COVID-19 Impact on Audiences and Arts Participants

Sheffield and South Yorkshire are home to a vibrant, interconnected cultural sector. This has an immensely positive impact on the region’s economy, its ability to compete nationally and internationally, and also on the quality of life enjoyed by its residents.

A film exploring the role cultural events play in living a happy, fulfilled life by Dan Bale (Open House Pictures) and Dr Sarah Price.

Sheffield City Region has shown that in “normal times”, around half of the population go to arts events like music performances, dance or theatre, and 40% go to museums and galleries. Sheffield is also a city of creators with three in ten people in the Sheffield City Region actively participate in arts in ways such as making music, dancing, acting, and painting.

Sheffield: Key Facts

  • The cancellation of arts events has been a huge loss to those who find arts events a source of entertainment, learning, escapism and reflection
  • A total of 1,258,220 tickets and visits were lost between March and August
  • Participation in the arts is lower in the Sheffield City Region than the rest of the country - the sector needs support to reach a broader population

The financial challenges faced by culture, arts and heritage are widely acknowledged, but how are these losses being felt by the general public? What is the impact of community arts activities being suspended? 

Our research on audiences for culture, arts and heritage will generate the evidence needed in the short term, to appreciate the real impact for people and places, and beyond that to plan for recovery. This project will foreground experiences of people who engage with culture, arts and heritage in lots of different ways - whether that is a Saturday night at the Lyceum, a family trip to Western Park, an open mic night, or taking part in community groups.

The aim throughout this project is to empower the cultural sector to speak directly to decision-makers and feed into policy-making. If a venue or cultural event dies the devastation flows out into a wider network of freelancers and suppliers, extending to the health and well-being outcomes of audiences and attendees. This has significant social justice implications, not least for young people who are simultaneously deprived of life-enriching experiences and access to the cultural capital that facilitates access to jobs and careers in the wider creative economy.

If you have questions or would like to be involved in this research please contact Research Associate, Dr Sarah Price (

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