Young people and culture - ‘The arts can be quite exclusionary’ 

“There's absolutely an appetite with young people for the arts."
Ellen Kenny
Ellen Kenny

10.55 1 Aug 2023

Share this article

Young people and culture - ‘Th...

Young people and culture - ‘The arts can be quite exclusionary’ 

Ellen Kenny
Ellen Kenny

10.55 1 Aug 2023

Share this article

The Arts Council is worried about the lack of young people who care about the arts – but young artists have suggested it’s the Council itself that needs to change. 

Arts Council Creative Schools Director Mags Walsh told Newstalk reporter Sarah Madden the latest Arts Insights Survey shows a drop in engagement with the arts. 

“The concern of us is that it is in the 16- to 24-year-olds age group where we are seeing the greatest decline,” she said on The Pat Kenny Show. 


“The actual attendance is coming back up to pre-COVID levels, but people are attending less frequently.” 

Ms Walsh said lockdown is a likely cause for the lack of young people attending theatres, galleries and other cultural events. 

“The loss of habit is a big thing,” she said.

“If you only just started the habit as a teen and are now emerging in the 16 to 24 age bracket, you may never have got the habit in the first place.” 

'Cultural capital'

Young people lack the “cultural capital” needed to have enough confidence to attend live performances and events.  

“It's also that what we may consider the arts and what young people consider creative pursuits don’t always line up,” Ms Walsh said. 

The Abbey Theatre, Dublin. Image: Richard Wayman / Alamy Stock Photo

Youth Theatre Ireland member Chaya Nicole Smith said the survey on attendance only covers Arts Council-funded events – and young people have carved out their own culture in Ireland. 

“There's absolutely an appetite with young people for the arts – creating and engaging,” she said.  

“But most of the young people I know would go to arts-based events run and performed by young people,” she said. 

“Everyone knows a friend in a band who puts on gigs... there's college drama societies that would attract a lot of people.” 

'Exclusionary' costs

One person told Sarah she thinks the arts is only accessible to “people of middle-class status in Ireland”. 

Ms Smith agreed, saying “cost and location is a massive barrier” for young people to attend Arts Council events. 

“If you're only going to arts-based events ran and performed by your friends, there’s going to a high chance they’re low-cost tickets and close to you,” she explained. 

“Arts Council-funded events are higher price, likely in cities. Obviously, that is understandable, but it can be quite exclusionary.” 

The entrance area to the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre. Image:Pascal Boegli / Alamy Stock Photo

Give Us the Night Founder Sunil Sharpe said we also need to change when events are taking place if they want to engage more young people. 

“We need to redefine what nightlife is,” he said. 

“You could have exhibitions later into the evening, you can have film screenings a little bit later, you could have comedy events. 

“All the type of events that happen in the evening and traditionally finish around 10 or 11pm could easily go post-midnight.” 

Main image: Splitscreen of a group of young people performer on Stephen's Green and the exterior of the Gaiety Theatre on South King Street.

Share this article

Read more about

Arts Arts Council Culture Give Us The Night Young People Youth Theatre Ireland

Most Popular