Individuals and communities will be able to access and participate in a diverse range of high quality
arts activity. Increased opportunities for people to experience the arts and also to become the creators of art will help improve mental and physical wellbeing, tackle social isolation and enable people to develop important skills.

Increasing cultural engagement is one of the Scottish Government’s National Indicators and is strong recognition of the positive impact that participation in the arts can have on people’s lives and on the social fabric of a community.

We know that a large number of people in Orkney already experience or participate in the arts - according to the Scottish Household Survey 91% of adults in Orkney engaged in cultural activity in 2014. It is surprising however, that despite Orkney’s often cited cultural distinction, cultural participation is only comparable with the Scottish national average.

This demonstrates a clear need to continue to increase opportunities to participate in the arts so that as many and a diverse a range of people as possible experience the many benefits. By considering how we increase participation in the arts we must also consider the traditional parameters of participation. We wish to establish more opportunities for people, not only to spectate but to create art. 

“there is growing evidence of the personal and social benefits of sharing cultural experiences”

Robert Livingston, Director, Regional Screen Scotland 

Instead of thinking of art as an object or output, might it instead be considered as an input?

Our vision is one in which the arts are regarded as a resource, a mechanism by which people are able to think, feel and create, an opportunity to energise and mobilise people, a collective contribution to our understanding, a tool to problem solve and a way to reimagine how we do things.

Health and wellbeing is one of the key challenges facing communities and politically the agenda continues to gather pace. Locally, the Orkney Partnership, who are responsible for community planning, has identified Healthy and Sustainable Communities and Positive Ageing as two of its three strategic priorities. As we move slowly towards an era of prevention rather than treatment, the currency of the arts in relation to the health and wellbeing agenda looks increasingly positive and one that we as a community cannot afford to overlook.

A growing body of research makes clear the strong links between creative participation and health, in particular mental health and emotional wellbeing but also physical health. Findings suggest that arts participation can make a positive contribution to reducing stress and anxiety, enhancing greater self- awareness and reflection, altering behaviours and thinking. A more explicit example would be the strong evidence of the positive impact of music for patients with dementia whilst a report based on the Scottish Household Survey found a definite correlation between attending cultural activities and physical wellbeing: “Overall, those who attended a cultural place or event were almost 60 per cent more likely to report good health compared to those who did not attend.”

We strongly believe that in the future the arts can play an increasingly instrumental role in achieving a healthier and sustainable community in Orkney and the integration of health and social care offers further opportunities to capitalise on this. We must do more to ensure that these benefits are understood beyond the limits of the arts sector, and that other sectors feel confident to open a dialogue and collaborate in creative partnerships. 

Digital technologies are now a hugely significant part of everyday life - the arts and cultural sector have played a significant role in the innovation of many of these technologies. Traditionally harnessed by organisations to promote exhibitions and events, communicate about their work and generate revenue through ticket sales and merchandise - today organisations are using these technologies to an even greater extent, showcasing their work to large online audiences and even to generate work in the public realm. Since the widespread adoption of social media, digital has become the fastest growing platform for cultural production and participation.

Orkney has suffered a significant lack of investment in its digital infrastructure; the creative sectors, along with many others, continue to be hampered by this. Given the geographical context of Orkney and the disparate geography of our communities digital technologies have the ability to radically change the nature of creative participation, to help us connect locally and globally. 

Sector aims and ambitions - Participation

  • Promote the many benefits of creative participation

  • Cultivate a shared understanding of how creative participation can be used as a form of prevention in relation to health and wellbeing

  • Pilot projects which demonstrate
    the positive impact of arts participation across a range of non-arts services

  • Promote, ensure and celebrate equalities and diversity within the arts

  • Pilot projects with a focus on digital participation and skills development