England area intro - Midlands


Arts, culture and heritage organisations across the UK have faced enormous challenges during the pandemic, and the Midlands are no exception. As venues closed their doors in March 2020 organisations were forced to quickly adapt their work for online settings.  Audiences have also had to adapt, engaging with their local organisations in new ways, while at the same time having new access to previously distant experiences through online content.  

The Midlands have seen longer and stricter lockdowns than many regions, particularly around Leicester where restrictions were reimposed in June 2020, just as the rest of the country was reopening. And while lockdowns began to ease in early 2021, ongoing high numbers of cases in the region mean uncertainty levels here remain high, and further local restrictions can’t be ruled out. 

Research from the region suggests that the Midlands had levels of arts and cultural engagement before COVID that were consistent with the UK average; and during 2020 this dropped to a similar degree as the rest of the country, with 33% of people across the Midlands reporting attending any arts event since March 2020.

Online engagement was also generally in line with UK average , with 31% watching a performance online and 8% taking part in an event or activity.  

COVID appears to have had a bigger impact on the East Midlands in terms of the amount of time and money people reported available to them, an area which also reported more people were shielding.

While the research suggests a fairly positive situation with engagement not dropping significantly below the UK average (despite local lockdowns), it is worth noting that there is some heightened caution around returning to events in person – fewer people in the East Midlands are ready to return than the UK average.

Again, research into the pandemic’s impact on the population by Audience Spectrum segment paints a mixed picture.  Generally speaking, low-engaged segments have seen their engagement drop further over 2020, while the higher-engaged segments have remained engaged, either in-person or online. The exception here are Commuterland Culturebuffs, who make up around 17% of the population in the Midlands, but have seen a notable drop in engagement over the past year, a trend which could have a significant impact if it continues in the long term. 

Keeping an eye on these trends, as well as gaining greater insights about your own previous and potential audiences, will be key to building COVID recovery strategies over the coming months. 

For organisations working in the Midlands, the Audience Agency’s Cultural Participation Monitor (a nationwide ongoing survey of changing views about participating in creative and cultural activities through the pandemic) can be explored at a regional level Midlands | Cultural Participation Monitor | The Audience Agency. The data is also further broken down to detail for the East and West Midlands.

Further detail on changing behaviour by Audience Spectrum type is available here Between Lockdowns | The Audience Agency