The New Lockdown: reopening attitudes amongst arts organisations in England


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In July 2020, as the UK Government published guideance to encourage arts and cultural organisations reopen at this stage in the COVID-19 / coronavirus pandemic, Artquest conducted a targeted survey of arts organisations to understand their response and plans to reopen. The survey opened on Monday 6 July and closed on Monday 27 July 2020.

We received 99 responses from across the UK, with almost all responses from England (36.4% from London). Other devolved UK nations continued with a stricter lockdown; with few responses from Scotland, Wales, and none from Northern Ireland, our research will cover only organisations in England.


  • 10.9% of respondents reported reopening on 4 July 2020, the first day permissible, with 53.9% delaying.
  • 35.9% of respondents could not reopen as no guidance is in place for studios, workshops, community events or other art programmes that are not gallery based.
  • 2.3% of respondents do not expect to reopen at all
  • 1.9% had already closed as a result of lockdown
  • 12.6% did not know when they might reopen
  • 57.1% of respondents who rely on commercial income – sales, hires, tickets etc – reopened on 4 July 2020, with only 6.7% of those in receipt of regular funding opening at the same time.
  • 77.3% of respondents anticipate being open by July 2021, with 62.6% expecting to reopen by the end of September 2020

Reasons for delaying reopening included:

  • It is not safe to reopen (19.4%)
  • Belief that audiences would not return (14.6%)
  • Lockdown impacted other areas of life, so reopening is not a priority (11.7%)
  • Impossible to socially distance in the venue, unaffordable safety measures, reprogramming in light of COVID-19 is taking longer, vulnerable or shielding audiences, lack of funding, or the closure of the venue’s host building (all under 10%)

In addition, 23.1% of successful applicants to Arts Council England’s Emergency Response Fund (ERF) and 19% of those who furloughed staff on the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS) reported reopening on 4 July 2020.


24.6% of respondents had already spent all their reserves or personal savings by the time of the survey, three months into lockdown.  Nationally, 18.5% of respondents had used their personal savings to cover costs, with 37% using organisational reserves.


A key element of the survey was to understand what sources of information are trusted when considering reopening. 24.7% of respondents mostly trust their own opinions, based on their own research, many more than the UK Government (6.7%) or UK scientific sources (11.7%). Opinions of peer organisations (18.2%) and international scientific sources (15.6%) are more trusted.

Read the full report: The New Lockdown (PDF, 384kb) or contact Russell Martin for more information.