Are there enough arts opportunities for young people in rural areas compared to in cities?

For Part D of my Gold Award I researched arts opportunities for young people in rural areas vs cities.

Are there enough arts opportunities for young people in rural areas compared to in cities?

The issue I have chosen to discuss is whether or not there are enough accessible arts opportunities for young people in rural areas. My initial opinion is that there are not enough varied arts opportunities for young people in rural areas. ‘Arts’ to me include: dance, drama, writing and visual arts. And ‘accessible arts opportunities’ means a chance for a person to take part in, or learn about an art form of their choice freely – with no barriers holding them back. In my argument I will try to answer the question: Are there enough accessible arts opportunities available for young people in rural areas compared to in cities? I chose this question because I live in a rural area and often feel like the young people here miss out compared to young people in cities. I think lack of transport and availability are the main barriers young people in rural areas face when trying to access the arts. Therefore, I have focused my research on availability of arts groups and accessibility in terms of transport. 

I began my research by looking into availability of arts opportunities by comparing my local rural town, Diss, to the nearest urban city, Norwich. Norwich has a higher population, so as expected, there are more opportunities there. However the opportunities are also more varied and give young people living there the chance to take part in a wide range of arts. I found there are more organisations offering arts opportunities for young people in Norwich such as Creative Arts East, Garage and Open than in Diss. In Diss, the Corn Hall offers Arts Award but to take part in larger projects young people would have to travel to Norwich.

This led me onto researching accessibility of opportunities. I started with transport and found out that infrastructure in rural areas is usually poor so transport isn’t as easily available than in urban areas. For a young person living in a village they would have to take a bus to the nearest town and then a train to a city if they wanted to access a wide range of arts opportunities. The cost of the cheapest bus ticket plus a train ticket from Diss to Norwich would be £11.90. However, I also found out about Borderhoppa, a local bus service in Norfolk available to people who have no other access to a bus service. It could help young people get into a town like Diss to take part in an arts activity like Arts Award. I also learnt from maps that people in cities may still have to travel to arts groups so even though infrastructure is better they may also need financial help to access arts opportunities. 

Another way arts can be accessible to young people in rural areas is through touring shows. Creative Arts East are a charity who help people in communities in rural areas that face barriers to accessing cultural life. They do this by helping locals run live performance and cinema events. Seeing the map of all the locations across the east that this charity reaches, helped change my views on accessibility to arts in rural areas. Many non- traditional arts venues like pubs or town halls can host the shows that are toured. This made me realise that even though we may have less opportunities than people in urban areas, we can experience arts differently in rural areas. 

Researching arts organisations in a bit more detail also helped change my perspective on arts by giving me a greater understanding of differences between arts in rural and urban areas. It made me realise arts opportunities can look different depending on where you live and it’s not as easy as ‘just’ creating more opportunities for young people in rural areas. While reading the Arts Council Rural Evidence and Data Review 2019, I was surprised to find that “Those in rural areas are typically more likely to engage in cultural activity than those in urban areas”. However I think it’s because those in rural areas generally had higher socio economic status therefore more money to spend on cultural activities. When looking at people in rural areas with lower socio economic status, engagement was lower. I also believe people in rural areas may generally take part in cultural activities more because there is a larger sense of community in small areas and people socialise at cultural events to avoid feeling lonely. 

Next I looked into a range of opinions. The responses to my questionnaire in Diss made me realise that young people may not know about arts opportunities because they don’t advertise well enough. One young person said, “Lots of people at my school don’t know about any arts opportunities”. I think this is part of the reason why “not a lot of young people are involved in the arts locally”. In rural areas it’s difficult to know about arts opportunities in small villages surrounding you as they are often poorly connected. When asked ‘do you think there are more arts opportunities for young people in cities?’ 8/9 said yes. Most said they think there are more opportunities for young people in cities because there are “more venues” like “museums and galleries” and they have “bigger arts scenes”. Someone said “there are more people therefore more participants and income. It's also more accessible to more people”. Overall, the questionnaire answers affirmed my initial opinion that there aren’t enough accessible arts opportunities for young people in rural areas.

In conclusion, I believe there should be more accessible arts opportunities for young people in rural areas. I learnt that arts opportunities in rural areas will be different to those in cities as adjustments have to be made for smaller places. I also learnt that just because some young people live in cities, it doesn’t mean that they’ll be able to access all opportunities so I understand it isn’t just a struggle people in rural areas face. I think that if infrastructure was better developed and public transport was affordable it would give young people a fairer chance to participate in the arts. 

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Debbie Castro

Debbie Castro

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