Initial findings from the April 2022 wave of our Cultural Participation Monitor look at how attitudes towards audience safety, home working, local attendance, and the impact of the cost of living crisis are shifting as the pandemic moves into its latest phase.

Key Points

  1. Overall there is much increased willingness to attend events and optimism about future attendance, though some groups continue to be especially concerned, with disabled people less likely to be willing or able to attend.
  2. Safety measures are rated as less important than they have been previously, but desire for them continues, with half of audiences still saying that they would not attend if precautions were removed all together.
  3. Nearly half of people say that they engaged with arts and culture online in some form during the pandemic, weighted towards audiences who are younger, typically high cultural engagers anyway, or disabled.
  4. The cost of living crisis is emerging as a predictable barrier to engagement, and is particularly likely to affect frequency of attendance (more than spend per attendance - though increased prices would act as a further deterrent).
  5. Working from home is still prevalent, preferred and expected to continue in to some degree for most, which is likely a contributor to the widespread intention to attend more locally in future than before the pandemic.

1. Perceived Covid-19 related risks are decreasing, while willingness to attend events, especially outdoors, is rising.

Overall willingness to attend

Willingness to attend overall is up to 39% saying they are ‘happy to attend’ (from 30% in November 2021), whereas 20% people cite Covid-19 as a reason they don’t want to attend.

  • People are split on whether the end of Covid-19 rules makes them more or less confident, with around a third for each and the remainder saying neither.
  • They are also split on whether their in-person arts attendance will be the same or less than before the pandemic, with about 40% for both. This is itself an increase from November, when more expected to do less than to do more.

Wave 6 Willingness to Attend.png

Perceived risk from attending indoor events

People still feel far less at risk of contracting the virus at outdoor events.

  • 39% of people think the risk of catching or spreading Covid-19 indoors averaged across all cultural events is high/very high, but this reduces to 13% when events are outdoors.
  • In comparison 20% assume the same risk when doing day to day activities.

Wider attitudes to COVID-19

Attitudes to Covid-19 are still very divided, with the public holding a broad range of viewpoints.

  • Overall, more people say that they think that Covid-19 is not over and that they still take precautions, than say the opposite.
  • On the other hand, more also say that it is time to get back to normal and that their own attendance is back to normal.
Wave 6 Attitudes to Covid 1.png Wave 6 Attitudes to Covid 2.png
Wave 6 Attitudes to Covid 3.png Wave 6 Attitudes to Covid 4.png

At an individual level though, people are generally more consistent with assessing risk, or being willing to attend events relative to their attitudes to Covid-19, than this overall picture may suggest. Meaning that the same people who think the threat is low and that we should be getting back to normal, are happy to return to indoor events and plan to spend the same amount on entertainment.

  • Those completely happy to attend are much less likely to assess a high risk of Covid-19 indoors, and 3 times more of them think we should accept Covid-19 and live normally compared to the overall population.
  • For those who think there’s a low risk, they are less than half as likely as people generally to say their spending on entertainment will decrease a little/a lot.

The groups more/less likely to attend

Older people and those with disabilities or long term health conditions remain the most cautious about 'getting back to normal', while under-25 year-olds are leading the return charge.

  • Those who identify as disabled/(D/d)eaf/having a long-term health condition (from now on ‘disabled’) are less likely to say they are back to normal in attending events and are even more likely to say they’ll attend events more locally.
  • Normal attendance levels are driven by the 16-24 age group, where over half agree they are back to normal.
  • Back to normal attitudes and attendance are also much higher in Asian/Asian British people.
  • As expected, the over 65s are more likely to say they won’t attend cultural events as often in the future.

2. Support for Covid-19 safety measures is starting to ebb, but overall caution remains.

Most people still say safety measures are important but, as the chart below shows, this has dropped quite significantly since November.

Wave 6 Covid Safety Measures.png

  • Support for only those with vaccination or test records attending has dropped the most.
  • As expected, due to their increased risk from Covid-19, the level of importance placed on measures increases with age group.
  • Most people also rate these measures as important Outdoors, but in lower proportions.

