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Art really is a large part of our lives.

Byline: By David Whetstone

The first findings of a new survey show a dramatic increase in the number of North-East people who believe the arts and culture are important.

Made public for the first time today, the findings have surprised researchers who questioned 1,000 people in Newcastle and Gateshead last July.

They show a sharp rise in the number of North-East people going to art galleries and who believe that the arts form a valuable part of their lives.

Peter Stark, founding director of the Centre for Cultural Policy and Management (CCPM) at Northumbria University, which is conducting the 10-year survey, said: "I really was surprised and very excited by the findings. There is clear evidence that something is moving out there which is quite extraordinary."

A survey carried out in 1988, when Prof Stark was director of Northern Arts, had shown that the North-East and Cumbria registered the lowest attendance at arts events in the country.

The early results of the new CCPM survey, carried out with Market Research UK, seem to endorse last week's national survey by PizzaExpress, which showed North-East people spend more on art and make more museum and gallery visits than those in other parts of the country.

"It suggests that that survey was not a flash in the pan, but this is a very much more substantial piece of research," said Prof Stark.

The 10-year CCPM survey was commissioned by Gateshead and Newcastle councils, One NorthEast and Arts Council England, to assess the impact of the councils' joint cultural strategy and the pounds 250m developments on Gateshead Quays, including the Baltic and The Sage Gateshead.

Researchers conclude that the early findings may demonstrate an "increased cultural self-confidence" and reflect the new, "iconic" developments at Gateshead Quays and Newcastle-Gateshead's campaign to be European Capital of Culture 2008.

The findings give a timely boost to the Newcastle-Gateshead bid to be European Capital of Culture 2008, with the judges due to pay their final visit to the area today and a decision expected in June.

The broad sample of 1,000 North-East people quizzed last summer were asked questions also asked in a national survey by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) 12 months previously.

In a section of the survey called Attitudes to the Arts, 81pc of people in Newcastle and Gateshead (and 80pc across the region) agreed with the statement: "If my local area lost its arts and cultural activities, the people here would lose something of value."

In the national ONS survey a year earlier, only 56pc of North-East people responded positively to the same statement.

Similarly, the number of people who agreed that "the arts play a valuable role in my life" increased sharply from 23pc in the North-East in 2001 to 49pc in the summer of 2002.

In another section of the survey - carried out before the opening of the Baltic in July - 35pc of people in Newcastle and Gateshead said they had visited an art gallery in the past 12 months.

This compared with just 19pc in the North-East the previous year - along with 31pc in London and 19pc in the country as a whole.

The survey showed that 64pc of those questioned in Gateshead and 42pc in Newcastle had made a special visit to the Angel of the North in the past 12 months, while 73pc of the total had visited the Millennium Bridge.

Prof Stark said people were demonstrating increased confidence and pride in their locality.
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Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Entertainment
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 29, 2003
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