The role of grassroots arts activities in communities: a scoping study

Working paper 68

This scoping study highlights the significant and positive contribution that grassroots arts activities make to the development of Civil Society. It identifies a range of different impacts and outcomes of amateur arts groups.

For individuals, participation in arts based activities ‘for their own sake’ could promote their mental health and wellbeing. Some involved, particularly young people, made the transition from amateur arts to paid employment in the creative industries. Improvements in educational attainment and functioning in the work-place were also reported as positive outcomes in some of the literature.

Participation in arts groups also helps create social networks, promote social cohesion and empower communities. Claims were made about the economic role such activities play, through the hire of village halls, the management of local assets, equipment hire or the employment of professional artists in, for example, preparing for performances. However in this, and other areas, there was a lack of empirical evidence exploring or quantifying the exact nature of impact.

This study has been carried out in partnership with the Universities of Exeter and Glamorgan as well as Voluntary Arts, and with financial support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Connected Communities programme. It assesses lessons from the academic and grey literature across the arts, social sciences and voluntary sector.


This research was conducted after TSRC undertook work to identify the current state of knowledge on small, below the radar, community groups and activities. This highlighted the lack of research into the contribution of grass-roots or amateur arts organisations make in communities. This gap in knowledge is substantial, given that there are an estimated 49,000 such groups in England.


The measurement of the impact of amateur arts was explored further with members of grass-roots arts networks at a day conference in October 2011 at Cecil Sharp House. See Growing the Grassroots: the contribution of amateur arts to communities.

It is the hope of the current partners that further research can be undertaken over 2012 to develop a practical toolkit for assessing the outcomes of amateur arts activities in communities.

Research contacts

Angus McCabe

Jenny Phillimore