Nearly half of people surveyed still said that if cultural organisations remove all Covid-19-related safety measures they would be less confident in attending.

  • Half also said organisations could make visiting more Covid-19 safe which is unchanged from November’s analysis.
  • Disabled people are more likely to say the removal of all measures reduced confidence, driven by those with mobility/breathing issues.
  • Half of people surveyed disagreed that the current Covid-19 safety measures were too extreme in relation to risk, with the rest split between neutral and agree, proportions unchanged from November.

3. Nearly half of people engaged with arts and culture digitally during the pandemic.

Overall, 45% of people said they had taken part in an online cultural activity during the pandemic.

  • This is much higher in the 16-24 age category, as well as for Metroculturals.
  • Those with some specific types of disability were also more likely to engage online than the overall average, such as those who are visually impaired and those with depression or anxiety.

Wave 6 Online Engagment by Audience Spectrum.png

The types of activity with the most online engagement are watching a performance/event, following by a virtual tour/online exhibition.

  • More niche categories like immersive/virtual reality digital art or online creative workshops see 5-10% of respondents taking part.
  • It should be noted that across nearly all online activities, the same percentages of respondents said they were doing this before the pandemic.
  • Watching a live or recorded performance online is the exception, increasing from 23% to 28%.

4. The cost-of-living crisis is starting to impact people's willingness or ability to spend on arts and culture.

Income expectations compared with pre-pandemic

The cost-of-living crisis is already starting to bite. Compared to before the pandemic, 37% of people expect to be worse off, although it is worth noting that 21% expect to be better off.

Groups that are particularly likely to expect to be worse off include:

  • those with depression/anxiety (59%),
  • those who are neurodiverse (47%),
  • those working in ‘lower supervisory and technical occupations’ (46%),
  • disabled people (45%),
  • Frontline Families (44%),
  • those with dependent children (42%),
  • and those living in the most deprived quartile of areas (40%).

Wave 6 Cost of Living.png

Impact on entertainment and leisure spend

People are split on what they expect to spend on entertainment/leisure, as a third say it will decrease a little/a lot but over a quarter say it will increase.

  • Overall, the proportion expecting to spend less is 6 percentage points higher than the proportion expecting to spend more.
  • This is lower than the net 16 percentage points who expect to be worse off, suggesting that entertainment/leisure spend may not reduce for as many people as the wider financial situation would imply.

Wave 6 Approach to Decreased Engagement.png

  • When those who said that they would reduce spending were asked about how they would do so, over half of people said they will both do things less often and spend less each time (56%).
  • Looking at those who said they would either decrease frequency or spend each time, more expected to reduce the former than the latter (25% compared to 12%).

5. Working from home is here to stay and is likely to result in more people engaging locally with arts and culture.

Preferences and expectations

For those that have worked from home, a quarter expect to do so all of the time over the next 3 months and over half expect to at least occasionally.

  • Half of those surveyed expect to do it at least most of the time even when there’s no threat from Covid-19.
  • Two thirds of people prefer working from home most or all of the time, and only 9% never prefer it.
  • Three quarters of people worked from home more during the pandemic, but this was lower in the youngest and oldest age categories.

Wave 6 Working From Home.png

Attitudes to Covid-19 align with work habits

  • Those who say they are not comfortable in attending events because of Covid-19 are much more likely to say they will continue working from home.
  • Similarly, those who think we should do everything we can to reduce Covid-19 are more likely to say they’ll continue working from home and that they prefer it, compared to those saying we should just live with Covid-19.

Persistence of localism

Even among these more cautious groups though, taking attending live performance as an example, 1/3 people expect to attend closer to home then pre-pandemic,

  • This is many more than say they will travel further than they used to, and likely a result of work/life balances becoming more home oriented.
  • This trend towards increased local attendance and away from greater travel to cultural events holds across most art forms.
  • Nearly 30% of people say that they have discovered new cultural things to do in their local area that they didn’t know about before Covid-19, indicating that awareness about engaging with the arts locally (and therefore likelihood to do so) is very much on the rise.

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