Counting eyeballs, soundbites and ‘plings’ : arts participation, strategic instrumentalism and the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad / Abigail Gilmore

Gilmore, Abigail

This article examines cultural participation, its metrics and ‘drivers’ as they are defined through cultural programming for the London 2012 Olympics. The meanings and interpretation of these terms are considered by examining the development of an evaluation framework for the We Play programme in the North West of England, an initiative funded by Legacy Trust UK and part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. It argues that in spite of the dissonance between arts and sports within Olympics programmes and claims of the deleterious impact on arts funding, particular within the regions, London 2012 has engendered creative programming which strategically deploys the Cultural Olympiad to satisfy local cultural policy objectives as well as meeting broader interests in ‘legacy’ from the Games. Such ambitions require the development of appropriate methodologies for understanding arts participation and engagement for the purpose of evaluation and evidence-based policy making, a particular challenge for such a complex range of activities, sites and settings for arts participation.

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