A nationwide survey of audience members of U.K. arts venues and theaters has found that just 19% of respondents would return to live events, even after venues reopen.
Conducted by arts consultancy Indigo, the ‘After the Interval’ survey was sent to 192 cultural orgs and theater venues, including the Royal Albert Hall, Southbank Centre, Barbican, Sadler’s Wells, English National Opera and The Old Vic — all of which have been closed sine the week of March 16, when the country slowly rolled into a lockdown that has devastated the creative sector. The survey excludes many of the West End theaters.
All participating venues sent Indigo’s survey questions to patrons, drawing more than 86,000 responses between April 16 to May 6. Theater orgs accounted for 47% of responses, followed by arts centres (29%), concert venues (15%), ballets or opera companies (5%), orchestras (2%) and others (3%).
While 93% of respondents said they missed attending live events, and 74% missed “the buzz” of live events, only 17% of respondents are actively booking now for events in the future.
Around 35% of people are booking tickets for September/October, while 24% are aiming for November/December and 26% are targeting January and beyond. Only 4% said they would book events in June, while just 5% would book in July and 6% in August.
Altogether, around 41% of people would not consider booking tickets to events for at least four months. Meanwhile, just 19% of people would consider attending events again despite venues looking to reopen — of that group, 26% of respondents are under 35 years old, while 14% are over 65.
Concert venues and theaters had the highest proportion of respondents who won’t consider booking for at least four months. Meanwhile, orchestra and festival audiences are the most nervous about coming back to venues.
Around 75% of respondents would feel safer with some form of social distancing measures in place. The top three measures that would mitigate fears include limits on the number of people who can attend (76%), avoiding long queues of people (72%) and seats spaced at 2 meters apart (65%).
Around 78% of the survey responses originate from England, with 11% from Wales, 8% from Scotland, 2% from touring productions and 1% from Ireland.
The Indigo survey comes as the U.K. government aims to open theaters and cinemas from July 4. The venues are among the last to open their doors, in accordance with a three-step plan set out earlier this month by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
A Creative Industries Federation survey of 2,000 creative orgs and freelancers revealed in late-April that only half predicted their reserves will last beyond June.
While the government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) and Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) have helped a vast number of businesses stay afloat and support staff, the freelance workforce — which forms the backbone of arts organizations and live events — remains imperilled by COVID-19.
Industry org Society of London Theatre (SOLT) estimated on Thursday that more than 200,000 theater jobs across the country could be at risk. Meanwhile, The Film and TV Charity found that 74% of film and TV freelancers were not eligible for government support schemes, or had not been furloughed.