It could be a comedian on stage, a picture on a wall, a play in a theatre, a dinosaur in a museum or a recital in a church.

Or it could be a monologue in a field, a street parade of mythical creatures, sculptures set in a wood or a band in a barn.

Art and culture mean so many things to so many different people - and it can occur at any time and in any place in Cumbria.

Cumbria has a rich history of high art and fine art, from poets and authors to painters and opera singers.

In recent years, funding for arts projects across the country has stalled or fallen as local authorities have been forced to cut back on spending and economic austerity measures have hit hard.

But according to a new report by the by the Centre for Economics and Business Research on behalf of the Arts Council, art and culture is growing in importance and in value across the north west.

The study, which covers the period 2011 to 2016, found that the arts and culture sector in the north west is the third largest in England and the second largest outside London.

In 2016 the arts and culture sector created £1.6bn in turnover across the region, north west, a 48 per cent increase from £1.1bn in 2011. The industry now employs 8,250 people across the region, an 81 per cent increase since 2011.

Pete Massey, Arts Council England’s director for northern economy and partnerships said: “Cumbria’s contribution to building a healthy and flourishing arts and culture sector in the north west is significant.

“It’s refreshing to see that Cumbria not only has a rich artistic and cultural heritage with some of Britain’s most famous artists and writers being inspired by the region’s dramatic landscapes, but there is also a new breed of artists and creatives following in the footsteps of Ruskin, Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter and making Cumbria their home.

James Cobbold, artistic director at Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake, said: “Over 100,000 people attend TBTL annually with 40 per cent of audiences visiting from outside the county.

“The impact the theatre makes to the local economy, both in terms of its contribution to the tourism offer here and the employment opportunities it offers, is significant.

“Whilst we’re proud to be such a pull for tourists, we are first and foremost a theatre for the local community.”

As well as staging its own shows, the theatre also hosts production for charities and local community groups.

Mr Cobbold added: “As well as our audiences, the theatre also offers opportunities for community and outreach work such as Setting the Scene, for people living with dementia and their carers, Bairden, our free storytelling for under 5s, and our Young Company for children aged 7 to 18.

“Alongside the joy and entertainment that both watching and participating in performance involves, involvement in the arts - both as an audience member and as a participant - is increasingly recognised as an important element in a community’s health and wellbeing.”

Andrew Mackay, director of Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery Trust has battled to find funding in recent years

Arts Council support has been stalled at the same level for the past seven years, while other sources have reduced or stopped.

He said: “The arts in Cumbria is healthy, but on a knife-edge.

“In term of cultural strategy there is a lot happening and there is more understanding about the good that culture brings.

“But the investment in cultural bricks and mortar is still a big challenge and the two don’t necessarily go together.

“We are starting to get some momentum. People are seeing that the arts are important to the economy and the health and wellbeing of society.

“The NHS has one or two consultants who understand that if they get people interested in art and culture early on, it will help their recovery. The more active you keep the mind and more social and participatory you are, the better you will feel.

“We have heard from companies out west that they pay well but people don’t want to relocate because the cultural offer is not strong enough.”

Mr Mackay said that while there had been a lack of understanding in the overall importance of arts, there had been a shift in attitude.

Work is underway to develop Hadrian’s Wall as a destination and Mr Mackay said Carlisle needs to explore its Roman heritage more.

“We need to be like Chester or a York. There are opportunities.”

Richard Elder is director of the historic 208-seater Rosehill Theatre at Whitehaven.

He is aiming to make an impact that lasts longer than the duration of a performance and says he has a duty to inspire the local audiences as much as attract them to enjoy the shows at the venue.

The theatre underwent a £4.5m revamp and reopened two years ago. Since then, it has been closely involved with Sellafield to work in and with the local community.

Mr Elder said: “Since the redevelopment we have focused more on social impact as a vehicle for social mobility and to help people build self-esteem, self-confidence and awareness of themselves through arts and culture and hospitality.

“Our relevance has grown beyond being seen as an organisation that puts on lovely shows, but those shows have a social impact.

“We are trying to give some hope and ambition to those who don’t go on to university or further education.”

Juliet Rowcroft, is chairwoman of the Carlisle Music society, one of four groups in north Cumbria that provides high quality chamber music.

She said: “The arts feed the mind and soul in a way technology cannot. In a society in which there is increasing stress-related mental illness, the arts have a vital role to play.

“There is nothing to compare with live performances, and the intimacy and immediacy of chamber music is something wonderful.

“It would be difficult to measure the impact of the arts on the Cumbrian economy, but I have read that creative industries are the fastest growing economic sector in the UK.

“North Cumbria is ‘out on a limb’ but we should value what the arts contribute to our quality of life.”