The latest 2010 DCMS Taking Part statistical survey shows one aspect of what happened to the arts under Labour, in terms of measuring participation in cultural and arts events. Only a small national increase of less than 5% between 2005/06 and the end of 2010, in the proportion of adults “visiting a museum, gallery or archive in the last year”. Possibly a large chunk of this the increase is simply down to the opening of many new venues to visit, as Lottery-funded new buildings sprouted around the UK.

The five-year picture in the West Midlands looks more rosy, however. The West Midlands saw a 6.4% rise in “I went at least once in the last year” adult gallery/museum attendance, from 35.3% in 2005/06 to 41.7% in 2010. But, again, this may simply be an effect of the expanding number of such venues opened or refurbished/expanded between 2005-2010.

Nationally, the number of adults measured as having “engaged with the arts at least once in the last year” has only “remained steady” since 2005 — despite a plethora of engagement officers, marketing officers, and audience development agencies. And Labour’s attempt to engage more non-white audiences with the arts appears to have broadly failed, nationally…

“the proportion of Black and minority ethnic people engaging with the arts declined from 69.9 per cent to 65.4 per cent”

It’s not just down to the 2008-10 recession dragging the figures down. Between 1999 and 2002 Arts Council England spent ¬£20m on trying to entice poor, young and minority ethnic audiences. But an independent poll by MORI in 2003, of people in the C2s, Ds and Es lower classes, found that attendance ‘once a year’ had risen by only 3% since 1999. And even that tiny rise was more likely to have attributable to the many new Millennium attractions and venues.