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Home // What We Do // Research and Policy Brief March 2019
  • Drifter, Studio Drift, 2017, mixed media with concrete, robotics and tracking system. Photo: COURTESY PACE GALLERY, NEW YORK / GERT JAN VAN ROOIJ

Research and Policy Brief March 2019

This month we prioritised new research about craft and diversity, and summarise evidence on arts participation and wellbeing: 

  • Dr Karen Patel’s new research in partnership with the Crafts Council on the social media challenges facing black and minority ethnic women makers
  • An evidence round up on arts, mental health and wellbeing, plus a new special interest group on art, craft and mental health
  • Plus  - crafts under threat, the lack of diversity in London’s creative workforce, low earnings, the cost of creative arts degrees, and the importance of community participation in arts and culture in reports from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the Local Government Association, Creative People and Places, and the Centre for Towns
  • Lastly – our response to Ofsted’s consultation on its framework, the new head at DCMS, and a Scottish Parliament inquiry is to identify the major threats to sustainable arts funding.

Craft and diversity

Supporting Diversity in Craft Practice by Dr Karen Patel examines the creative drivers and some of the challenges facing black and minority ethnic women makers in the UK specifically in relation to their online profile and presence. We are pleased to be a partner in this research which seeks to understand more about the challenges individuals face. If UK craft is to continue to be world-leading it is essential that we support and champion a diverse range of makers.

Dr Patel’s latest blog sets out how she is seeking to build on the initial insights from this project to develop both academic and practical outputs to support diversity in craft. We’re looking forward to partnering in this two year new project, ‘Supporting Diversity and Expertise Development in the Contemporary Craft Economy’.

Mental health and wellbeing

We’re delighted to be co-chairing a special interest research group (SIG) on arts, craft and mental health. The SIG is part of the MARCH network that focuses on social, cultural and community assets and the role they play in enhancing public mental health and wellbeing. If you’d like to join, contact Julia Bennett

Here’s a round-up of some recent international research findings -

A study to quantify the relationship between recreational arts engagement and mental well-being in the general population shows that those who engaged in 100 or more hours per year of arts engagement reported significantly better mental well-being than other levels of engagement.

Findings from a Canadian study provide initial evidence that a positive experience in physical education and arts education can contribute to student engagement and valuing of school.

Voluntary Arts’ Big Conversation 2018 reveals that the social element of participation in creative groups is one of the most important reasons for taking part and that the sector contributes a huge amount to addressing loneliness and isolation.

Attending theatres, cinemas and museums is associated with a lower risk of developing depression in older age.

Engaging with visual arts can reduce reported anxiety and depression levels, and increase levels of positive mental wellbeing in adults with mental health conditions.

Attending museum-based social prescription interventions can improve wellbeing in older adults.

Participating in community-based arts programmes can improve mental health 

Social identity is a key predictor of quality of life among members of the Men’s Sheds community.

A study of art engagement and mental health at Tate Modern indicates that an emphasis on how users experience gallery-based programmes may contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between art and mental health (details behind pay wall).


The number of craft skills under threat has increased as 37 additions are made to the Heritage Crafts Association’s Red List of Endangered Crafts. Skills such as withy crab pot making, millwrighting and commercial handmade paper making are now at serious risk of dying out in the next generation.

New research by the Centre for London has found London's creative sector has failed to diversify its workforce. Findings suggest that class and ethnicity can too often determine a young person’s success in gaining employment or progressing within London’s creative and cultural industries.

Arts Professional’s ArtsPay 2018 report paints a detailed (and grim) picture of earnings in the arts and cultural sector in 2017/18 across different career stages, organisation, and modes of work.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies claims that creative arts degrees cost the taxpayer 30% more than engineering degrees and are among the most expensive. Taxpayers provide more to students who study these courses because they typically earn less than other degrees and therefore pay back less of their loans. Meanwhile Baroness Amos, writing in the Independent, counters this view, “It is vitally important that we don’t have a knee-jerk reaction and conclude that degrees such as arts, humanities and social sciences are failing to contribute –”

As it moves into the final phase of a study into how arts organisations can better connect with and revitalise local communities, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation invites partners from funding and policy backgrounds to share examples of best practice to help tackle barriers to civic activity.

The support of local communities must be central to any plans to stimulate growth through culture, according to a Local Government Association report examining how culture-led regeneration can achieve sustainable growth. 

New research from Creative People and Places (CPP) calls for a national strategy for developing artists’ socially engaged practice. CPP provides investment in parts of the country where engagement with the arts is lower than the national average to support the public in shaping local arts and cultural provision.

A new project is to explore how culture is funded and how people take part in cultural activity in towns across England is to examine the distribution of cultural infrastructure.


The Crafts Council has responded to Ofsted’s consultation on the draft Education Inspection Framework 2019. We agreed with proposals to introduce a ‘quality of education’ judgement and to separate inspection judgements about learners’ personal development and learners’ behaviour and attitudes. We emphasised that schools should only be judged "outstanding" by Ofsted if they can demonstrate excellence in creative and technical teaching.

Sarah Healey is the new Permanent Secretary at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Sarah has previous experience at DCMS, the Department for Exiting the EU and the Cabinet Office.

A Scottish Parliament inquiry is to identify the major threats to sustainable arts funding and determine how decisions should be made about which artists or freelancers obtain public arts funding.