Enthusiasm for theatre and live music has grown over the past year and more adults than ever consider going to a live performance to be a ‘great night’, a new survey by Town Hall Symphony Hall has found.

Photo of BBC Proms

People are more willing to spend time and money on theatre, grassroots music and large concerts than they were a year ago, new research has found.

More than half (56%) of British adults consider going to a live performance to be a ‘great night’ – 11 percentage points higher than the previous year.

Live performance is still third in a list of the UK’s preferred leisure activities, behind eating out and watching a film at home. But the public’s appetite for it compares favourably with:

  • 49% who enjoy drinking with friends
  • 47% who like to go to the cinema
  • 21% who would watch sports matches.

Art form variations

These findings emerge from a national survey of 2,000 people by polling company YouGov, commissioned by Performances Birmingham, which operates Town Hall Symphony Hall (THSH).

According to their report, ‘The Universal Language: People’s relationship with music and performance in Britain today’, the number of enthusiasts specifically for theatre increased from 26% to 39%, and for grassroots gigs from 12% to 18%.

The demographics of these groups offer few surprises. Desire to attend the theatre was expressed most strongly by retired people (46%), with similar proportions for opera and classical concerts (17% versus a national average of 11%).

Students were found to have the most wide-ranging set of leisure interests and are “significantly more likely than the population at large” to attend big-ticket concerts and go to a comedy or grassroots music gig.

Regional differences

The report “dashes assumptions of London being the epicentre of live music activity”, revealing that the North East and Scotland are the regions where the highest proportion of people consider going to gigs to be a ‘great night out’.

“Iconic images of The BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall or London’s O2 Arena convey an association of London and live music, which is not fully borne out” says the report, which finds a higher level of active support for live music in big and small venues in other UK regions.

People were most interested in gigs in the North East, where 27% named big concerts and 25% named grassroots gigs as options for a great night out. People in Scotland, the North West and Wales were also enthusiastic, all ahead of London.

Over a quarter of respondents (26%) said they would see live bands in a local bar or pub, followed by 22% who expressed a desire to attend a rock or pop festival and 17%, who said they would attend a gig at a major venue.

The report comments that it is “very pleasing” to see resurgent public enthusiasm for pub and club gigs because “tomorrow’s big concerts depend on new acts being able to make an impression at grassroots venues”.