We commissioned arts and culture consultancy, Indigo to conduct some audience sentiment research amongst UK cultural organisations. They surveyed 58 cultural organisations of which 43% were theatres, 26% arts centres and 12% concert venues with the remainder comprising opera/ballet venues, galleries, orchestra, touring and cinema. They heard opinions from 11,682 audience members made up of 64% female and 33% male aged between 18 and 75+ with the largest age profile coming from 55-64-year-olds at 26%.
The survey results gave us some surprising findings but the most encouraging of these has been the level of importance that cultural audiences are placing on the climate emergency. The responses show that 77% of audiences expect the cultural organisations they attend and support to lead the way when it comes to sustainability initiatives.
Here are some of the survey’s key takeaways with the full report available for download here.
Cultural audiences and the climate emergency
- Cultural audiences are more engaged with the issues of climate change than the general population.
This is a surprising finding, given the assumption that older audiences (which still make up the largest percentage of cultural attendees) are less worried about the climate emergency than younger people. In fact, there is no significant variance in the level of concern although under 35s are 5% more likely to be worried.
- Cultural audiences are more likely than the general population to have made changes to their lifestyle to help tackle climate change.
21% of cultural audiences have made significant changes, compared to 10% of the general population which tells us that these audiences are not just voicing concerns but are actively making changes to their lifestyle to help tackle the issues.
The role of cultural organisations
- 77% of cultural audiences agree that cultural organisations have a responsibility to influence society to make a radical change to address the climate emergency.
This percentage increases to 86% for those under 35s and only 10% of respondents do not agree.
- 3 in 4 think cultural organisations place at least some importance on playing an active role in tackling the climate emergency.
Organisations and sustainability initiatives
The survey looked at organisations’ sustainability actions based on the criteria outlined in the Theatre Green Book namely: Sustainable Productions, Sustainable Buildings and Sustainable Operations.
- 90% of audiences expect organisations to be using materials from reused or recycled sources.
- 66% expect organisations to seek funding from ethical sources.
- 93% expect organisations to be ensuring that cultural buildings are as energy efficient as possible. 92% expect them to be reducing and recycling waste.
- 91% expect organisations to avoid disposable packaging and single-use plastic. 81% expect food waste to be minimised and 78% expect food and drink to come from local suppliers. 78% expect digital tickets and 65% expect digital receipts. Digital tickets can easily be provided from your point of sale tills via a ticketing software integration with Spektrix or Tessitura. pointOne are also able to provide eReceipts via our ReceiptHero integration.
Getting audiences involved
- Audiences were open to a variety of green initiatives with the most popular sustainable food choices (72%), using public transport for a reduced ticket price (65%) and making more sustainable travel choices (53%).
- It’s worth noting that even initiatives that would require a larger audience commitment like signing up as a green volunteer on sustainability projects had a 20% uptake which is a significant number when translated into annual audience figures.
- Interestingly, these initiative choices did not vary significantly based on demographic group either.
- Although the popularity of these initiatives was predictably higher for the under-35s, the 55+ cohort was still supportive and matched the hierarchy of choices with site redevelopment to improve biodiversity the most popular choice at 63% and 48% respectively.
Supporters and donors getting involved
- Another surprising finding was dispelling an assumption that supporters and donors would be less concerned about the climate crisis, given that they tend to be within the older demographic. In fact, 90% were worried about the crisis compared to 74% of non-supporters.
Indigo CEO, Katy Raines says:
“It is really encouraging to see the level of importance that cultural audiences are placing on the climate emergency. The results from Act Green clearly show that audiences expect the cultural organisations they attend and support to lead the way when it comes to sustainability, managing buildings more efficiently, making changes to front-of-house operations and challenging people to think differently by tackling climate themes on their stages.
“And audiences are willing to play their part too, getting involved in audience-focused initiatives from travel to food choices. The responses from younger audiences in particular offer a real opportunity for cultural organisations to build relationships with a new generation of theatre goers who are passionate about climate activism. I hope this signals the beginning of a new wave of supporters, advocates and volunteers to support organisations to meet sustainability goals.”
pointOne CEO, Steven Rolfe says:
“In supporting the Act Green research, we were hopeful that it would signal an active interest and commitment from audiences around the subject of climate change and climate activism. Thankfully, it would seem that the pandemic years have not dulled the momentum for climate activism nor lessened its appeal to audiences; both young and old want to see their cultural organisations leading the way with practical changes, operationally as well as on stage.
As EPoS suppliers to the cultural sector, we are always striving to improve our sustainability credentials and are keen to work with like-minded operators to meet their sustainability goals. We hope this research will prompt organisations to reflect on their own operations and utilise the excellent resources available (such as the Theatre Green Book and Julie’s Bicycle Creative Green Tools) to support their own journey towards a sustainable future.”
The available report includes the full results and analysis of the Act Green survey. It details recommendations to organisations and supporting case studies from Chichester Festival Theatre and Artsadmin on how they have fostered audience engagement around the climate emergency.
You can download the report here.
This research has shown that cultural audiences are concerned about the climate emergency and they do feel that cultural organisations have a part to play in tackling these issues. These audiences are more engaged than the general population about the climate and are willing to support and volunteer their time to help cultural organisations tackle the crisis through their sustainability initiatives.
The research has dispelled an assumption that this crisis is of less importance to older audiences as well as highlighted the high level of importance that under-35s attribute to environmental concerns. This cohort are the audience members, volunteers and supporters of the future, and therefore cultural organisations need to consider how to utilise this commitment to encourage these new audiences through their sustainability initiatives.