Key insights for learning and participation practitioners.

March 8, 2021
Photo of the author - Lucie Fitton

Lucie Fitton

Photo of the author - Oliver Mantell

Oliver Mantell

Over the past year, The Audience Agency has undertaken a range of research to understand how engagement with arts and culture has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s no surprise that this is a shifting picture, so much of the research is ongoing and regularly updated.

As the number of people vaccinated increases, we may see some new changes in attitudes and behaviours, but there are already some interesting findings. I interviewed our Director for Policy Research, Oliver Mantell, to explore which insights may be most relevant for our Learning Diaries readers.

If this short taster piques your interest then please check out our Evidence Hub for more detailed reporting and resources.

Who is engaging with arts and culture online?

Digital activities have engaged a greater diversity of audiences in terms of age and ethnicity.

Digital engagement was particularly higher for under 35s (under 45s for participation) and those from ‘mixed’, ‘Asian’, ‘Black’ or ‘Other’ ethnicities (i.e. all except ‘White’) – especially for participatory activities. Understanding which elements of their own online offer have attracted new audiences is a key consideration for audience development planning.

Ethnicity and age of audience engaging online March 21.png

More people who identify as disabled have engaged online – but digital is not a quick fix for addressing access.

Digital activities and content have resulted in greater engagement of audiences who identify as disabled. 12% of digital audiences identify as disabled, an increase of 3% from the 9% in our pre-Covid Audience Finder data. However, this is a long way from 20% in the overall population. Digital can go some way toward supporting more accessible and inclusive programming, but it’s a small part of the picture.

People who identify as disabled online engagament, March 21.png


Why do people engage online?

Learning, boosting mood & reducing anxiety are key motivators for engaging online – the latter especially so for young people.

It is clear that motivators linked to wellbeing are increasingly important – from boosting mood to reducing anxiety and stress. This is particularly evident for young people. It is no secret that the wellbeing agenda has never been more important and creativity has a powerful role to play. How can you develop online experiences that can support learning and wellbeing?

Vistitors motivations - intellectually and entertainment, March 21.png

Vistitors motivations - emotions, March 21.png

Young vistitors motivations - emotions, March 21.png

What should you consider when planning your future in-person programmes?

Young people are likely to return first, but because of drops in income will want lower cost events and experiences.

Young people are more likely to say that want to come back and many have booked for future events. Most people have seen differences in either the time or money they have available, which has clear implications for if and how they engage. Unsurprisingly, many younger people have more time and less money, so will want cheaper activities to engage with. This audience is also more comfortable with digital engagement and the combination of both digital and onsite activities, so how can you start to tailor inexpensive, more experimental, hybrid activities for them?

Considerations for returning, March 21.png

Consider the opportunities of VR (virtual reality) & AR (augmented reality).

15% of young people aged 16 - 34 and families with children use VR and AR. In the past, few arts organisations have had the resources to invest in more sophisticated digital technologies, especially when general use of these had been limited. Through the pandemic, have more people been buying, using and becoming more confident with VR and AR technologies? This may provide an argument to consider incorporating these tools into your programming, particularly if you aim to reach families less likely to engage in traditional activities.

Used VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality)


Visit our Evidence Hub for in-depth research into understanding how engagement with arts and culture has been impacted by the Covid pandemic.

Visit the COVID Evidence Hub