Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013 has been credited with helping to drive an arts boon in Northern Ireland that saw enough bums lowered onto seats to fill Ravenhill 72 times and generate £20m for the local economy.
That’s according to marketing expert Margaret Henry of Audiences NI, who said Londonderry’s year in the cultural spotlight helped sustain audience figures regionally due to the large number of people going to various arts venues in the city in 2013.
She said: “We have just published the Audiences NI Northern Ireland audience review, in which we look at ticket sales for arts events across 32 organisations, including the Millennium Forum in the North West, the Market Place in Armagh, venues in Belfast like the MAC, the Lyric and the Crescent, and festivals such as the Belfast Festival at Queen’s, the Open House Festival in Bangor, the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, Féile an Phobail, and a number of others.
“It is interesting to note that, in 2013, over 1.3 million tickets were sold by those organisations, generating almost £20 million in revenue; 1.3 million tickets is the same as filling the Ulster Rugby Kingspan stadium 72 times, and £20million of revenue equates to an eye-watering 33 million chocolate bars - not good for your waistline.
“This trend is increasing year on year. In 2013, it was partly due to the highly successful City of Culture year in Derry/Londonderry, but we are also seeing increases from those organisations across the country.”
Ms Henry made the comments during an evidence session with the Department of Culture, Arts and Learning (DCAL) oversight committee at Stormont recently.
According to the Audience Review cited by Ms Henry: “While attendance has decreased at just over half of the venues included here, the average decrease is slightly lower than that experienced in 2012 (by one per cent).
“Where attendance has increased, however, the average increase is markedly higher at 36 per cent. This sizeable increase is driven largely by an increase in tickets sales at Derry~Londonderry venues.
“To a certain extent, this can be attributed to an increase in programming at arts venues due to 2013 City of Culture. There were also sizeable increases at various venues throughout Northern Ireland outside of Derry~Londonderry which contributed to this substantial increase.”