COVID-19: Impacts on the cultural industries and the implications for policy

  • Walmsley, Ben (PI)
  • Gilmore, Abi (CoI)
  • Barrett, Maria (CoI)
  • Child, Danni (CoI)
  • Davies, John (CoI)
  • Gray, Karen (CoI)
  • Hayton, Sue (CoI)
  • Kidd, Jenny (CoI)
  • McAndrew, Siobhan (CoI)
  • McAvoy, Eva Nieto (CoI)
  • O’Brien, Dave (CoI)
  • Owen, Gwilym (CoI)
  • Taylor, Mark (CoI)
  • Weeks, Harry (CoI)
  • Wright, John (CoI)

Project Details


This national research project is exploring the impacts of Covid-19 on the cultural sector across the UK and highlighting the implications for policy making. Delivered in collaboration with the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) and The Audience Agency, the project will run for 15 months from 1 September 2020. Building on the extensive networks of policymakers and practitioners connected with the Centre for Cultural Value and PEC, the study will provide a clear national picture and identify immediate and longer-term implications for policy and practice.

Led by Centre for Cultural Value Director, Professor Ben Walmsley, a national consortium of researchers and cultural sector partners will analyse existing datasets and conduct targeted new research on the impacts of the pandemic on cultural organisations, practitioners and audiences.

The research is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Covid rolling call and issued through the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The social distancing measures implemented globally in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 have led to the closure of cultural spaces, the cancellation of cultural events and a suspension of much community-based practice for cultural practitioners. COVID-19 is already 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.

Many cultural organisations and practitioners have responded rapidly by creating opportunities for cultural engagement within the digital space. There is thus an urgent need for learning relating to supply/demand of cultural activity in the digital space and whether the crisis will replicate, exacerbate or temper existing inequalities in cultural production/consumption both during the lockdown period, and after restrictions begin to ease.

While there have been attempts to measure the impacts of COVID-19 on the cultural sector it has so far been fragmented in nature. There is very little work which has examined the impacts of COVID-19 in depth across the range of organisations/practitioners who fall within the sector. 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 their audiences and the implications for national and regional policymaking.

The overarching value of the project lies in discerning the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on the cultural industries in a coordinated and nuanced way that highlights the challenges faced by cultural practitioners, organisations and audiences from different backgrounds, regions and art forms. Our analysis will engage with a representative range of organisations reflecting different sizes, scales, geographies and sub-sectors.

Via a rigorous mixed-methods approach, we will produce an independent overview of the impacts and implications of the current crisis which can be used to provide robust and credible evidence to inform policy planning and decision making in the short and longer term.

The research includes mapping and longitudinal tracking of the cultural sector over 15 months to assess the extent of change in the sector and to evaluate audience’s evolving cultural engagement conducted via a survey led by The Audience Agency.

Key activities:
Scoping, synthesising and appraising existing and emerging data – bringing together a fragmented approach through a meta-analysis to understand the impacts of COVID-19.
Longitudinal tracking study of cultural consumption and attitudes towards cultural engagement after social distancing regulations are phased out.
Case studies – detailed exploration of the impacts on specific organisations/practitioners and analysis of representative case studies.
Policy engagement – discussions and outputs that will influence policy and help DCMS to deliver interventions to the right people at the right time to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on the cultural sector.

Core research questions:
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-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 COVID-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?

Research team

Dr Maria Barrett, University of Warwick
Dr Danni Child, Manchester Metropolitan University
Mr John Davies, Nesta
Dr Abigail Gilmore, University of Manchester
Dr Karen Gray, University of Leeds
Mrs 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 Gwilym Owen, University of Sheffield
Dr Mark Taylor, University of Sheffield
Professor Ben Walmsley, University of Leeds
Dr Harry Weeks, Newcastle University
Dr John Wright, University of Leeds
Short titleR:HAZ GilmoreUKRICovid-19Call
Effective start/end date1/09/2030/11/21

Collaborative partners

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals


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