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Covid-19 Research Project

Impacts of Covid-19

We’re leading a national research project exploring the impacts of Covid-19 on the UK cultural sector. We’re working in collaboration with The Audience Agency, the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre and a national consortium of academic researchers.

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Impacts of Covid-19 on the cultural sector

The project aims to deepen understanding of the impacts Covid-19 is having on cultural organisations, the cultural sector workforce, and audiences. It will also identify the implications for how and what policy decisions are made in response to the crisis.

We are sharing the research findings as they become available so they can inform responses in real time.

This project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) through UK Research and Innovation’s Covid-19 rapid rolling call.

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The impact of Covid-19 was always going to be devastating and the immediate shock severe. Inequities and inequalities that existed before were inevitably going to be exacerbated. But like any crisis, the impacts are rarely all negative and we are certainly starting to see some interesting shifts in thinking across the sector from our early investigations – shifts that might lead to that elusive goal of enduring systemic change.

Project summary

Global social distancing measures have led to the closure of cultural spaces, the cancellation of cultural events and a suspension of much community-based practice for cultural practitioners. The pandemic is 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.

Given the pace of change, limited data availability and variable research methodologies, it has been difficult for policymakers, academics and the cultural sector to understand the exact scale of the pandemic’s impacts.

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 audiences. We’ll be able to provide policymakers and cultural organisations with robust, credible and live evidence to inform their response, planning and interventions.

The research will highlight the challenges faced by cultural practitioners, organisations and audiences from different backgrounds, regions and art forms. Our analysis will also engage with a representative range of cultural organisations reflecting different sizes, scales, geographies and sub-sectors.

The programme also includes a mapping and longitudinal tracking survey over 15 months to evaluate the public’s evolving attitudes and behaviours to cultural engagement.

There are three strands to the research programme.

The first is looking at the impact of Covid-19 on the cultural sector. It is analysing large data sets including the ONS Labour Force Survey and will undertake a meta-evaluation of existing sector surveys from the first lockdown. This will be complemented by in-depth case studies of a range of organisations across the cultural sector and across the UK.

The second strand explores the impact of the pandemic on the public and audiences. A national longitudinal panel survey managed by The Audience Agency will help us to understand, and track changes in, the public’s cultural participation (in live and digital spaces) through and beyond Covid-19. The strand will also include social media analysis and capture individual stories of cultural participation during the pandemic.

The third strand examines policy responses to the pandemic and their impacts through a case study of the cultural ecosystem of Greater Manchester. It will also involve a policy analysis of UK cultural policy. This strand assesses the direct impact of the crisis on business models, funding and strategic and policy development, as well as the impacts of government intervention packages. Working across the strands, emerging findings will be shared with policy makers and their questions and concerns fed back into the research.

Via a rigorous mixed-methods approach, we will produce an independent overview of the impacts and implications of the current crisis. The project’s research questions are:

  • What are the short, medium and longer-term impacts of Covid-19 across different subsectors of the cultural industries?
  • How has cultural consumption and consumer behaviour changed in the short, medium and longer-term due to social distancing measures and the closure of cultural spaces?
  • To what extent will the Covid-19 crisis perpetuate, exacerbate or temper inequalities relating to cultural production and consumption? How will this change how the cultural industries engage with audiences in the short, medium and longer-term?
  • What have been drivers and effects of the immediate policy responses to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on cultural industries? How will the crisis impact policymaking as the sector emerges from lockdown? What are the implications of Covid-19 for future cultural policymaking and the broader creative economy?

Dr Maria Barrett, University of Warwick
Dr Danni Child, Manchester Metropolitan University
John Davies, Nesta
Dr Ben Dunn, University of Leeds
Dr Tal Feder, University of Sheffield
Dr Abigail Gilmore, University of Manchester
Dr Karen Gray, University of Leeds
Sue Hayton FRSA, University of Leeds
Dr Jenny Kidd, Cardiff University
Dr Siobhan McAndrew, University of Bristol
Dr Eva Nieto McAvoy, Cardiff University
Dr Dave O’Brien, University of Edinburgh
Dr Mark Taylor, University of Sheffield
Professor Ben Walmsley, University of Leeds
Dr Harry Weeks, Newcastle University
Dr John Wright, University of Leeds
The Audience Agency: Anne Torreggiani, Richard Turpin and Oliver Mantell

 

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