press release
Published: 22 February 2021

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

A recent study by the University of Surrey, in partnership with the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford; Watts Gallery - Artists’ Village, Compton, and The Lightbox gallery and museum, Woking, shows that for every £10 spent at these venues, the local economy benefits, on average, by a further spend of up to £13.28, mainly in retail, and food and drink sectors.

The report also finds that nearly 70% of visitors would not have visited the areas otherwise, indicating the importance of the existence of these organisations and their notable contribution to local footfall and spend.

The research was carried out between March and July 2020, by Professor Gang Li, Professor Caroline Scarles, Dr Jason Chen, Dr Anyu Liu and Professor Nigel Morgan from the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Surrey, and reflects levels of pre-Covid spending and attendance.  It comprises two parts, social and economic, bringing together survey data collected directly from attendees to each organisation, in combination with interviews conducted with groups using the venues for additional community-related activities.  

‘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. 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

‘This collaborative report expresses the vital contributions the arts make to communities within Surrey. With the health and wellbeing of those in our region more important now than ever, we must continue to support the whole community in accessing great art – a commitment that has proven to be so beneficial, including to those who face the greatest life challenges.’

Alistair Burtenshaw, Director, Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village

I would like to thank our partners at the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management for conducting this invaluable research to demonstrate the benefits of the arts to Surrey's local economy and communities. The Lightbox believes 'Art has the power to make you feel good' and we are proud to partner with Watts Gallery - Artists' Village and the Yvonne Arnaud, who also champion education, well-being, and social inclusion through community engagement and participation programmes.’

Marilyn Scott, Director, The Lightbox gallery and museum

The social impact section of the report shows how, as well as physically presenting theatre and the visual arts, the partner organisations also use their expertise to support health and well-being initiatives, adult education, social inclusion, social justice and community identity activities.

The report also reflects on some of the ways in which the partner organisations were able to respond to the first COVID-19 lockdown, and the vital need to revise the offer of programmes and initiatives and consider the need for hybrid solutions to community engagement that extend across both physical and digital engagement platforms.


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