First results from The Audience Agency’s new COVID-19 Cultural Participation Monitor research study show that 19% of under 24s would be happy to return to a venue versus just 6% of over 65s. Other findings show there are regional differences as well as those between urban and rural areas in who is ready to return to live cultural events.

The COVID-19 Cultural Participation Monitor is a major new regular research survey of changing views about participating in creative and cultural activities through the pandemic. An extensive, interviewer-led exercise, the research samples thousands of people from all UK regions and walks of life, adding important new insight to the body of knowledge about core audiences and add much needed insight about the wider public and less frequent audiences. It’s longitudinal, enabling changes in opinion to be plotted accurately as the crisis develops and factors alter.

See the first full summary report

December 2020 findings show that:

Younger people are much more confident about returning to venues

  • 27% of under 24s have booked or organised something over the next couple of months versus 8% of over 45s.
  • 19% of under 24s said: "I am happy to attend right now if there was something I wanted to see or do", versus 6% of over 65s.

There is a significant difference in people’s “readiness to return” between regions

  • Around 70% of Londoners were confident about booking ahead, compared just over 50% in Wales at the other extreme.

People want to know they can get a refund

  • A clear refund policy and information about safety measures before booking were the two most important factors to encourage the decision to reattend.
  • Different types of audience had strongly different reactions to the whole range of measures, however: urban/metropolitan, highly-engaged and contemporary groups were less concerned across the board; older, rural and traditional groups were more concerned.

Cultural engagement differs across Race and ethnicities

  • People identifying as Black or Asian are engaging with online culture relatively more than at physical venues – and in similar or larger proportions than those identifying as White.
  • While 16% of White interviewees had watched a streamed play, 21% of Asian and 20% of Black respondents had done so.

Online cultural consumption has increased in people identifying as having a limiting disability or condition

  • People identifying as having a limiting disability or condition 19% had watched a streamed play, compared to 16% of those who do not. Slightly higher proportion non-disabled persons had been to some form of arts/heritage venue (35%) compared to those with a disability (32%)

“These initial research findings are thought-provoking and at first glimpse we can already see that the pandemic is breaking down barriers to cultural engagement for some people but raising them for others. We can also see who is most likely to start buying tickets soonest and who wants to keep donating.
In other words, we can already see that this major study will provide information vital to the sector in steering through the crisis. The information will inform good business decisions AND help organisations respond to the very real needs of the wider public for creativity and entertainment.
We will be regularly releasing short digests of new findings and practical advice for implementing change as soon as they become available. We also have the options to explore critical issues in greater depth in future waves and welcome suggestions from colleagues across the sector.”

Anne Torreggiani, CEO of The Audience Agency

The research forms part of a wider research programme COVID-19: Impacts on the cultural industries and the implications for policy; a research programme led by Centre for Cultural Value Director, Professor Ben Walmsley. A national consortium of researchers and cultural sector partners will analyse existing datasets and conduct targeted new research on the impacts of the pandemic on cultural organisations, practitioners and audiences. The research is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Covid rolling call and issued through the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

See the first full summary report