Findings from the Summer 2023 wave of our Cultural Participation Monitor look at a wide variety of factors that affect if and how audiences interact with live cultural event venues, including their social and environmental values, behavioural expectations, cost-of-living concerns, and comfort with online screening options.

July 2023

Key Points

  1. People (especially younger ones and better off families) say that they care whether venues share their own social and environmental values - particularly when it comes to the Climate Crisis - and that they are more likely to attend if organisations take an active stance on these issues.
  2. Younger people are generally more tolerant of all divisive behaviours at live events, though some activities are universally off-putting (smoking/vaping, talking on the phone), while being 'allowed' to do others (eating, drinking, taking photos) actually makes people of all ages keener to attend.
  3. Cost-of-living fears still soar above receding Covid concerns as the driving factor behind declining attendance, though less so for settled suburban groups - meanwhile the already least engaged audiences continue to be most affected, compounding the existing inequality gap in cultural consumption.
  4. While attending 'live' cultural events in person is everyone's strong preference, when it comes to alternative modes of engagement, watching from home, either streaming online or on TV, appeals more to all groups than doing so at the cinema, though both options are more popular among younger audiences.

Presentation | Our Head of Evidence talks through the findings

1. Social Issues and Climate Concerns Matter to Audiences

Overall Attitudes

We asked respondents how far they agree with two key statements:

  • "I prefer to go to cultural events at venues which I know share my values"
  • "Venues should take a stance on climate change and/or social issues"

51% of respondents say that they would generally prefer to go to cultural venues that share their values, while almost half are more actively willing to engage with organisations that take a visible stance on Social Issues - even more so specifically regarding the Climate Crisis.

  • Though on the surface 51% seems like a close run thing, in reality far more agreed that whether organisations share their own values is a positive driving attendance factor for them, than those who disagreed:

Climate and Social x AS group.png

Breaking that down a little, we see that this holds true across all venue types, again, more so regarding the Climate Crisis, than broader Social Issues:

"I agree that these organisations → should take a stance on ↓"

...Live Cultural Venues

...Museums, Galleries & Heritage

...Visitor Attractions

... Climate Crisis




... Other Social Issues




Younger Audiences

Age appears to have the biggest influence on respondents’ attitudes around climate and/or social issues, with younger (Gen Z and Millenial) people caring far more about these factors than older ones ( Gen X and Boomers).

Values x Age.png

Indeed, over 60% of younger audiences (16-44) state that they prefer to go to cultural events at venues that share their values.

  • This breaks down to 65% of 16–24 year-olds agreeing with this statement, and 61% of 25-44 year-olds doing so.
  • Moreover, c. 55% of these younger groups feel it is important that those venues actually take a stance on Climate Change, and c. 60% on broader Social Issues.
  • Looking more closely at these younger groups, roughly broken down into Generations Z (16-24) vs Millenials (25-44), we see that Meaning that Social Issues emerge as being fractionally even more important to the younger generation than the Climate Crisis:
I agree that arts organisations should take a stance on...

Aged 16-24

Aged 25-44

Aged 44+

... Climate Crisis




... Other Social Issues




Audience Spectrum Segments

The extent to which people care if an organisation expresses a stance on these values is not necessarily commensurate with their general level of cultural engagement. In fact, it polarises at the top and bottom ends of that spectrum.

Climate and Social Values x AS group - corrected.png

For example, of all the segments...

  • Experience Seekers (Highly Culturally Engaged) rank here 1/10 in most commonly strongly agreeing both that they prefer organisations to share their climate and social values, and to actively express them,
  • Followed by Kaleidoscope Creativity (Low Culturally Engaged) ranking here very highly at 3/10 in values-driven concern,
  • While the largest population group Dormitory Dependables (Medium Culturally Engaged) ranks here 10/10 with the lowest interest in value alignment of any Audience Spectrum segment.

That said,

  • Most Audience Spectrum groups are more likely than not to agree that organisations' climate/social positions matter to them to some extent.
  • Although three groups in particular (who collectively account for almost half - 45% - of the UK population) are more inclined than others to disagree that this matters to them at all, these being: Dormitory Dependables, Home & Heritage, and Commuterland Culturebuffs.

Finance and Families

Finances have an influence on whether people prefer to attend specific venues, with better-off families more likely to opt for venues that share their values:

  • Whilst, overall, 43% of respondents strongly agree that they are attracted to venues that express simpatico social and climate statements, this picture changes when we factor in people's financial and familial status.
Values x Family Status.png Social and Climate Values x Financial Status.png

  • Respondents with dependent children are far more likely to be concerned with how venues align with and express their social and climate values, than people who don't have kids at home.
  • And generally the better off people are financially, the more inclined they are to take whether or not venues have taken a stance on these issues into account when considering whether or not to attend.

