Engagement trends

March 2023

Cultural Participation Monitor Wave 8 | Spring 2023

This research is from The Audience Agency's nationwide longitudinal (ongoing) panel survey of changing views about participating in creative and cultural activities through the recent and ongoing crises, and beyond, the Cultural Participation Monitor.



1/3 still report attending arts and culture less than pre-pandemic, though under 35-year-olds are returning more than others, and are more likely to identify as the 'initiators' of social cultural activity with friends and family.

Changes to Attendance

Over 90% of under 35-year-olds have attended an arts and culture event in the past 12 months (compared with <70% over 75s, for example) though, overall, 1/3 of people have attended less than they did before the pandemic.

  • Respondents reported that overall, they are attending arts and culture less than before the pandemic (37% said that they were attending less, but only 12% more); similar to when comparing to 12 months ago (31% and 12%).
  • There are big differences in attendance by age: over 90% have attended any arts and culture in the past 12 months among under 35s, less than 80% over 55s (under 70% for over 75s).
Young people attend more, but across the board about a third of people report attending less than they did before the pandemic.
Figure 1. Levels of arts/culture attendance in the last year and of those attending less than pre-pandemic, by age.

Initiators and Responders

When it comes to organising trips to cultural events with family and friends, roughly 1/3 self-identify as 'initiators' (i.e they spearhead the effort) - most commonly Gen-Y, more highly educated, urbanites, often with young families.

When thinking about marketing, it’s important to understand not just who is potentially interested in attending events (or indeed who might attend events, whether or not they’re interested!), but how those visits come to be organised. The people you need to reach are those who are most likely to decide to attend and persuade others to do so too (rather than those who’ll go along if asked). To explore this, we replicated questions asked by Alan Brown in research for the Knight Foundation in the US back in 2004:

Initiators strongly agree that:

“I’m the kind of person who likes to organize outings to cultural events for my friends”

Responders strongly agree that:

“I’m much more likely to attend cultural outings if someone else invites me

  • We found that 8% of people were Initiators and 13% were Responders (32% and 63% if we loosen the definition to ‘agree’ as well as ‘strongly agree’).
  • Initiators were most commonly found in Audience Spectrum groups characterised by urban lifestyles and broad artistic interests - particularly Metroculturals and Experience Seekers.
Figure 2. Levels of agreement with 'Initiator' and 'Responder' statements by AS group.
  • Initiators were more likely to be younger (but over 25), and have a family with younger children, higher educational qualifications, and be urban-based.
Figure 3. Levels of initiators and responders by age, gender and families.
  • Initiators were more likely to have been to more arts/heritage events in-person across the board, but in particular to have attended ‘events connected with books and reading’, ‘dance events’ and/or ‘classical music performance/events’ in the last 12 months.
  • Initiators were more likely to hold a membership (67% cf. 49% responders), do volunteering (45% cf. 24%), or have donated to an arts or heritage organisation in the last 12 months (70% cf. 53%).

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