This report summarises results for Northern Ireland from the first wave of The Audience Agency’s COVID-19 Monitor.

The Audience Agency's COVID-19 Cultural Participation Monitor is a nationally-representative online survey of the UK population and their experiences and responses to COVID, particularly in relation to cultural engagement. The wave 1 sample of 6,055 responses was carried out between Oct and Nov 2020.‚Äč

This report draws out some headline figures and key differences for Northern Ireland, compared to the UK overall, or other nations and regions.

Download the Northern Irish Audiences Summary with Charts


Summary of Findings

  • NI had levels of arts and cultural engagement before COVID that were slightly higher than UK average, but levels dropped further in NI since March 2020 than overall (esp. for literature), although creative activities dropped less (and reading for pleasure rose more).
  • As of the beginning of November, COVID appears to have had a similar impact in NI in terms of time and money available to people. Similar proportions faced local lockdowns and were shielding.
  • Similar proportions in NI are ready to start attending in person in line with the UK average.

Experience During COVID-19

  • Northern Ireland (NI) saw similar financial drops to across the UK as a whole.
  • A slightly higher proportion of NI had ‘less’ time than before COVID.
  • Northern Irish had similar proportions of people in a local lockdown and shielding: a slightly higher proportion have faced local lockdowns and a slightly lower were shielding.
  • A lower percentage lived in households with children.

In Person Engagement

  • 25% of Northern Irish had attended any arts/heritage since Mar 2020, below the overall UK average of 34%: 73 cf. to an index of 100.
  • It was notably lower than Scotland and higher than Wales, (indices of 89% and 63%).
  • In the 12 months before, it was 88%, slightly higher than the UK average (85%).
  • Attendance by Northern Irish dropped further than overall, compared to pre-March 2020 level, especially for literature.

Comparing creative activities before and after March 2020, four things stand out:

  • Almost all activities were done by fewer people*
  • NI read for pleasure at average levels before, but increased to above UK average after March
  • Fewer NI visited libraries before March, but decreased less to be in line with average levels after March
  • Overall, the activity levels of NI have reduced less than those for the UK overall.

For other activities:

  • Most were done (slightly) less in NI before March 2020
  • But most had fallen less in NI than elsewhere since March 2020
  • The overall ranking of activities is very similar between NI the whole of the UK (although more elsewhere do ‘another creative activity’)

Online Engagement since March 2020

  • 30% of NI watched a performance/event online since March 2020; 6% had taken part in an online activity.
  • This was below the overall UK averages of 33% and 9%: 92 and 69 cf. an index of 100.
  • In the previous 12 months 44% (cf. 45% for the UK overall) had watched anything (an index of 92), so most of the lockdown difference reflects existing digital engagement levels.

The proportion of NI who had paid for digital content by the following means were:

  • 9% — Bought a ticket/fixed price
  • 10% — Donated/ pay what you like
  • 8% — Part of paid membership

These were below the overall UK averages of 17%, 19%, 11%: 55, 52 and 74 cf. to an index of 100.


Future Engagement

The % who are currently ‘in play’ (i.e. who have booked, or are interested in booking) for ANY art and heritage activity of those listed (see next page) is c. 1% lower in NI than the overall average.

The % ‘in play’ for each artform (i.e. who have booked, or are interested in booking) is similar to the overall average c.+/- 1%.

Exceptions are:

  • visit a museum [+8%]
  • visit a historic park or garden open to the public [-7%]
  • an exhibition or collection of art [+5%]

Download the Northern Irish Audiences Summary with Charts

More details are available from The Audience Agency on request.