Explaining cultural participation in the UK : a geographical approach
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This thesis addresses the subject of cultural participation, specifically attendance at cultural venues in the UK. This is a topic that interests sociologists, in terms of the social construction of cultural judgements, and how cultural consumption reinforces and perpetuates social stratification. It also interests cultural funders, in understanding who benefits from the public subsidy of cultural organisations. However, the relationship between cultural participation and geographical access to cultural facilities, a conceptually simple idea, has hardly been addressed in either of these literatures. Within geography there is extensive evidence for the significant effect of distance on use of public facilities. The differences in provision of public services or “spatial equity” that people experience according to where they live means that neighbourhoods act as “opportunity structures”. The empirical work in this thesis is presented in four chapters written as standalone papers. Nonetheless the thesis represents a unified piece of work, addressing common research questions, as elaborated in the conceptual framework and research design chapters, through four case studies. This thesis overall, and in each study, extends the explanation of cultural participation being driven by social stratification, to understand the effect of access to cultural infrastructure on participation. Using both survey and administrative data, covering Scotland and London, a range of analytical techniques and innovative accessibility measures are used to assess the impact of access to facilities on participation. The effect of access, as well as other spatial variables including access to public transport, commuting behaviour and competing destinations, are found to be highly significant, with comparable effects to the social stratification previously identified. These findings have important implications for cultural policy. Arts funders may justify the continued regional differences in levels of cultural funding on their support of the creative industries, which demonstrate spatial agglomeration. However, on the evidence presented here, it is not sustainable to continue to claim that the supply of arts venues has little effect on cultural participation (Marsh et al. 2010b, 112).
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2020-06-01
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 1st June 2020, pending formal approval
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