The Audience Agency's new study of changes in people's habits and opinions towards cultural engagement is now underway. The key differences between this and other recent studies are:

  1. That it is of a sample of the whole UK population and not just of core arts attenders, enabling arts organisations to plan not just for their core audiences, but for their wider community.
  2. That it is longitudinal, continuing into 2022, giving a picture of change over time.

The research forms part of the COVID-19: Impacts on the cultural industries and the implications for policy research programme, led by Centre for Cultural Value Director, Professor Ben Walmsley. The programme is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Covid rolling call and issued through the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

A national consortium of researchers and cultural sector partners will analyse existing datasets and conduct targeted new research on the impacts of the pandemic on cultural organisations, practitioners and audiences. Researchers from the wider Centre for Cultural Value study team will be continuously collaborating on the research design as it goes forward.

More about the research

The social distancing measures implemented globally in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 have led to the closure of cultural spaces, the cancellation of cultural events and a suspension of much community-based practice for cultural practitioners. COVID-19 is already having a devastating impact on the cultural sector, with jobs being lost and live audiences wary of returning. It is predicted that the impact of COVID-19 on the cultural sector will have long-lasting impacts, changing cultural practice and engagement as we know it. 

Many cultural organisations and practitioners have responded rapidly by creating opportunities for cultural engagement within the digital space. While there have been attempts to measure the impacts of COVID-19 on the cultural sector, it has so far been fragmented in nature. There is very little work that has examined the impacts of COVID-19 in depth across the range of organisations/practitioners who fall within the sector.

This study addresses these gaps by offering a comprehensive mixed-methods analysis of the short, medium and longer-term impacts of COVID-19 on the cultural industries and their audiences and the implications for national and regional policymaking. 

The overarching value of the project lies in discerning the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on the cultural industries in a coordinated and nuanced way that highlights the challenges faced by cultural practitioners, organisations and audiences from different backgrounds, regions and art forms. Analysis will engage with a representative range of organisations reflecting different sizes, scales, geographies and sub-sectors.

The research includes mapping and longitudinal tracking of the cultural sector over 15 months to assess the extent of change in the sector and to evaluate audience’s evolving cultural engagement conducted via a survey led by The Audience Agency.

The Audience Agency’s Population Survey will reach beyond the core attenders who typically engage with surveys. Organisations within the cultural sector will benefit by having the insights to understand the true impacts of COVID-19 on the cultural industries.

Insights and learnings will form part of The Audience Agency’s Bounce Forwards Evidence Hub, a range of resources for the sector in dealing with the effects of the pandemic.

More on the Impact of COVID-19 Project

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