Responses gathered in March 2021 by the Culture Restart Audience & Visitor Tracker from the Insights Alliance (Indigo Ltd, Baker Richards and One Further) show that:
- 48% of frequent cultural attenders say they have now booked for cultural events in the future or planned visits to cultural organisations.
- Of those who haven’t yet booked, 37% said they will now be ready to book within 3 months compared to 24% in February and 15% in January. Those not willing to book for more than 6 months has decreased significantly.
- With 74% of respondents having received at least one vaccine dose, confidence returning to cultural venues continues to grow month on month – 57% of respondents in March said they would consider returning with appropriate safety and hygiene measures in place.
- The largest increase in confidence is among the over 65s, with 54% saying they would consider returning with safety measures in place compared to 29% in January – a relative increase of 86%.
- 60% of cultural audiences are still uncomfortable about returning with no restrictions subject to Covid testing on arrival – though this has decreased from 72% in January. The proportion of respondents who said socially distanced seating was essential to their return has decreased from 51% in January to 39% in March, but the majority still answered ‘I’m OK with this’.
- There is a strong interest in online culture beyond the pandemic, with 33% of March respondents saying they would continue to engage online even when they can attend in-person, and a further 59% saying they would still consider it.
With 74% of survey respondents in March having now received at least the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, there has been a significant growth in those considering returning to cultural venues, particularly compared to responses in January.
The proportion of respondents in March who have booked an event or planned a visit to a cultural organisation in the future is 48%, fairly consistent with the 47% of respondents who responded this way in February, and a modest relative increase of 9% compared to January.
However, there has been a significant change in when those who haven’t yet booked say they will start booking again. 37% of March respondents say they will be ready to start booking again within 3 months, compared to 24% in February and 15% in January. Among younger respondents this figure is even higher, with 52% of Under 35s willing to book within 3 months, compared to 33% of those aged 65-74 and 30% of Over 75s.
Overall, the proportion of those who say they are not willing to book for more than 6 months – or they are not sure when – has decreased from 52% in January to 45% February and 34% in March.
When asked which of a selection of statements best fits how respondents are feeling about returning to cultural venues, 57% of respondents in March said they would consider returning as soon as venues reopen if they were satisfied with the safety and hygiene measures in place. This is compared to 40% of respondents in January.
Whilst those aged under 35 are most confident, with 70% willing to return if satisfied with the measures in place, there has been a huge increase in confidence of those aged over 65 over the last 3 months. In January only 29% said they would consider returning with safety measures in place – this has increased to 54% in March.
19% of respondents in March say they can’t envisage attending until the vaccination or rapid testing programme was more established and 12% say they would prefer to wait to attend again ‘in the usual way’.
Responses in March show a growth in trust in cultural venues and the measures they would have in place to keep audiences safe when they reopen.
When asked how confident respondents felt that cultural venues would have appropriate measures in place for keeping audiences safe and informed, as well as staff and performers, the responses in March showed a higher confidence score in each category compared to January and February.
There was a continued drop in proportion of respondents saying that particular measures or restrictions were essential to their return, although the majority still expect to see them.
While the majority of audiences responded ‘I’m OK with this’ to a requirement for face masks to be worn throughout the venue, in January 44% of respondents said this would be essential to their return – this decreased to 34% in February and continued to drop to 29% in March. Similarly, socially distanced seating being essential to return has dropped from 51% in January to 39%, although 56% of respondents still said ‘I’m OK with this’.
60% of respondents are still uncomfortable with the idea of no restrictions being in place subject to Covid testing on arrival, though the proportion who said this has dropped from 72% in January.
When asked how they felt about ‘a vaccine passport being required to attend live events’, 67% of respondents selected ‘I’m OK with this’, with 13% saying it would be essential for them. Younger audiences are less comfortable with this idea, with 37% of Under 35s saying they felt uncomfortable compared to 14% of Over 65s.
57% of respondents have engaged with culture online since March 2020, and of those who have, 51% have done so four or more times. Continued interest in culture online remains strong and fairly consistent, with those who say they are ‘Interested’ or ‘Very interested’ in engaging in future dropping slightly to 37% compared to its highest level of 42% in January.
When asked how their attitude might change when they are able to attend a suitable variety of in-person cultural activities, 26% of March respondents said they would continue to engage with and pay for online content, with a further 7% engaging only for free content and 59% saying they would still consider it. Under 45s are most likely to continue to engage with and pay for online content in future, but a consistently low proportion across all age groups – between 3% and 11% – say they will not engage at all in future.
The Culture Restart Audience & Visitor Tracker is the successor to Indigo Ltd’s After the Interval sentiment tracker. Developed by the Insights Alliance – Indigo Ltd, Baker Richards and One Further – the Tracker has been following sentiments and confidence of cultural audiences since October 2020. Reports have been released regularly, with Baker Richards providing analysis of the data and results shared in an interactive dashboard created by One Further.
This update reports on fieldwork from cultural organisations including theatres, arts centres and touring companies across the UK during since October 2020, and does not cover the West End. 75% of respondents usually attend culture four or more times per year. There have so far been over 42,000 responses from 70 participating cultural organisations.
Robin Cantrill-Fenwick, CEO of Baker Richards, said:
“The growth in future bookings and the proportion of respondents considering booking soon shows that there is undoubtedly latent demand for live events which is now beginning to unlock.
“However, the speed with which promoters are switching back to undistanced seating plans may be deterring more than a third of previously frequent attenders from booking. We will continue to track audience sentiment in the coming months to support recovery.”
Katy Raines, Co-Founder and Partner of Indigo Ltd, said:
“It is brilliant to see how much confidence levels have grown among our respondents in the last two months. However, over the last year of tracking cultural audience sentiment, we have seen how quickly and significantly audience confidence can fluctuate, and how factors such as age and disability affect confidence levels.
“We know from our research just how important the first return visit is for building audience confidence. So, as venues prepare to reopen in the coming months, it is vital that cultural organisations put the varied needs of different audience groups at the centre of their planning in order to ensure a successful return to live events.”
Chris Unitt, Founder of One Further, said:
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“Over the last year, audiences have engaged with cultural organisations in completely new ways, and it has become clear that the majority want and expect to continue to do this in future. The latest Culture Restart figures point to a strong ongoing appetite for digital content, with organisations able to reach large segments of new and existing audiences who cannot attend particular events in person, due to geography or other reasons.
“As cultural organisations prepare to resume in-person activity, there is a real opportunity to consider how this shift in cultural engagement can be used to develop new audiences, broaden reach and increase revenue.”