THEATRES, art galleries and museums are benefitting the local economy in Woking and other Surrey towns by millions of pounds.

A study by the University of Surrey showed that visitors to The Lightbox, the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford and Watts Gallery in Compton spend up to £13.28 in shops and food and drink sectors, for every £10 they spend at the venues.

The report also found that nearly 70% of visitors would not have visited the areas otherwise, indicating the importance of the existence of these organisations and their contribution to local footfall and spend.

Marilyn Scott, director of The Lightbox gallery and museum, thanked the team behind the report for providing “this invaluable research to demonstrate the benefits of the arts to Surrey’s local economy and communities”.

A spokesman for the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre said it had calculated that this worked out at a benefit of about £1.5million in Guildford alone.

The research, by a senior team from the university’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, reflected levels of pre-COVID spending and attendance.

“Working with our partners during such challenging times provides the opportunity, not only to reflect upon the existing role that the arts play in the economic and social health of our region, but also to provide insight into the ways in which the arts can continue to provide support to communities during this time of crisis,” said Caroline Scarles, Professor of Technology in Society at the University of Surrey.

“We look forward to continuing to work with our partners to progress this work.”

The study also looked at the social impact of the arts venues and found they support health and well-being initiatives, adult education, social inclusion, social justice and community identity activities.

“As artists and creative people, we see the power of the arts in transforming our communities every day, bringing together the lonely, the vulnerable and voiceless, giving well-being and confidence to many,” said Joanna Read, director and chief executive of the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.

Marilyn Scott added: “The Lightbox believes ‘Art has the power to make you feel good’ and we are proud to partner with Watts Gallery and the Yvonne Arnaud, who also champion education, well-being, and social inclusion through community engagement and participation programmes.”