely important, and that this correlated with social class and income. It also suggested that family and social networks are extremely significant in influencing an individual’s participation in the arts, but it didn’t have the data to be conclusive.

The ESRI’s analysis was based on a survey carried out by the Arts Council on ‘a representative sample of over 1,200 Irish adults’. Naturally, any further insight into the fabric of our lives is to be welcomed, but this report can only provide the not-so-good news, that those in certain socio-economic classes do not have the same opportunities, or do not avail of the same opportunities, as those in other groups. The report will inevitably lead to increased pressure on arts and music initiatives to have a cultural inclusion dimension and invest more resources in this area – yet is this not already an inherent part of any artistic endeavour?

A creative next step would be to obtain statistical data on 1,200 people in Ireland who are extremely active in the arts and music and have been all their lives. We may indeed find that they have vaguely similar socio-economic backgrounds, but we would also document an abundance of insights into ways people get involved, and how to get people involved. The almost universal common denominator would, without a doubt, be parents, followed by family and friends.

It’s good to have the data and the science, but this isn’t rocket science. Who would bet against the insights from 1,200 artists today being identical to those that musicians and artists have been trying to impart to Irish governments for decades? Not I.

Published on 1 March 2008

Toner Quinn is Editor of The Journal of Music. His website is https://tonerquinn.com/

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