2. Younger Audiences Prefer More Relaxed Behavioural Codes

Overall Attitudes

When asked if they are less likely to go to a live cultural event depending on the types of behaviours that they and other people are encouraged to do there, younger people are generally more tolerant of all divisive practices.

Beahviour Affecting Attendance 1.png

  • That said, some activities are universally off-putting (smoking, talking on the phone, and singing/dancing along),
  • While others (eating, drinking, and taking photos) actually make people of all ages and Audience Spectrum groups keener to attend.
  • Although general phone use bothers most people, cameras are the exception, with 52% saying that they'd actually be more likely to attend an event if they are allowed to take photos.

Dos and Don'ts

Overall then, behaviours can be split into two groups - those that people want themselves and other to be able to do, and those that they don't:

Permitted activities that make people MORE LIKELY to want to attend, in order of how much they appeal: Permitted activities that make people LESS LIKELY to want to attend, in order of how off-putting they are:
1. Taking photos 1. Smoking or vaping
2. Eating or drinking 2. Talking on the phone
3. Moving around 3. Making noise in other ways
4. Talking to others 4. Using phones (e.g. social media)
5. Making videos or recordings 5. Joining in with singing or dancing

By sorting these behaviours into groups expressing similar broad sentiments, we see four core cohorts of audiences broad behavioural preferences emerge. And the picture becomes a little bit more complicated:


  • The largest group accounts for over a third (35%) of respondents who express an overall preference for a more 'in the moment' experience, and most strongly reject phone usage in all its forms.
  • A further near quarter (23%) are perfectly comfortable with people privately snacking and taking photos/recordings, so long as they are not doing it in a way that is loud or otherwise disruptive to others.
  • A smaller group (17%) leans towards a more relaxed kind of 'cinema atmosphere', while the smallest of the 4 identifiable cohorts (12%) prefers a generally more informal experience, where you are free to chat with your fellows about what you're seeing and sing-along with the show.

Differences by Age Group

Tolerance of all of these activities decreases with age, with younger audiences holding far more positive attitudes towards relaxing behavioural codes.

Behaviours Affecting Attendance x Age.png

  • Whether you can eat or drink during a performance has a particularly significant influence on whether Gen Z (16-24) audiences want to attend, with 37% saying that it would make them actively more likely to come.
  • This declines fast though, even amongst Millenials (25-44) with young families, only 18% of whom say that the ability to eat or drink during the entertainment makes any difference to whether or not they'd go to an event.
  • Much younger audiences' preferences for more relaxed behavioural regulations when it comes to how they can consume live culture, raises interesting questions about the increasingly different experiential tastes and expectations that venues may need to be prepared to cater to in the not so distant future.

Looking at this through the lens of Audience Spectrum, we again see that youth and family dominated groups - Experience Seekers, Frontline Families and Kaleidoscope Creativity - are the most likely to want to be able to use their phones in a variety of ways during a live performance - beyond simply taking pictures:

Phone Habits x AS.png

3. Cost-of-Living is Hitting Lowest Engaged Groups Hardest

Changes to Attendance

Overall, people are still attending arts and culture less than they were before the pandemic (38% attending less, but only 12% more), as well as less than they were 12 months ago (35% attending less and 13% attending more).

Changes to attendance Feb to July 2023.png

  • While Gen Zs (16-24) in particular seem to be returning to near pre-pandemic levels of cultural activity, engagement has particularly dropped for middle-aged groups since we last posed the question in February 2023.
  • In fact, twice as many people (51%) aged under 44 have attended any arts and heritage event in the past 12 months than those between the ages of 45-65, only 25% of whom have done so.

Changes to attendance by age.png

Attitudes to Covid-19

Covid-19 continues to recede as a perceived risk, with a majority (62%) now saying that they think the chance of contracting or passing it on in day-to-day situations is ‘low’ or ‘very low’ - an 11% increase on February 2023.

