Record 9.2 million attend free arts and cultural events in 2016, but fewer buy tickets

Silver-suited stilt-walkers from Dutch street theatre group Close-Act parade down Armenian Street on Aug 26, 2016 during the ninth Singapore Night Festival.
Silver-suited stilt-walkers from Dutch street theatre group Close-Act parade down Armenian Street on Aug 26, 2016 during the ninth Singapore Night Festival.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A record number of free arts and cultural events last year meant attendance hit a high of 9.2 million, the largest turnout in Singapore in the last five years. However, attendance for ticketed events dropped 5 per cent, even though there were more of such events last year.

The data was released at the annual conference of the Culture Academy Singapore, established by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth in 2015 to groom the next generation of cultural leaders in the public sector. The data in the Singapore Cultural Statistics 2017 report raised the question of whether free events were making it more challenging for arts and cultural groups to raise money through ticket sales.

Last year had the highest number of free performing arts activities on record - nearly 6,000 - and 2.8 million attended these, about the same as in 2015.

Also in the report, a record 5.1 million visited national museums and heritage institutions in 2016. This is up from 3.8 million visitors reported in 2015. The increase was down to the National Gallery Singapore, which opened in late 2015.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said at the conference that the positive trend in visitorship and number of free arts and cultural events suggested that Singapore was on the right track to develop a more vibrant scene. She added that more could be done.

"We can do more in revitalising our city and spaces through place-making. We must continue to engage our stakeholders and to do so more deeply, to build on our existing efforts. We need sustained engagement and purposeful programming to effectively make a place," she said.

Earlier, she highlighted that the annual Singapore Night Festival boasted 10 times more stakeholders now than its initial edition in 2008 and such stakeholders were co-creators rather than passive venue sponsors.

There were 3,430 ticketed performances in 2016, about 100 more than 2015, but only 1.8 million bought tickets for shows in 2016, compared with 1.9 million the year before that.

As for non-ticketed events, there were close to 6,000 events in 2016, up from nearly 5,000 non-ticketed performing arts activities in 2015.