3.1. Cultural engagement and local variations

This section explores national data highlighting local disparities in cultural engagement across Bradford, while also addressing the limitations in capturing 'everyday participation' within communities.


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Cultural engagement and local variations

This section explores what national data says about local variations in cultural engagement across the Bradford district, and also notes the challenges arising from the ways that these measures don’t represent the ‘everyday participation’ in culture across communities in the district which challenges this picture. Understanding the current measures, how they work, and what gaps they leave will be vital areas for arts organisations to work in to gather and share a more accurate understanding of what cultural engagement is happening.

Key bullet points

  • 88% of Bradford residents say they engage with culture often or occasionally and culture is highly valued in their lives.
  • Despite this, official national metrics claim arts and culture engagement by residents in Bradford is considerably lower than the regional and national averages.
  • Audience Spectrum data shows low levels of cultural engagement compared to other cities, with 53% of the district’s population in what they classify as the ‘least engaged Culture Segments’.
  • However, a series of recent evaluations and research projects challenge this picture, showing that Bradfordians are highly engaged in activities not measured by traditional measures.
  • This suggests traditional measures of arts and culture engagement do not work for Bradford as they fail to reflect its lively cultural scene and community engagement.

Headline data

National research on Bradford’s levels of cultural engagement has tended to paint a rather negative picture, suggesting that engagement in arts and culture is lower than the regional and national averages. This data, compiled in the Audience Spectrum database, shows that 53% of the district’s population is in the lowest/least engaged Culture Segments compared with 33% for England as a whole. According to this data, Bradford also has less than half the proportion of ‘highly engaged’ people compared with comparable cities.

However, these traditional measures of arts engagement tend to focus on traditionally defined art forms and engagement in subsidised activity. This by its nature significantly underrepresents the wealth of cultural activity which takes place in many of the communities of Bradford, whether in individual homes or collective spaces. Furthermore, Audience Spectrum data does not capture the reality of cultural engagement in a place like Bradford, which has many smaller cultural organisations that do not contribute their audience data, creating a limited representation of actual cultural participation.

The measurement problem is also affected by limited definitions of what counts as ‘arts and culture’ which are defined narrowly around traditionally Western definitions of the arts; this therefore excludes much of the cultural production and participation in a multi-cultural place like Bradford through a system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequality. Thus, there’s a need to use additional measures such as expressed interest in arts and culture and understanding of everyday creativity.

When cultural participation is understood more broadly, the picture is rather different. Culture is highly valued in the lives of Bradford’s residents, with 88% saying they engage with culture often or occasionally. When work is put on that is of local relevance, audiences do attend. For example, The Leap CPP’s latest report shows that 54% of their audiences came from those groups who are least likely to engage in culture – according to Audience Spectrum categories.

Audience Spectrum data

In 2020, Indigo Ltd. analysed historic Audience Spectrum data to give a glimpse into the cultural participation in Bradford. The data segments the entire English population based on their likelihood to engage in different forms of cultural activity. It is generated by combining geo-demographic profiling (MOSAIC) with survey and booking data from arts organisations.

Ten different Audience Spectrum profiles can be utilised to classify the composition of a specific area in terms of audience engagement. These profiles break down the population by household and postcode levels, enabling comparison between segments in one region or city with those in another, or with the population of England as a whole. This analysis suggests a low level of cultural engagement in certain populations in Bradford.

Figure 10: Bradford's cultural engagement profile


High engagement
Metroculturals: 0%
Commuterland Culturebuffs: 8%
Experience Seekers: 4%

Medium engagement
Dormitory Dependables: 10%
Trips & Treats: 15%
Home & Heritage: 8%

Low engagement
Up Our Street: 12%
Frontline Families: 17%
Kaleidoscope Creativity: 21%
Supported Communities: 5%


High engagement
Metroculturals: 5%
Commuterland Culturebuffs: 12%
Experience Seekers: 9%

Medium engagement
Dormitory Dependables: 15%
Trips & Treats: 14%
Home & Heritage: 10%

Low engagement
Up Our Street: 10%
Frontline Families: 12%
Kaleidoscope Creativity: 9%
Supported Communities: 4%

Source: The Audience Agency.

Table 4: 2016 Audience Spectrum Segments (Adult 15+), November 2020

City High Partial Low
Bradford 12% 35% 53%
England 25% 41% 33%
Sheffield 28% 29% 44%
Newcastle & Gateshead 23% 27% 49%
Dundee 26% 24% 50%

Source: The Audience Agency.

Figure 11: Percentage of people who have taken part in a cultural activity over the last 12 months

Bradford: 55%
Yorkshire and The Humber: 55%
England: 60%

Museums and Galleries
Bradford: 64%
Yorkshire and The Humber: 73%
England: 70%

Source: Active Lives Survey, 2018.

Creative Place Partnership survey

Other research challenges this negative picture. For example, the CPP Culture Is Me survey undertaken by Indigo Ltd. shows that 88% of respondents in Bradford engage with culture often or occasionally According to the survey results, culture is highly valued by the residents of Bradford district, receiving a score of 8 out of 10. A vast majority of the residents (94%) believe that culture makes Bradford a better place to live, 88% feel that it enhances their wellbeing and 92% agree that it should be accessible to all children.

The residents of Bradford district are actively involved in cultural activities, with only 12% reporting that they rarely or never participate in cultural events. Two-thirds of the people who responded to the survey volunteer for cultural projects, and 80% engage in cultural activities within the district. However, the cultural activities that they are most involved in are not typically measured or estimated by existing tools. The most popular cultural activities are walking, food, parks/nature and film. It’s noteworthy that this survey was conducted during and right after the COVID-19 lockdowns, implying that a considerable number of individuals had been restricted to visiting parks and walking for an extended period. Additionally, these activities tend to take place in non-traditional cultural establishments such as homes, public spaces, cafes, bars and community centres.

Interestingly, the cultural activities that residents would like to see in Bradford district do not necessarily involve traditional art forms in traditional spaces. The most desired activities include those that bring communities together, utilise heritage buildings, develop talent and offer outdoor events.

Figure 12: Cultural engagement in Bradford

70% - Often
18% - Occasionally
12% - Rarely/Never

Source: CPP Survey results

Finally, data is available from Audience Finder, operated by The Audience Agency with funding from Arts Council England. This provides a profile of how engaged Bradford residents actually are with ticketed and live events.

According to Audience Finder booker data for the 3 years between April 2016 and March 2019 Bradford residents:

  • Represented over 63,000 cultural bookers (15% of Bradford population)
  • Bought over 600,000 tickets (1.4 tickets per adult head of population)
  • Spent over £16m on tickets to cultural events

Almost half of the tickets purchased were for events happening outside Bradford district and 75% of the cultural visits that happen outside the district are in Leeds.

Figure 13: Perceived Value of Culture in Bradford

Better Place to Live: 94%
Enhances Wellbeing: 88%
Accessible to all Children: 92%

Source: CPP Survey results

3.2. Cultural assets and funding

Bradford boasts 12 ACE National Portfolio Organisations, yet lags in theatre seats, cinema screens, music venues, and art galleries compared to Sheffield and Newcastle & Gateshead, while excelling in heritage with a robust museum presence, two UNESCO listings, and double the listed buildings per capita.

3.3. Gaps in the data

Despite low traditional cultural participation metrics, 88% of Bradford residents value cultural engagement.

3.4. Opportunities

The identified gaps underscore the pressing need for comprehensive research to illuminate Bradford’s cultural landscape fully.

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