COVID-19 has had a profound impact on the cultural sector, those who work in it, our audiences and communities. The Audience Agency, recognising our role and responsibility as a ‘sector support organisation’, has been doing what we can through this crisis to assist the arts and cultural sector. A key part of that has been providing a range of publicly available evidence and insight to reduce the many unknowns. If previous certainties about audiences may no longer be a reliable guide, we’ve tried to cast new light on audiences as they are now: their experiences, behaviours, values and future intentions.
Among the wide range of evidence we’ve already been sharing via our COVID-19 Insights section of our Bounce Forwards support programme, the COVID-19 Cultural Participation Monitor is the most important...
We’ve been fortunate to have had support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, alongside colleagues in the Centre for Cultural Value. This has allowed us to conduct this national programme of ongoing research, helping us to understand and track changes in the public’s cultural participation through and beyond COVID-19. The Cultural Participation Monitor report provides an initial overview of the findings from the first wave of field work, already offering a clear picture of the impact of COVID-19 across the whole population - how it has affected cultural engagement so far, as well as how it is likely to affect it in the future.
We will continue to build on this foundation to provide an ever-richer understanding of our communities and their cultural engagement. Importantly, this research is focussed on the whole of the UK public and will track and explore their behaviours, attitude and intentions throughout the crisis, running in a series of waves of nationally representative panel surveys well into 2022. It doesn’t only focus on a particular moment in time, or a specific artform, or only ‘core’ audiences, or those on mailing lists.
This COVID-19 Monitor starts from a belief that everyone’s experiences, and everyone’s cultural engagement, matters. That we cannot understand the cultural impact of this moment without listening to the whole of our society. And that we need to recognise the different situations from which people came into this crisis and the different ways — whether in its apparent capriciousness, or in reinforcing existing disadvantages — that it has affected people as they have passed through it. Hopefully, it will also help us to ‘build back better’, responding to a far wider range of experiences and needs than before.
The Audience Agency commissioned Dynata to carry out a population survey online, with quotas based on age, sex, ethnicity, region and Audience Spectrum segment. 6,055 responses were received in the first wave, collected from late October to early November, 2020. Additional waves of surveys will be undertaken every couple of months until autumn 2021. This report provides a summary of initial findings; there will be more summaries by topic and for future waves of the survey.