Feature | Our 2016 predictions for arts and culture

Our experts give their predictions about what lies ahead for the sector this year...

We asked seven members of The Audience Agency team to give their predictions on what the next 12 months will bring for the arts and cultural sector.

Here are some thoughts from us as to the key trends we’ll see emerging in 2016:

Oliver Mantell, Area Director – North

“Despite the surprisingly positive news from the spending review regarding ACE funding, I believe that 2016 is when the implications of the local authority cuts to the arts announced at the same time will become evident in practice. The combination of those cuts with

  • the commitment by the national Labour leadership to set legal local budgets, and
  • the statutory obligations of councils (and the famous 'graph of doom')

mean that it's either going to get very ugly, or something will have to give.

Expect museums, (even more) libraries and other arts services to close, despite ACE stepping in to cover some shortfalls and there (surely?) being a partial U-turn by the government. This will be most acute in local authorities with high social care costs, low expected future income from locally-set business rates and where local authorities have historically been particularly important supporters of civic culture. So it doesn't look good for the North.

That said, the Northern Powerhouse isn't going away: instead it's likely to be the small/mid-sized towns that get the worst of it, as well as some of the areas that have already been badly hit by recent flooding or coal and steel closures. But whilst eyes are understandably on Manchester and Hull 2017, the Northern Powerhouse has to mean more than 'Manchester+' if it's going to achieve its social, economic and cultural ambitions, not just short-term political ones. We’ll get much more of an idea of how that’s likely to pan out in the course of this year.”

Get in touch with Oliver.

Margot Walker - Regional Director, Yorkshire


“Last year was a challenging year of hiatus for the arts – awaiting news of funding and political direction. First of all there was the election in May and then the spending review in November. With much relief that the latter ended in some support at least for the Arts Council which should trickle down to cultural organisations this year.

The problem is that the squeeze remains for local authorities especially to fund and manage civic cultural resources including museums, libraries and parks. In 2016 there is no doubt going to be more pressure to monetarise the cultural offer and to provide evidence that shows how cultural organisations are contributing to economic, social and educational growth.”

Contact Margot to find out more about how we can help museums.


Katie Moffat - Head of Digital

“I think 2016 will be termed 'the year of the digital pragmatist'. Not desperately exciting but hopefully more effective. We are all time and resource pressed and yet digital can eat up an inordinate amount of time. If you don't have the luxury of a dedicated digital team or specialist you can be left in a slight panic. But I think (and hope) that arts & culture organisations will stop trying to do everything, becoming scattered in their approach, and focus on doing one or two things really well. Yes it'd be lovely to set up a Pinterest account and use it to post beautiful, original images from your shows or spend some time developing a new use of ibeacons in your gallery but realistically, let's focus on getting the basics right - a website that works and is mobile optimised, a real understanding of Google Analytics, using email marketing effectively. You get the idea.

In the same vein, I have seen an increasing number of arts organisations facing up to the fact that there is a need to be less touchy-feely about social media and more practical about it. For example, with Facebook, we will definitely see an increase in paid ads but also a realisation that it's an incredibly efficient way of reaching an audience if you spend a little bit of time getting to grips with the ads tool. Experimenting with digital is great and I encourage it, most definitely but not at the expense of the basics. “

Get in touch with Katie to find out more about her webinars and our digital services.

Cimeon Ellerton - Head of Programmes

“I predict that in the next 12 months we’ll see a growing trend for hyper-local and personalised listings, improved location based joint marketing, and arts & culture organisations more actively engaging with their presence on sites such as Trip Advisor and Euan’s Guide.

Discoverability of arts and cultural activity remains stubbornly behind that of other sectors. It is easy to not only find the perfect hotel or holiday apartment, but also to compare prices and find a bargain. In the internet age it should be easy for potential audiences to find something [cultural] to do. Three quarters of us walk around with a web-connected computer in our pocket. We rightly put a lot of time and energy into our websites and many social media profiles, but we know from Audience Finder that well over one third of arts and culture consumers have never even visited the website of the event or organisation they’re attending. So looking after our other profiles on, for example TripAdvisor, is also crucial.

Traditionally, the What’s On listing has been a key information source for potential audiences, but the search term “What’s On…” has stayed relatively flat when looking at UK Google trends. In contrast “something to do in…” is now three times more popular as a search term than “what’s on”. This reflects TAA’s earlier findings that most audiences see arts & culture as an entertaining activity to fill leisure time."

Contact Cimeon to find out more about Audience Finder.

Pamela Pfrommer - Senior Consultant

"The age of austerity is here to stay for many and, with some traditional fundraising methods in decline, this year presents key opportunities to plan for challenges ahead. The corollary to that is that resources and organisational capacity will not significantly increase so the sector will need to be more strategic in their approach - involving and engaging all staff, volunteers and Trustees to undertake mission focused fundraising. In other words, securing funds that support activities which are core to the purpose of their organisation.

