‘Boundless Creativity’ report looks at pandemic digital innovation 3 Aug 2021

A new report, Boundless Creativity, looks at digital innovations across the cultural sector during lockdown and how to apply the lessons to help the sector in future. It also explores the impact of the pandemic on cultural organisations during open periods and the link between arts and wellbeing. Led by DCMS and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the report draws on four roundtables running to February 2021, with organisations from across the culture sector, including museums, contributing insights. Findings include:

  • Digital audiences during lockdown were different from in-person visitors. Twice as many under 45s as over 45s engaged in cultural activity online. Black and Asian audiences engaged more, while traditional audiences engaged less.
  • The most successful online models brought in significant income – but still a fraction of pre-lockdown funds. The Hay Festival streamed for free, inviting audiences to chip in, and generated $250k – however, only one in 500 donated. Two Old Vic performances reached viewers across every age group from 60 countries, taking about a third of what they would expect from a commercially viable in-person event.
  • Open venues have not so far equated with recovered income: in many museums and galleries footfall has been 10-25% of pre-pandemic levels.
  • There have been some R&D funds for culture and technology, notably the Audiences of the Future Demonstrator project, which is developing the multi-sensory adventure game Dinosaurs and Robots for the Natural History Museum and Science Museum Group. However, in general, creative industries have been excluded from R&D funding streams, and it is a major recommendation of the report to extend the options.
  • There is also a poor understanding of international digital audiences, and further research is needed to develop their participation. The report encourages more data sharing to build a better picture, while acknowledging the barriers due to much data being commercial in confidence.
  • The report also acknowledges that many smaller players find it currently difficult to get noticed in a market dominated by huge commercial streaming platforms – although a few large cultural organisations like the National Theatre have developed their own. The report floats the idea of larger organisations offering platform sharing.
  • It calls for a stronger digital skills base across the sector, with DCMS, AHRC and bodies including ACE to look at skills gaps.
  • The report also calls for a new project looking at the impact of Covid-19 on new entrants to the field, to reverse ‘labour market scarring’ and bring back lost talent.

Gov.uk (full report), UKRI