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Culture24 report shows after-hours events can help museum engagement

Evening programming can help museums to engage with underrepresented communities

Tate Lates

Culture24, the UK charity that supports cultural institutions’ development, has published a new report called Rap Under The Rubens: How after-hours events can help break down barriers to museum participation. This looks at how evening programming, such as the Emerge Festival, can help museums to engage with underrepresented communities.

The report contrasts the audience development successes of after-hours programmes with overall museum visitation. It also discovered some worrying trends in museum visitation in England.

Dismantling barriers to participation

Culture24’s new report found that:

  • Museums in England don’t attract representative proportions of the population
  • Around 41% of people in London identifies as Black, minority ethnic and Asian. But only 24% of visitors to the city’s top 17 museums are in this demographic
  • While 29.8% of the over-16 population in England in 2019 were aged 16-34, only 25% of over-16 visitors were in this age bracket in 2019/20, and this has decreased since 2018 

When the report looked at after-hours programmes, however, between 50%-79% of the audiences studied in the research were aged 16-34. This shows that some after-hours programmes can lead to impressive audience development progress. Yet, particularly in the wake of COVID-19, this type of programming can be sidelined, under-researched or cancelled.

The report, which was co-authored by Nick Stockman of Culture24 and independent researcher Elizabeth Duru, with a foreword from Culture24 Trustee and co-CEO of Birmingham Museums Trust, Zak Mensah, asks, how can Museum Lates dismantle barriers to participation that exist for young people from underrepresented communities? 

The impact of Museum Lates

To answer this question, the report takes a closer look at four ‘Lates’ programmes: Emerge Festival (Culture24) and Tate Lates in the UK; Museumnacht (Museum Night) in Amsterdam, and Nocturnal from Melbourne Museum in Australia.

Looking at these case studies, with a specific focus on age, ethnicity and class, it brings together information from the latest sector research with demographic and visitation data to highlight how ‘Lates’ can reach underrepresented audiences – and how they might build on this success going forward.

“Museums are grappling with issues of diversity in their workforce and decolonisation with their collections but need to not lose sight of equitable audience representation,” says Stockman.

“Our report examines the success Lates are having in reaching underrepresented people, while highlighting how much more needs to be done, across museum programming, to broaden their appeal beyond the white, well-to-do, and middle-aged” 

Nick Stockman, report co-author, Culture24

Duru says: “After-hours programmes are providing a much-needed social space for underserved audiences to connect with museums in ways that are relevant and meaningful to their lives. After-hours audiences that we studied are often younger and more diverse than daytime audiences, suggesting that this area of co-creative and experimental programming should be considered as part of a museum’s strategy to attract audiences that are more representative of UK society.”

To read the full report, please click here.

At the end of last year, Culture24 launched Let’s Get Real 10 Years On, a seven-month-long research project that brought together 60 organisations to look at the challenges of measuring online success in today’s climate.

Top images: Tate Lates, courtesy of Tate

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charlotte coates

Charlotte Coates

Charlotte Coates is blooloop's editor. She is from Brighton, UK and previously worked as a librarian. She has a strong interest in arts, culture and information and graduated from the University of Sussex with a degree in English Literature. Charlotte can usually be found either with her head in a book or planning her next travel adventure.

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