Galleries open, but how many have noticed?

The UK’s arts and creative industries continue to suffer despite the easing of Lockdown restrictions, a recent study shows.

Though popular attractions such as the British Museum have been reopening to the public since March, 93 per cent of us say we have not visited an art gallery, museum or exhibition over the past three months, according to YouGov research.

London is home to around 250 registered art institutions, so a reluctance to return to cultural hotspots may be due to hesitancy to use public transport such as buses and the tube in the wake of COVID-19, the Design Bundles study suggests.

More than half of Londoners have expressed concerns about using the tube, with almost as many voicing health concerns around using London’s buses.

There may be other factors at play, they suggest, with more than a quarter of the population indicating that they do not feel that the arts and creative industries – defined as including performing and creative arts, writers, museums and libraries – are important to the British economy.

But in fact, in 2019 arts and culture contributed £10.47 billion to the UK economy – which corresponds to 0.5 per cent of total UK economic output. There were an estimated 226,000 jobs in the arts and culture sector in 2019, 40 per cent of which were based in London.

There has been an understandable reluctance to return to our country’s artistic and cultural attractions

In addition, more than half of the country’s population believe that British museums should permanently return artifacts to their country of origin.

Attendance to public attractions, exhibitions and galleries may be set to improve, however, following the recent lifting of various social restrictions.

British Museum attendance has previously been capped at 3,000 people per day, with the establishment maintaining safety measures such as hand gel stations, one-way systems and certain galleries – 33 in total – remaining closed due to ventilation concerns.

Restrictions such as the one-way systems were lifted on July 19, but the museum is still asking attendees to book in advance and adhere to track-and-trace.

Despite public reluctance, the museum has continued to hold special events and exhibitions, such as their current headline exhibition, “Thomas Becket, Murder And The Making Of A Saint”.

“There has been an understandable reluctance to return to our country’s artistic and cultural attractions”, according to a statement from the study’s authors, the graphic design agency, Design Bundles.

“One hopes that recent announcements from the government will encourage people to begin to cautiously resume their daily lives, and return to our country’s cultural hotspots. The creative industries are a vital part of the public’s leisure time and social interactions.”