Culture during COVID-19: a six-week snapshot

It's been six weeks since UK lockdown began and six weeks since we started Does Culture Matter? our research project to talk to hundreds of people each week, to see how our relationship with culture is changing.

It felt important to in some way, monitor or record how our lives were changing week-by-week. Not only our lives but our emotional and mental health. Each week we ask people how they are feeling, you can see from this graph how anxiety is playing a huge part in our every day lives.

The spike you see in anxiety was recorded as we neared the end of the first three weeks of lockdown, but before the UK government had announced the extension.

End of week 1 of lockdown (30 March) to end of week 6 of lockdown (4 May)

Our intention is to share a thorough report of our findings with the UK arts and culture sector after three months and six months of the project. In the hope that it can help to create a new cultural landscape, suited to our new post-COVID-19 lives.

For now though, after six weekly Sunday surveys to almost 1,000 individuals, we're seeing some key themes emerge. This six-week snapshot focusses on one of those themes, we're calling New Experiences and shares some but by no means all, of our learnings from the project so far.

New Experiences

New experiences: We're welcoming new experiences, many people (55%) are trying cultural activities they would never have considered pre-COVID-19. A number of factors are influencing those decisions including the availability of content, the affordability of the content and people actively looking for new things to do.

Curating culture at home: 73% of people want to hear from arts and culture organisations about the new things they can join in with or access online. Audiences still want to hear from the arts and culture organisations they are already engaged with and therefore trust.

They're still looking for those organisations to curate at-home experiences, to help them navigate the plethora of content out there.

Hot tip: that content doesn't have to be yours, 41% of people said they want to see how organisations are adding value to the community. Sharing content that you think your audiences will like, whether it's yours or not, is adding value. Prioritising the 'want', 'need' and 'desire' of your audience supersedes most of your marketing messages right now.

On that note, audiences were quite clear that receiving only fundraising asks are unwelcome at this time. (we'll cover this in more detail soon).

#CultureInQuarantine: Many respondents have been accessing #CultureInQuarantine (BBC Arts) with around half (44%) saying they've explored some of the content. A quarter of respondents named One Man, Two Guvnors starring James Corden (pictured) as something they had watched from the #CultureInQuarantine programme.

Welcome new faces: We are encouraged to see findings that seem to suggest accessibility really is important and yes, it does make a difference to audiences - with 33% of people who had not visited a theatre in the last 12 months watching online theatre at least once in the first month of UK lockdown.

So what does this mean for the future? Our research implies that audiences are enjoying the new range of cultural content now available to them and would like to see it continue. We are cautious though of 'choice overload', which we're expecting to see appear with audiences over the coming weeks.

84% of respondents want to see the same level of cultural access and choice online, even when COVID-19 is over.

It is our belief that cultural engagement would be vastly improved were organisations able to commit, long-term, to the growth of audiences through non-traditional means. For example, digital, pop-up, touring or in-home experiences will allow many thousands more to access arts and culture, and act as an entry point for future engagement.

Join Does Culture Matter? and give share your views by clicking here.

Talk to us about the study and how it can help your organisation by emailing