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New platform for audience insights will launch six weeks late, leaving NPOs temporarily unable to use it for survey data.

View of an audience within a theatre

Damián Buonamico/Creative Commons

The firm tasked by Arts Council England (ACE) with gathering audience data for the next three years has blamed a delay in launching the new online platform on 'contracting delays'.

The Illuminate online data collection and analysis platform was due to be up and running on 1 April to coincide with the start of the new National Portfolio for 2023-26.

But PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has pushed this back by more than six weeks to 16 May.


PwC was awarded the contract to collect and analyse data from the 985 organisations making up the portfolio in November last year. The firm was selected ahead of the Audience Agency which had been been delivering the work as part of the National Portfolio since 2018.

Speaking during an online session to introduce the system, Hannah Biernat, PwC's Training and Communications Lead for Illuminate, confirmed the delayed launch date of 16 May.

"This has been as a result of some delays in contracting which has impacted the build and delivery timelines and also because we want to ensure that the product is fully functional upon launch," she said.

Information arts and culture organisations will be expected to provide to the platform will include their total audience volumes, touring information, postcode, and demographic data for their audiences such as ethnicity, age, gender, disability, socio-economic background of their audience, as well as box office transaction data and survey findings.

Impact of delay

Biernat said that the delay affects how information can be collated by organisations over the first six weeks of the financial year.

"This delay won't impact the availability of any box office data in the platform as this can be uploaded either manually or via the automated data connections retrospectively," she said.

"Notably [the delay] means that NPOs will be unable to collect audience survey data through Illuminate for those first six weeks of the funding cycle.

"However, NPOs will be provided with the mandatory survey questions and these are available now on ACE's website."

Biernat said that if NPOs want to collect survey data for the first six week period it must be done through alternative methods such as Survey Monkey, which they will then be able to upload the data to Illuminate post-launch.

PwC also used the session to address concerns about how data could be used after it emerged that there was contractual leeway for information collected to be "commercially exploited".

"As a supplier and data processor, PwC will not and are not allowed to use the data collected for any purpose other than the requirements stipulated by the Arts Council and we are not able to commercially exploit the data and nor should we want to at any point during the contract or beyond," Biernat said.

Support for organisations

The deadline for submitting data for the first quarter of 2023/24 (April to June) will be the end of September.

"We appreciate that with any new platform there's going to be a little bit of trepidation about how you use it," Biernat said.

"So we are planning on providing a lot of support to organisations leading up to and after the platform launch.

Support will be provided across three main formats - workshops, e-learning and a help desk.

"Illuminate is currently still being built and we obviously need to have a fully functioning platform in order to be able to deliver a full training session that can demonstrate all of the platforms features," Biernat said.

"In the interim we are going to be running some fortnightly online clinic sessions where PwC will host a drop-in style session to answer any questions."

Further training sessions will be held post-launch in May and June including in-person regional events. There will also be an ongoing quarterly programme of best practice and innovation webinars and drop-in clinic sessions.

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To reassure NPOs, they can indeed collect survey data through alternative methods, and not just during this interim period; organisations are free to use any collection tool, provided their data is then uploaded to the Illuminate platform. Audience Answers Surveys – part of The Audience Agency’s new and improved suite of data insight tools – is free, fully funder compliant, and ready to use now. Audience Answers is designed to help organisations navigate the complex challenges ahead, to get the balance right. And, as a non-profit dedicated to the cultural sector, The Audience Agency is also building on a decade of providing trusted counsel.