The data shows that audiences for Outdoor Arts are local, drawn from their immediate hinterland. Profiles vary across the country, looking very different in coastal locations, rural settings, urban areas and so on. This evidence supports the idea that Outdoor Arts has the power to amplify a sense of community, and to change people’s perceptions of a place.
Some of the events featured in this report have used Audience Finder to explore these impacts in more depth, with a majority of their audiences reporting an increased sense of belonging, social connection and pride in their place. What also shines through is the value of Outdoor Arts as a celebratory and convivial experience. Social factors are important reasons for attending, with the majority of people wanting “to be entertained” and attending in larger groups than is typical across the arts. Still, though, people rate the quality of their experience itself very highly.
The Outdoor Arts events included here are of different scales, but taken together they attract high numbers of audiences, many of whom don’t often take part in other state-supported or commercial cultural activity. The festivals present a rich mixture of different experiences, created in a range of ways by artists from various disciplines. Many directly involve their community as volunteers and creative participants. This range and adaptability may help to explain why Outdoor Arts are particularly effective at engaging audiences in such diverse settings.
While audiences are most comfortable returning to outdoor events, organising a festival that can flex around ever-changing restrictions is still no mean feat. Penny Mills and Jonathan Goodacre have been looking at what’s working.
Unpredictable and changing circumstances are making it difficult to plan any festival this summer but we are a resourceful lot in the cultural sector.