The London Pandemic Experience

The capital's pre-pandemic arts and culture offering was crucial to the UK's creative economy, consisting of some of the most high-profile performing arts venues, museums, galleries, orchestras and dance companies in the world. The city showcased this work to millions each year, both to Greater London's own diverse population and to cultural tourists from across the country, and world.

  • As organisations were forced to close in March 2020, many organisations who were able, moved online using streaming and digital work to communicate with audiences, diversifying their brands in new ways.
  • However, despite notable successes in a digital capacity, organisations of all sizes faced, and many continue to do so, enormous challenges to their long term resilience and business models.
  • For those that tour internationally, the effects of the end of the Brexit transition period in January 2020 has made touring, for at least the near future, more complex and expensive, further adds doubt to what, for many, a crucial part of their business models.
  • The pandemic hit hardest in Greater London early in the first lockdown before receding quicker than many parts of the UK in April and May 2020.
  • While later in the year, the sudden installation of a tier 4 lockdown in the days before Christmas Day ended any outdoor cultural activity taking place until the Spring. Allowing the reopening of museums, galleries and outdoor activities, with the limited reopening of indoor venues at part capacity.
  • A majority hadn't heard a physical performance or event in over 14 months. However, social distancing means for a majority of performing arts venues, including the West End, that despite innovative planning and programming, reopening to limited audiences is not a model that can be continued over the longer term without further government intervention.

Impacts on Different Audiences

Before Covid-19, London had much higher levels of arts and cultural engagement than the UK average - and levels have dropped less in London overall during the crisis - though the pandemic appears to have had more of a time and money impact on residents in the capital, than those in other regions.

  • More positively, more Londoners are ready to start attending in person than the UK average, demonstrating a demand that will encourage arts organisations in the coming months that the population wants to reengage in person and drive the cultural economy once again. Key highlights of our research include:
  • Londoners saw higher financial drops than across the UK as a whole: a higher proportion had 'less' or the 'same' amount of money as before COVID.
  • 42% of Londoners had attended any arts/heritage since Mar 2020, above the overall UK average of 34%.
  • Attendance by Londoners dropped less than overall, compared to pre-March 2020 level, especially for Film at the cinema or other venues, Performing arts and Outdoor arts.
  • 44% of Londoners watched a performance/ event online since March 2020; 15% had taken part in an online activity.​ These were above the overall UK averages of 33% and 9%.
  • 69% are currently interested in any art/heritage activity. 6% higher than the overall average.

Audience Spectrum Profile | London

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Evidence for London