Published: 08 October 2021

Local arts venues’ vital contribution to town centre income and well-being

Arts and Culture contribute greatly to the local economy and improve community welfare. Recognising this, Academics from the University of Surrey conducted a study on the Economic and Social impacts of the Arts in Surrey and found that for every £10 spent at a venue, there was an additional spend of up to £13.28 which stays in the local economy.

Caroline Scarles

With the help of our SME Innovation Voucher scheme, experts from the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management collaborated with Yvonne Arnaud theatre in conjunction with Watts Gallery – Artists Village in Compton and The Lightbox in nearby Woking. The SME Innovation Voucher Scheme funds innovative, collaborative projects between small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and our world-class academics. This industry collaboration helped evaluate the range of economic and social contributions that are being made within each organisation and provided insights not only on an organisational scale, but on the potential tri-fold benefits and wider impact of culminative arts experiences to the social and economic environment of Surrey.

Yvonne Arnaud Theatre (YAT) is a charitable arts organisation and regional theatre which opened its doors in 1965. The theatre is calculated to bring in an additional £1.5m to the local economy each year simply with theatre attendance. The Theatre also works with Guildford School of Acting (GSA) at the University of Surrey as an industry partner, and with occasional student placements. GSA hires the Yvonne Arnaud Auditorium at cost for their third-year musical theatre students’ large-scale productions. This is part of YAT’s remit to work with young people and students supporting their engagement with theatre and supporting emerging artists.

Watts Gallery - Artists' Village is a unique Arts & Crafts centre nestled in the Surrey Hills. First opening its doors to the public in 1904, Watts Gallery is a purpose-built art gallery created to display the works of the great Victorian artist G F Watts.

The Lightbox based in Woking, Surrey, is an award-winning charitable arts and heritage organisation with a social purpose to improve the wellbeing and quality of life of its community.

This project was also referenced by Angela Richardson MP in Parliament in her contribution to the budget debate. The project helped to provide strategic direction to the business partners involved, and evidence to support their funding applications. For our academics, the project provided a great opportunity to engage with the industry and the local arts community. The data, both quantitative and qualitative, collected through this project were expected to be used for both teaching and potential publications. In particular, the interviews with managers of arts organisations produced useful qualitative data on the organisations’ management of the impact of Covid-19, which contribute to the current academic debate on this matter and there is a good potential for an academic publication based on the data collected in this project.

‘Working with our partners during such challenging times provides the opportunity, not only to reflect upon the existing role that the arts play in the economic and social health of our region, but also to provide insight into the ways in which the arts can continue to provide support to communities during this time of crisis and beyond. We look forward to continuing to work with our partners to progress this work.’ Caroline Scarles, Professor of Technology in Society at the University of Surrey

‘As artists and creative people, we see the power of the arts in transforming our communities every day, bringing together the lonely, the vulnerable and voiceless, giving well-being and confidence to many. We are grateful to our partners in this study which now empirically demonstrates this impact and enables us to shine a light on the wider value of our work.’ Joanna Read, Director and Chief Executive, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.