How do you adjust to an ever-changing situation where the “new normal” is indefinite uncertainty?

The UK lockdown on March 23 saw the most seismic shift in cultural activity since World War II.

As venues, museums and galleries closed their doors, many did not know when or if they would open again and it became quickly clear that radical and creative rethinking of programming, engagement and audience development would be needed to be applied and also that this would be a sustained and long journey. There was a rush to put content online but now there is a need to review what this looks like and in a new world where social distancing is the norm, digital needs to be more thought through and strategic.

As we begin to ease our way out of lockdown it is also clear that this is not business as usual and that the cultural experience has now been transformed and disrupted beyond recognition.

The Art Fund Covid 19 Report found that

  • Most exhibitions are postponed until 2021
  • Some venues are planning to open in late summer, some in autumn and some in the new year but everyone is planning for multiple scenarios
  • Re-opening is likely to start first with outdoor areas and larger indoor spaces

In the interim 86% of the organisations have increased their online presence and the amount of content online

Indigo’s After the Interval report has now surveyed over 130K audience goers and still despite the easing of lockdown only 17% of these are booking now for events and of those 50% are booking from November

As the “live” experience in terms of live music and performance is currently on hold and the other cultural experiences such as museums and galleries are transformed due to social distancing the future of experience will be different, distant and digital. The future is hybrid and will mean that digital is here to stay and an augmented and enhanced experience will be expected even once we have moved beyond social distancing. Equally shielding for the clinically vulnerable means many 1000s of people will also be in an extended period of lockdown.

Indigo’s report found that 82% of audiences had watched a full online production, and 83% were interested in further online cultural experiences.

Whilst it is accepted that it is not an alternative or substitute for the physical experience, the lockdown has created a digitally confident audience with 48% of those surveyed trying online for the first-time during lockdown

But what happens next and how does the sector navigate an over saturated digital marketplace, engage with new and diverse audiences as well as converting its physical existing audiences.

In a recent New York Times article Frank Rose, author of “The Art of Immersion” talked of a much bigger shift in favour of immersive experiences and against consumerism in general. For well over a decade, trend-watchers have noted a growing preference for experiences over things. “

Hello Culture Are You Experienced will explore how during lockdown artists and audiences have created and engaged with culture in different ways when the physical has been lost to us. The programme will highlight the many different types of digital engagement, experiences and creation that emerged during lockdown and take the best examples to demonstrate and debate the potential of future digital experiences.

Working across the Digital Cities Calendar Hello Culture Are You Experienced will feature 1 keynote and 5 panels; across September 2020 -February 2021.

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