Decline in day to day covid concern.png

  • Over half of individuals agreed or strongly agreed that ‘in the UK at least, the pandemic is effectively over’ - 55% compared with 34% in February - which suggests a notable shift in attitudes within just the past few months.
  • Younger people are even more inclined to consider the pandemic a thing of the past, with 70% of Gen Z saying that we're now out of the woods.
  • However, Covid-19 does still remain a factor inhibiting in-person arts engagement for between a fifth and a quarter of people.
  • 21% agree (though only 5% strongly) with the statement ‘The risk of catching/spreading Covid-19 puts me off attending cultural events’ (compared with a far higher 59% for the cost of living).
  • The level of perceived risk from Covid-19 in day-to-day activities is similar across all age groups, regardless of whether they are attending cultural events less or more in the last 12 months, than they were pre-pandemic.

Attitudes to Cost of Living

As of summer 2023, cost of living concerns are having a far greater effect on people's ability and intention to attend arts and culture than Covid fears, with 59% of people saying they are actively put off attending arts and culture by cost-of-living concerns.

  • 42% of people are still feeling ‘worse off’ than before the pandemic, with a further 44% ‘about the same’, and, unsurprisingly, just 14% ‘better off’.
  • This is largely unchanged since February (48%, 40%, and 12% respectively), suggesting that these are the kinds of of figures we can expect for the foreseeable.
  • Overall though, the numbers of people already attending less arts and culture than they were a year ago has gone up significantly, from 31% in February 2023, to 42% in July, though the change is slower in younger groups.

Cost of Living impact on Arts Attendance.png

People who are feeling even worse off than they were this time last year are, understandably, reporting a steady decline in their arts and culture attendance - the number saying that they've been engaging less than they used to is up +9% (to 52%) in just the past 5 months.

  • That said, 19% of people who say that they are actively choosing to attend fewer live cultural events these days actually consider themselves to be financially better off this year, so other factors remain at play as well.

Cost Of Living Impact by Segement.png

Most Audience Spectrum segments feel that energy and inflation are causing them greater concern than interest rate hikes, and will have the greatest impact on their leisure spending, though this does vary between groups:

  • The already least culturally engaged audiences continue to be the most affected, compounding the existing inequality gap in cultural consumption.
  • Groups with children at home or other dependents are most put off attending arts and culture by the demands of rising energy bills.
  • While Gen X (45-64) and Baby Boomer (65+) dominated suburban groups' attitudes to leisure spending are significantly less impacted by interest rates, having partially or fully paid off their mortgages.

4. Nothing Beats the Live Experience

Modes of Engagement

Across all artforms, ages and Audience Spectrum groups, people prefer to consume their arts and culture events live and in-person, followed by home (online/on TV) and then cinema screenings least.

The cost-of-living likely plays a part here, with people feeling like, if they can't be fully immersed in the live events, then they'd rather just watch from home via one of their subscriptions, than pay for a middle-ground experience in the cinema.

Artform Appeal x Live vs Digital.png

A slightly more nuanced picture appears when we break responses down by age:

  • People under the age of 45 are significantly more interested in both home and cinema viewings than their older counterparts, especially if the entertainment has a musical component or feels contemporary.

Artform Appeal x Live vs Digital x Age.png

Experiential Preferences

A couple of other interesting points emerged from the data about why, where, how and with whom people like to consume their culture. Age, as we are seeing across all aspects of engagement, plays a very significant role here:

Attending with similar age groups.png Participation x Age.png

  • 59% of those aged 16-24 say that they would rather attend live cultural events with similar aged people, a preferential distinction that steadily declines as age increases.
  • Similarly, 41% of those aged 16-24 want to be an active participant in how they interact with culture, which also steadily declines as age increases.
  • This is especially interesting in the context of younger audiences being far more relaxed about traditionally divisive audience behaviours, as it suggests something of a disconnect between older audiences' perceived desire to attend with a broad range of people, and their lack of tolerance for the changing ways in which that wider cohort wants to be able to participate.

How people perceive themselves and their relationship with creativity doesn't always correlate with how actively engaged they are with formal arts and culture.

Creative Person vs Importance of Arts and Culture.png

  • Cultural super engagers, Metroculturals, are the only Audience Spectrum group whose sense that "art and culture is an important part of who I am" is greater than their self-identification as a 'creative person' - although both are strongly held beliefs by this culture-centric segment.
  • Experience Seekers, Supported Communities and Kaleidoscope Creativity meanwhile all stand out as particularly agreeing with the statement "I see myself as a creative person", despite the latter two having the lowest engagement levels with traditional culture.
  • And Kaleidoscope Creativity in particular stand out as the group most open to and keen for audience participation to be welcomed at an event, which opens up a clear potential pathway through which to access these traditionally low engaged communities.

Our Head of Evidence Talks Through the Findings

Download the Data Presentation

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