How typically highly engaged audiences' attitudes to cultural engagement have shifted during the pandemic, compared with the population at large.

The Culture Restart Toolkit was developed to help cultural organisations respond live to audiences and visitors during COVID-19. The Audience Agency has done this additional research to test whether attitudes from highly engaged audiences match those we've seen from the population as a whole, from the Cultural Participation Monitor.

We know that different audiences engage differently, and this analysis lets us consider how those variations shift before, during and after the coronavirus pandemic, for both on and offline activity. It also highlights the key feelings and issues at play for different audience types.

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This analysis focuses on two strands of questioning from the overall survey:

  1. Engagement in person​
  2. Watching content online

Summary of questions used in this analysis

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It looks particularly at how responses vary by Audience Spectrum group.This approach both:

  • shows which types of the core audiences targeted by this survey engage in different ways
  • and allows comparison to similar groups from the whole population, via our Covid-19 Cultural Participation Monitor.

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Respondents to this survey are highly engaged compared to these segments in the wider population, but a similar pattern is evident here to what we’ve seen elsewhere:

  • Some segments were, are and will be highly engaged in person – and are also the most engaged digitally: Metroculturals and Experience Seekers.
  • Some show future potential, esp. digitally, despite being lower engaged in person usually: Kaleidoscope Creativity and (to a lesser extent) Facebook Families (though potential and openness to attend or engage online may not be matched with enthusiasm for current offers).
  • Some remain average, on and offline (Dormitory Dependables, Trips & Treats).
  • Some – with more traditional tastes - have dropped in potential engagement (Commuterland Culturebuffs, Home & Heritage): the former will still be important, but less than before. There is moderate opportunity to keep them both engaged via digital.
  • Others, esp. older and lower engaged in the first place, are harder to engage, on or offline (Up Our Street and esp. Heyday).

This core surveyed audience matching trends across the wider population suggests:

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  • A short term opportunity to engage audiences with an appetite for more contemporary and innovative work and some lower-engaged groups (e.g. through Cultural Recovery Funding) may soon be followed by…
  • A decisive moment, as vaccine roll-out and reductions in the pandemic take over, of whether older core audiences do return, as suggested (esp. as these groups have often been less hard-hit financially, but have already shown their reluctance to return early…)

If so, there is a clear path back for the sector to an evolved model.If not, the combination of simultaneous disposable income and funding squeezes with loss of core audiences could mean a more radical retrenchment (alongside a watershed / generational shift in terms of cultural tastes).

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For more about the Culture Restart Survey, including the methodology, visit​​

For more about this analysis, as well as other research about audiences in the time of COVID, visit our research hub or email

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The toolkit is delivered by Indigo Ltd, Baker Richards and One Further. It provides data and insights to help build confidence to reactivate and retain audiences and visitors to cultural organisations. This analysis of data is based on 10,727 responses from the survey's baseline period of October to December 2020.