The role of grassroots arts activities in communities: a scoping study

Author(s):*Listed Alphabetically
Fyfe H, McCabe A, Milling J, Phillimore J, Ramsden H, Simpson R

Year of Publication:

Third Sector Research Centre

Publication Type:
Other Paper


Over 2009-2010, the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC) undertook work to identify the current state of knowledge on small, below the radar, community groups and activities. This highlighted the lack of research into the contribution of grass-roots or amateur arts organisations make in communities. This gap in knowledge is substantial, given that there are an estimated 49,000 such groups in England.

In partnership with the Universities of Exeter and Glamorgan as well as Voluntary Arts, and with financial support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Connected Communities programme, the Centre undertook a scoping study to assess the lessons from the academic and grey literature across the arts, social sciences and voluntary sector.

This identified a range of different impacts and outcomes in terms of amateur arts groups. For individuals, participation in arts based activities ‘for their own sake’ could promote their mental health and wellbeing. Some involved, particularly young people, made the transition from amateur arts to paid employment in the creative industries. Improvements in educational attainment and functioning in the work-place were also reported as positive outcomes in some of the literature. Claims were also made about the economic role such activities play in communities: through the hire of village halls, the management of local assets, equipment hire or the employment of professional artists in, for example, preparing for performances. However in this, and other areas, there was a lack of empirical evidence exploring or quantifying the exact nature of impact.

The measurement of the impact of amateur arts was explored further with members of grass-roots arts networks at a day conference in October 2011 at Cecil Sharp House.

It is the hope of the current partners that further research can be undertaken over 2012 to develop a practical toolkit for assessing the outcomes of amateur arts activities in communities.

Main Focus: Community Development

Research Purpose: Discussion / Debate

Context: Community

Art Forms: Multi-Arts

Access Type: Free Download

APA Citation:

Ramsden,H. et al.(2011). The role of grassroots arts activities in communities: a scoping study. UK: Third Sector Research Centre.