To make sense of cultural consumer sentiment over a challenging 2020, Insights Alliance — a group of three leading UK consultancies, Indigo Ltd, Baker Richards, and One Further — launched its Culture Restart Toolkit last year. The program tracks and collates data about the behaviors and attitudes of UK audiences toward pandemic-era cultural programming, and presents its findings for cultural organizations to better respond, strategize, and thrive post-COVID.

Since October 2020, Culture Restart has conducted regular surveys that assess audiences’ cultural engagement (the Audience & Visitor Tracker), their experiences of digital content (Digital Experience Survey), and their perceptions of in-person events (Pre and Post-Visit Experience Survey). Its newly released January 2021 report gathers feedback from over 5,000 respondents, with help from 50 participating national organizations.

Below are four key takeaways from Culture Restart’s latest findings and accompanying webinar.

How have audiences consumed culture this past year? 

Culture Restart January 2021 report

More than half of respondents have engaged with digital content since lockdowns were mandated. Image: Culture Tracker

After cultural organizations reopened last year, 23 percent of survey respondents reported attending a cultural event (including museums, outdoor arts, and immersive arts) or an institution in-person. This number is largely made up of younger audiences — some 35 percent of respondents — who participated in more than one event. 

Visual arts, film events, and heritage sites ranked among the the most popular activities and venues, which visitors engaged with at least once upon reopening — possibly due to their availability and the relative ease of practicing social distancing in these environments.

Over half of respondents have engaged in digital content last year. Since institutions closed in March 2020, 55 percent say they have participated in culture online, with half of them having engaged four or more times. 

What is the appetite for in-person cultural experiences?

For a majority of respondents, onsite health and safety measures, as well as the COVID vaccine and treatment (particularly for an older demographic), are essential for their return to in-person cultural experiences. Image: Culture Tracker

The majority of respondents admit they are not ready to return to in-person experiences in the near future, although the probability of those ready to return within 3 months increases as the age group decreases. 

Culture Restart’s January 2021 report further recorded the audience’s lowest point of confidence in in-person experiences since October 2020, yielding a 43 percent confidence score across all age segments. A likely reason? Vaccine anticipation. While some respondents would feel comfortable returning to physical events if they’re assured that safety precautions and social distancing are enforced at the location, 35 percent (compared to 14 percent in July 2020) now prefer to wait to be vaccinated prior to visiting a cultural venue in person.

Will audiences continue to engage with culture online?

Respondents interested in continued digital engagement grew from 38 percent in December to 42 percent in January 2021. Image: Culture Tracker

While only a small number of respondents (18 percent) engaged with cultural organizations online prior to lockdowns, the the 55 percent who participated over the past year demonstrate a clear shift in cultural habits.

And the interest in digital engagement post-pandemic? 41 percent are keen on future participation, with those under 35 showing a remarkably higher interest. And while they might be less likely to engage, more than half of respondents said if they were unable to attend an in-person event, they would consider the option to participate online.

Are audiences willing to pay for digital content?

Culture Tracker

The survey found most respondents are willing to pay for digital content, though at a smaller price than live, in-person events. Image: Culture Tracker

A good 64 percent of respondents indicate a willingness to pay for digital content, with a majority more inclined toward purchasing tickets for online events than a monthly subscription. Among the digital experiences that audiences would be happy to pay for, livestreams, interactive events, and creative workshops lead in popularity, while archival recordings and virtual guided tours are less sought-after.

For organizations that are already charging for digital content, Culture Restart’s January survey results illustrate how price differentiation matters. More than half of respondents who have purchased an online ticket paid between £10 and £20, compared to the 21 percent who paid more than £20. A year-long access pass is also about 20 percent more appealing to consumers than a 30-day pass.


Jing Culture & Commerce