England area intro - North

Arts, culture and heritage organisations across the UK have faced enormous challenges during the pandemic, and Northern England is 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.

While these experiences were common nationwide, the North has perhaps been harder hit as stricter local lockdowns limited opportunities to resume in-person activity. This is reflected in lower reported levels of attendance than in less-restricted regions like London and the South East. Greater Manchester in particular has faced increased restrictions - with bans on household mixing reimposed in summer 2020, and indoor venues forced to close again by the autumn. The economic impact of longer lockdowns is also evident, with people in the North West reporting their household finances were adversely affected to a greater degree than the UK average.

Meanwhile organisations in the Merseyside and Cheshire areas, who would usually draw audiences from across the border in Wales will have been affected by the Welsh government restrictions on travel into England.

And while restrictions have now eased, new outbreaks in areas like Bolton, Blackburn and Kirklees mean uncertainty levels across the region remain high.

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 15% of the population in the North, 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.

On a more positive note, audiences do appear ready to return with around 61% of those surveyed in the North having either already booked or being interested in booking an in-person art or heritage event, and this is in line with the UK average.

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 North, 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 here North | Cultural Participation Monitor | The Audience Agency. The data is also further broken down to the North East, North West and Yorkshire & Humber areas.

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