Culture and Sport

Culture and sport play an increasingly important role in transforming Wakefield in terms of economic regeneration and also bring about positive change in the ambition, self-confidence and the health of the district. The total value of tourism activity in Wakefield in 2013 is estimated to have been around £359 million.

Visitor Attractions and Tourism

The district has nationally important cultural heritage sites at Pontefract Castle, Nostell Priory, Wakefield Cathedral and the National Coal Mining Museum for England. The Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Hepworth Wakefield are internationally important contemporary art galleries including works by locally born artists, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. The leading cultural attractions across the district combined attracted over 1.3m visitors in 2016/17 (see table below), despite significant refurbishment and redevelopment works taking place at Pontefract Castle and Pontefract Museum. Summer 2017 will see the opening of the new Visitor Centre at Pontefract Castle, which will increase understanding of the castle’s heritage for and provide improved facilities for visitors. Numbers visiting the Yorkshire Sculpture Park increased significantly in 2015/16 as a result of the Poppies sculpture by Paul Cummins.

Visitor numbers to local cultural attractions.

Source: Visit Britain

Overall, there were, on average, 247,000 overnight trips to the district in the years 2015 to 2017 - a drop compared to estimates for the last few years. The value to the local economy is estimated to be £32million per year. Short (3+ hours) leisure visits are far more numerous, with an average of 13 million such visits per year in the years 2015 to 2017. The value of these visits is estimated at £234million per year.


Source: Wakefield Council

There are currently 13 libraries in the district being run by Wakefield Council, and a mobile/home library service library service. The number of people visiting Council-run libraries in 2017/18 was approximately 900,000 (see chart opposite).

Across all the Council-run libraries there were 649,000 books issued during 2016/17. Fiction remains more popular than non-fiction, and children’s books make up a significant proportion (34%) of the total issues. In addition to print books, 9,272 e-books and e-audio books were issued. 10,840 e-magazines were checked out and our range of other free online resources was accessed 158,102 times in the course of the year. The introduction of Wi-Fi in all libraries has seen the hourly use of computers rise to 419,000 hours throughout 2016/17.

Participation in Sport and Exercise

Source: Sport England

Levels of physical activity among adults remain below the England average (see chart opposite). A change in survey methodology is the reason for the step change in 2016.

Levels of physical activity were also captured by Wakefield’s Health and Lifestyle Survey in 2009. This showed variation by age and gender in the frequency of vigorous activity undertaken by local people. Young men undertake substantially more exercise of this sort than their female counterparts, probably due to team sport participation, but that gender gap closes quite quickly as people get older. When asked, over half of residents responded to the survey by saying they would like to increase their level of physical activity.

Walking is simple, free and one of the easiest ways to get more active, lose weight and become healthier. It's often underrated as a form of exercise, but walking is ideal for people of all ages and fitness levels who want to be more active. Regular walking has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, stroke and some cancers. In 2014/15, 47% of adults from Wakefield district walked (at least 10 minutes) five times a week. Seventeen percent of adults walk between one and hours per day.

Regular cycling can also reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. It can also boost your mood and keep your weight under control. In 2014/15, 9.2% of adults cycled at least once a week. For health benefits, adults and older adults should do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity activity each week.

The first Parkrun events in the district began in Pontefract, but groups now also run events at Nostell Priory, Thornes Park, Wakefield, and Frickley Country Park. The overall number of runs continued to increase in 2018/19 (see chart below), and new Parkrun events also started in Rothwell (July 2017) and Selby (December 2017) which are attracting runners from the Wakefield District. Participation in 2018/19 included 8,000 runs at junior events, designed for children aged between 4 and 14. The Nostell junior parkrun no longer takes place, but new junior events have started at Pontefract and Wakefield Thornes.

Source: Parkrun UK

Employment in the Cultural, Leisure and Sport Sectors

Employment (including sole proprietors) in the cultural, leisure and sport sectors fell between 2009 and 2011 but has since recovered (see table below). Combined together, these sectors represent 10% of all employment in the district.

Employment in the cultural, leisure and sports. Source: ONS BRES