Equality of access to the arts and culture is central to our work at A New Direction. The purpose of the Cultural Capital Inquiry is to open up a space for research and debate within the sector about how disadvantage impacts on young Londoners’ ability and decision to engage with arts and culture.

Broadly, we are interested in understanding the idea that engagement in art and culture through childhood contributes to becoming a well-rounded individual, better able to access opportunities and navigate choices as you get older – we refer to this idea as Cultural Capital. In more simple terms, we want to understand which children and young people are engaging in arts and culture which are not, the possible barriers to entry and how these differ from those of young people living in different circumstances.

Cultural Capital Survey

Following activity last year looking at the poverty profile of London we wanted to explore the extent to which wealth inequality plays a part in stopping young people being able to take part in arts and culture.

Our Cultural Capital Survey, conducted in the first half of 2014, suggests that young people from low income backgrounds take part less in every category of arts and culture than their peers; in particular, they have less engagement with regular clubs outside of school. It also hints at more complex psychological barriers which lead many young people to ‘opt-out’ of participation. You can find the full research results below. The full overview of the research provides a narrative for the key findings and contextualises them alongside other work in the field.

Download a quick two-page summary of the research

Download a full overview of the research

Download the full research results

Cultural Capital Qualitative Research

While the focus on financial disadvantage proved a useful approach within the Cultural Capital Survey, we know that in practice, although often correlated to financial circumstances, the notion of disadvantage is much more complex and multi-faceted.

Our Cultural Capital Qualitative Research seeks to address this by looking at four groups of young people facing specific forms of disadvantage - young people who are looked after, young carers, disabled young people and those at risk of gang activity. The research highlights the importance of social capital (i.e. social networks such as families, friends, schools) in building cultural interventions that genuinely engage disadvantaged young people and can be sustained over time.

It also reinforces the notion that, despite creativity being an integral part of young people’s lives, traditional notions of arts and culture often do not resonate with them. In this sense, it is key that cultural interventions aiming at involving young people – and particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds – take them through a journey over time that starts 'from where they are at', and encourages them to further explore and sustain their interest in arts and culture.

You can download the full report and the rapid review of literature below:

Cultural Capital Film - A chat with Lara and Stella

Lara Stavrinou, programme manager for A New Direction’s Strong Voices and Stella Barnes, Ovalhouse’s Participation Director discuss why A New Direction’s research is interesting and relevant to their programmes with vulnerable and disadvantaged young people and what should be done to ensure fair access and cultural capital.