Involvement and engagement are key principles here which, if organisations can model internally, can be demonstrated externally to cultivate donors and supporters. Fundraising using social media and via online platforms will continue to make inroads given the proliferation of mobile and tablet devices in use. Whilst access to ‘big data’ will also enable many organisations to gather the right combination of evidence and insight that can make a real difference in making the case to wider stakeholders and informing funding bids.”

Get in touch with Pamela to find out more about our fundraising tools and how we can help with your fundraising bid.


Leo Sharrock - Head of Data Strategy

“The latest results published from the DCMS Taking Part Survey suggest that the last year saw a decline in the numbers of people attending or participating in the arts since a peak in 2012/13. However, I think that we are starting to see evidence that some arts organisations are becoming more adept at growing revenue and/or audiences for paid product. I would like to think that development of more effective and targeted marketing is likely to be contributing factor.

Alongside this my experiences over the last twelve months of working with a growing pool of fundraisers in the arts suggests to me that progress is also being made in the diversification of income streams being realised across arts organisations. All in all helping to make cultural organisations more sustainable.

I see the role of effective data analysis in helping people to plan, deliver and evaluate their marketing and fundraising activities growing ever more. Not simply in terms of enhanced access to increasingly available relevant data with - Audience Finder and other open data platforms we’ve seen huge strides in that direction already - but more in terms of the development of tools and genuine infographics that enhance the ways in which we can understand the information latent within data. Furthermore there will be increasing demand for the ability to look at that information and extrapolate from it associated strategies and practical actions that help people to grow audiences and revenue. In an ongoingly challenging economic context, I think that more people will be embracing more accessible data driven approaches and, consequently, we’ll increasingly see the results of more effective audience development and marketing."

Join Leo at one of his upcoming Using & Managing Data in Fundraising Workshops.

Carol Jones - Director, Wales / Cyfarwyddwr, Cymru

“Cultural organisations across Wales will remain on tenterhooks for the first three months of 2016 as they wait for final funding confirmation from ACW at the end of March. ACW was hit with a 5% cut as a part of the Welsh Government's draft budget for 2016/17 losing £1.5M of its annual budget. ACW Chair Dai Smith warned that the funding settlement only covers one year and that he remained 'very concerned' about the ongoing pressure on Welsh Government funding.

Most parts of Wales are also reeling from local authority arts budget cuts including Cardiff with proposed cuts of £700K across the city. The deadline for consultation on 11 January has prompted a series of meetings across the Welsh capital's cultural community to make the case for continued funding and perhaps a belated recognition of the power of data and insight as a persuasive lobbying tool.

So it becomes ever more likely that Wales will remain in a curious 'limbo-land' with many projects, developments and appointments on hold until the summer months. The need for real, actionable insight will climb up the priority list as will Welsh Government priorities of wellbeing, wider social impacts and tackling poverty.”

Get in touch with Carol to find out how she can help.

Carol Jones - Cyfarwyddwr, Cymru

“Bydd sefydliadau diwylliannol ledled Cymru yn aros ar bigau’r drain am y tri mis cyntaf yn 2016 wrth iddynt aros am y cadarnhad ariannol terfynol gan Gyngor Celfyddydau Cymru (CCC) ddiwedd Mawrth. Derbyniodd CCC doriad o 5% fel rhan o gyllideb ddrafft Llywodraeth Cymru ar gyfer 2016/17 gan golli £1.5 miliwn o’i gyllideb ariannol. Rhybuddiodd Dai Smith Cadeirydd CCC fod y trefniant ariannol ar gyfer un flwyddyn yn unig a’i fod yn parhau i fod yn ‘bryderus iawn’ ynglŷn â’r pwysau parhaus sydd ar gyllid Llywodraeth Cymru.

Mae rhan fwyaf o ardaloedd yng Nghymru hefyd yn sigledig yn sgil y toriadau yng nghyllideb yr awdurdod lleol ar gelfyddydau yn cynnwys Caerdydd gyda thoriadau arfaethedig o £700 mil ar draws y ddinas. Mae’r dyddiad cau ar gyfer ymgynghori ar 11 Ionawr wedi ysgogi cyfres o gyfarfodydd ledled cymuned ddiwylliannol prifddinas Cymru i wneud achos am gyllid parhaus ac efallai cydnabyddiaeth hwyr o gryfder data a mewnwelediad fel offeryn lobio perswadiol.

Felly ymddengys hyd yn oed yn fwy tebygol bydd Cymru’n aros mewn sefyllfa o ansicrwydd chwilfrydig gyda llawer o brosiectau, datblygiadau ac apwyntiadau wedi’u gohirio tan yr haf. Bydd yr angen am dreiddgarwch pwrpasol, go iawn yn dringo i fyny’r rhestr flaenoriaeth wrth i flaenoriaethau Llywodraeth Cymru ganolbwyntio ar les, effeithiau cymdeithasol ehangach a threchu tlodi.”

Cysylltwch â Carol.