New insights from The Audience Agency’s Cultural Participation Monitor show that attitudes towards social and environmental values, taste and experience are all changing the way audiences respond to arts and cultural audiences.


Audience behaviour patterns are being redrawn and we’re still seeing the long-lasting impacts of the pandemic, as well as the effects of social and economic change and now digital disruption with AI too. A higher percentage of audiences want cultural organisations to openly share their values on climate and social issues as people prefer to go to venues that align with their own values.

These views are prevalent among younger audiences and likely to drive long-term shifts in behaviours and expectations. Cultural organisations should be prepared to both respond to these changes and manage the reactions of those audiences who do not share these values.

Audiences also have more eclectic and unpredictable tastes (gone are the days of strict allegiance to genres), discovery will be easier which could perhaps make choice more difficult. Experiences worth going out for – particularly with social or communal element – will be at a premium. People’s choices will be more about the feel of an event rather than following a particular artform or format.

Key Findings

  1. Social and Environmental Values. People (especially younger ones and better off families) say that they care whether venues share their own social and environmental values. 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.
  2. A new generation of attitudes and expectations. 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 deterrents. Cost-of-living fears still soar above receding COVID-19 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. 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).
  4. No substitute for live experience. 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.

Expert Responses

This new evidence gives us a glimpse into the future and to what future audiences will expect from us. Now, more than ever, we need to understand our audiences and keep them at the heart of what we do. We need to move through these changing – and challenging - times WITH audiences. These insights point to a changed role for organisations we need to think about amplifying our social values, becoming a community resource, being prepared to join the conversation, creating opportunities for debate. In a content rich, AI-dominated world, we need to cherish our strong relationships with audiences and ensure we create distinctive, experiential offers.

Anne Torreggiani, CEO, The Audience Agency

“The latest findings from the Cultural Participation Monitor confirm what we’re hearing from visitor attractions across the UK. Visitors are returning in strong numbers, reflecting how much cultural venues and attractions were missed when they were closed under COVID restrictions. People want to reconnect with nature and outdoor attractions but also want all attractions - indoor and outdoor - to show what they're doing to achieve net zero and reduce their own carbon footprint. The cost-of-living crisis is still a significant factor for many visitors and audiences and attractions are creatively responding to that through free programming and targeted support for people on Universal Credit and Pension Credit, for example. The research also clearly shows that audiences, visitors, volunteers and staff really respect organisations who demonstrate their own values and principles and live by them.”

Bernard Donoghue, Director, ALVA

“One key difference that stands out in these results is the difference in attitudes and preferences between younger and older groups. Younger people are more likely to want organisations to align with their values and to take a stand on social and climate issues, as well as to prefer a wider range of permitted behaviours when attending cultural venues of all kinds. These groups will form an increasing share of audiences in the future (as they are already, given shifts in audience profiles since the pandemic). This suggests we are likely to see a shift in expectations on cultural venues, with pressure for more informal experiences (including more digital and social interaction), and for venues to be more value-lead and outspoken about those values.

Oliver Mantell, Director of Evidence and Insight, The Audience Agency

The Data in More Detail

Full key finding insights from this wave of the Cultural Participation Monitor can be found here, along with a guided walk through the data from our Evidence team.

The Cultural Participation Monitor is The Audience Agency's nationwide longitudinal (ongoing) panel survey of changing views about participating in creative and cultural activities through the pandemic and beyond.

For press enquiries, interviews, quotations or further information contact:

Rosie Hanley, PR & Communications Manager, The Audience Agency