See the latest COVID-19 updates from Arts Council of Wales HERE.
Multiple lockdowns have meant working from home has become the norm and unlike some of their counterparts across the border, Welsh Government rulings have kept doors shut for many organisations. As a result, it has become even more important for organisations in Wales to get creative and reimagine their activity and engagement as entities unaided (but also unconstrained) by their buildings.
For many theatres, galleries, art centres and venues, funding via the Arts Council of Wales’ Cultural Recovery Fund has provided a lifeline. For some, the break from routine has offered an opportunity for vital audience research and in some cases a re-evaluation of where they sit within their communities. Many will be facing the prospect of reopening their doors with a new sense of purpose.
Audiences too have had to adapt, taking part in new experiences online and seeking new ways to support their local organisations, while at the same time becoming less constrained by geo-specific activity as virtual content provides new access to previously distant experiences.
That said, some of our research findings do suggest that Welsh organisations may be facing a particularly uphill climb:
- Wales had levels of arts and cultural engagement before COVID than were in line with the UK average, but levels dropped further in Wales since March 2020 than overall (esp. for heritage), although creative activities dropped less (and reading for pleasure rose slightly more).
- Fewer Welsh are ready to start attending in person than the UK average.
- Only 21% of Welsh had attended any arts/heritage since Mar 2020. This was well below the overall UK average of 34%, reflecting the fact that restrictions were not lifted to the same extent in Wales as elsewhere. This lower engagement was especially true for heritage sites.
- The % who are currently ‘in play’ (i.e. who have booked, or are interested in booking) for ANY art and heritage activity of those listed (see next page) is c. 9% lower in Wales than the overall UK average.
On the positive side:
- Slightly fewer Welsh saw financial drops than across the UK as a whole: there was a slightly higher proportion who had ‘about the same’ amount of money as before COVID.
- The activity levels of Welsh have reduced less than those for the UK overall.
- 30% of Welsh watched a performance/ event online since March 2020; 4% had taken part in an online activity.
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. Our evidence-based resources can help build that picture.
Welsh and Welsh Language Performance post-Covid
During the Oct-Nov 2021 wave of the Cultural Participation Monitor, we asked respondents based in Wales four additional questions:
- Have you been to an arts or cultural event performed in Welsh in 5 years pre-pandemic? (Yes: 17%)
- Have you been to an arts or cultural event performed in Welsh during the pandemic? (Yes: 9%)
- How interested would you be in attending an arts or cultural event performed in Welsh in future?
- Very interested: 42%
- Quite interested: 13%
- Neutral: 21%
- Not very interested: 16%
- Not interested at all: 8%
- Do you understand spoken Welsh?
- Yes – very well: 10%
- Yes – quite well: 8%
- Yes – a little: 25%
- No: 56%
From this we can see that Welsh language performance is a minority activity within Wales, but still undertaken by about one in six people, with around one in ten having done it during COVID. This is perhaps unsurprising, since only 18% say that they understand Welsh ‘quite’ or ‘very well’, but notably, 55% were nonetheless ‘quite’ or ‘very interested’ in attending an arts or cultural event performed in Welsh in future. This highlights that interest in Welsh language performance reaches far beyond Welsh speakers.