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Outdoor arts ‘attract more diverse audiences’

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Outdoor arts, including theatre, circus and dance, attract a more diverse audience than other art forms, new research has revealed.

The Audience Finder: Year 2 Outdoor Arts report, published by the Audience Agency, states that outdoor arts events are more representative of the population than events in conventional venues.

The study is the second year of research by the Audience Agency into outdoor arts. More than 9,500 responses were collated as part of the research, which the organisation claims is the “most comprehensive quantitative research project” on the subject anywhere in the world.

The survey defines outdoor arts as events taking place outside conventional cultural venues, and includes theatre, dance, circus and visual arts. Of the outdoor events monitored as part of the research, 95% had free entry.

It states the findings will help the sector “make a strong case about its capacity to attract a wide-ranging and diverse public to its events”.

The study found that the range of ages for outdoor arts audiences is broader than among other audiences, with a particular strength in the younger and middle-age ranges of 25 to 54. Part of this can be attributed to the family and group appeal of outdoor events.

The study also claims to show a broad variety of artistic habits among outdoor audiences. The audiences monitored included significant numbers for whom attending the arts was not a regular activity, with 10% not having attended any other arts activity in the past 12 months.

However, it also found a large number who had regularly attended cultural activities. According to the report, 71% had visited the cinema in the last 12 months, while 61% and 62% had attended an art exhibition or theatre performance respectively.

Anne Torreggiani, executive director of the Audience Agency, told The Stage: “For many years people have made the claim [that outdoor arts attract more diverse audiences] but they couldn’t actually prove it. What’s important is that they now have some really strong evidence.”

She added that the report had prompted the need for more in-depth research into the factors that affect outdoor audience engagement.

“We shouldn’t just assume that this happens because the normal barriers are down. It’s more than just taking away the walls and making it free, it’s more subtle than that,” she said. “Outdoor arts are not a gateway to other art forms. It’s not telling us that if you put on arts in the square… they’ll come flooding through, that’s not true. They are completely different offers and people like them because they are different, that’s very interesting.”