BLOG 5th December 2023

First Findings from IMPACT Survey

Two months since introducing our IMPACT survey, Research Analyst Laura has taken a first look at the data for early insights from the responses. Her initial review offers a pulse check – what does the data reveal about the impact of arts, cultural and heritage events and activities so far?

At thrive, we’re self-professed data geeks who love all things arts and culture. This year as part of our ACNI funding, we are conducting a sector-wide post-visit survey called IMPACT: Impact Measurement of People Attending Culture Today. Why are we doing this? Because we know that arts and culture has a massive impact on the people of Northern Ireland, and we wanted to gather data to back that all up.

We currently have 33 organisations across Northern Ireland signed up to participate, and 13 organisations currently sending it out (big shout out to our early adopters Black Box, Down Arts Centre, Duncairn, Naughton Gallery, Oh Yeah, Portico, and Young at Art!). If you haven’t sent yours out yet, please get in touch with Eve as soon as possible if you haven’t already heard from her. (Wink wink, nudge nudge.) And when you participate, you’ll have some great audience data to use on funding applications coming up too. data to use on funding applications coming up too.

The insights below are based on the first 311 responses we received between the end of September and mid-November. In the last two weeks, we’ve received another 561 responses, so a massive thank you to new participants Ardhowen, Catalyst, FE McWilliam, Lyric, Playhouse, and Strule. While we’re just getting started, we wanted to share some preliminary insights before all the Christmassy audiences come into play. Don’t think the data resembles your own audiences? Then get in touch and join us on this project – the more the merrier, and you’ll get to see how your organisation’s data compares with the total, for free. We’ll even loan you a free iPad, give you email copy, provide signs and flyers, and will even pull your customer lists for you to email recent attenders. You barely have to lift a finger.

Now, onto the data. Here are a few interesting things we saw from the first batch of responses:

Audiences have a lot of love for local arts and culture spaces: 56% of audiences went to something to support the venue/space and 95% want to support arts/culture venues more.

This makes sense as the majority of respondents (81%) were returning visitors, and we know from previous research in Culture Beyond Covid that the Covid lockdowns were like a shock to the system, making them realise just how much they were missing from going to arts and culture experiences.

Arts and culture is like a magnet: 71% of respondents decided to go to something as soon as they heard about it.

This further emphasises the importance of arts and culture – it’s a catalyst for getting people out of their homes, doing something different and experiencing something new.

However, the IMPACT data also poses some additional questions – if they’re deciding as soon as they hear about something, are they booking immediately as well? Or are they waiting and booking later? We are also hearing from cultural organisations that people are more likely to book last-minute now compared to before the pandemic, with results from The Audience Agency supporting that as 41% agreed that they are booking more last minute than before the pandemic. Is this something that you see in your ticketing data in your venues? Leave a comment below and tell us.

Audiences are hyper-local: 37% lived less than 15 minutes away from their destination, and an additional 36% came from 15-30 minutes away.

While the data is currently based on a small pool of audiences and organisations, we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of having local regional arts and culture spaces on our doorstep. Yes – sometimes people will make the time-honoured journey of travelling an hour+ away to Derry~L’derry or Belfast for a big concert, but not everyone can afford to do this, or do it often. This is where regional spaces come in to shine. We’ve heard in our conversations for Northern Ireland in 100 Stories that people are concerned about the cost of going out to see something, and it’s not just confined to the cost of the event itself. It’s also the lengthy time involved waiting for spotty public transport, the added cost of an expensive taxi home (as events often end past the operating hours of public transport), the cost of diesel and parking if you’re fortunate to have your own car, the cost of getting food when you’re out, and childcare expenses if you have young kids. With local cultural spaces, making the decision to attend is much quicker because there is less time, money, and effort needed to invest in going out.

Arts and culture have a big economic impact on the local economy: 83% of respondents did other things as part of their visit, including getting food/drinks, spending time in the local area, and even staying overnight.

Looking more at the data, 57% had food/drinks at the venue and 41% went somewhere locally for food/drinks. People don’t just like to go straight to something and then go right home – they enjoy making a day or evening out of it. This also means that out of an audience of 100, 57 people spent additional money at the venue itself and 41 spent money in the local area. And when you multiply each of those people by a few pounds, it all adds up.

Approximately two-thirds of respondents admit that the cost-of-living crisis is having an impact on their arts and culture activities.

Of all survey respondents, just 30% say that the cost-of-living crisis doesn’t have an effect on their arts and cultural experiences, with an additional 6% saying they prefer not to say. And everyone else? 38% are cutting back on spend in other parts of the cultural experience (such as food/drinks), 29% are spending less on the cultural experiences themselves (such as tickets), and 27% are simply going to things less often. This shows that people are still valuing arts and culture – yes, they are cutting back on things, but when they do, it’s more on ancillary spend than anything else.

Of those on a significantly lower income, what takes the biggest hit? Ancillary spend: 60% of those with significantly lower incomes are spending less on other things as part of the experience.

Again – this emphasises how much people love arts and culture. Those on a lower income are being choosy, and most are cutting back on ancillary spend compared to spending less on the events themselves, or going less frequently. And interestingly, a small portion of them (12%) say that the cost-of-living crisis hasn’t had any impact on their arts and cultural experiences.

79% of all respondents rated their experience as very good, and a whopping 98% reported having a positive emotion after their visit.

In the survey, we showed audiences two lists of feelings – a list of 16 positive and 16 negative emotions. Of the positive emotions, the majority of audiences reported feeling happy (76%), energised (42%), and relaxed (38%) after their visit. Just 2% of audiences selected none of the above.

Of the negative emotions, 91% selected none of the above, which is very powerful. Just 5% said they felt disappointed and 1% felt uncomfortable after their visit.

When asked what they got from their visit that they don’t get from other activities, audiences cited the buzz, the sense of community, and developing social connections with others.

Some quotes include:

“Great venue, great buzz and a brilliant band👍🕶.”

“Sense of camaraderie and excellent music.”

“Like-minded nerds.”

“Sense of community and able to support local venue. Great entertainment without having to leave the local area.”

“It felt super welcoming like being part of a family.”

“I was inspired and moved (to tears). I enjoyed every moment.”

“A beautiful location friendly staff always wanting to make you feel very welcome and thanking you for attending.”

“I met people I hadn't spoken to before and we connection over the music. I made new friends and knew right away we would have things in common.”

“Real sense of community in a beautiful, intimate venue.”

So, like what you see? Then join us on the IMPACT Survey and let your audiences’ voice be heard!

Laura Cusick

Research Analyst

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