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The Audience Agency and Culture24, who were both part of ACE's National Portfolio until they lost funding in April this year, have joined forces.

Audience in theatre. Image depicts backs of heads and stage in background

Huseyn Naghiyev

Two former Sector Support Organisations that were part of Arts Council England's National Portfolio until earlier this year will merge, it has been announced.

The Audience Agency (TAA), which received funding to gather data on arts and culture audiences for ACE until the contract was controversially handed to PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Culture24, which was funded to support heritage organisations, have joined forces with immediate effect. Three members of staff from Culture24 are moving to TAA as part of the arrangement.

A statement issued by the organisations said that while each charity has had to make redundancies since departing the National Portfolio, the merger, combined with a new business model, "means that years of ACE investment in tools and resources, skills and experience will continue to benefit the sector".


News of the merger comes amid a slew of closures of other organisations that missed out on National Portfolio funding. Last week Arts Professional estimated the number to have closed, or announced their intention to close, has reached at least 14.

The statement issued by TAA and Culture24 said that research conducted with stakeholder arts, museums and heritage organisations, and local authorities emphasised the need in the sector to increase audience engagement and anticipate future changes in behaviour, taste and demand. 

"Stakeholders want a combination of strong evidence to help them manage risk today with insights that will help them adapt to inspire coming generations," the statement said.

"Findings show that while driving up income and securing funding are the major challenges of the day, many want support to become more relevant to their wider community, to address social justice, climate change and stay on top of technological change."

The plan for the merged organisations is to implement a "new model" to respond to the research findings and support innovation in identified areas "to co-develop solutions to the sector’s most urgent problems". 

They will offer a new five-pillar programme of services and products. The Culture24 team will lead on a digital pillar through cohort learning programmes, leadership development, and digital transformation. 

The other four pillars will be participation and engagement, impact and evaluation, cultural and creative places, and data and evidence for policy. 

The Audience Agency will also continue to offer a suite of services supporting all five pillars, while peer learning and action research programmes will be a major new, cross-cutting feature.   

'Shared values'

Anne Torreggiani, CEO of The Audience Agency, said: “Merging with Culture24 is one of the most exciting aspects of our new model. 

"We’ve worked in partnership on a lot of projects, so we already had a keen sense of shared values and how well we complement each other. 

"Plus, between us, we’ve got a pretty awesome network in the UK and internationally. But our boards challenged us to go further, to ‘make one plus one equal three’, to create an offer together that would more than double the value and impact we had on our own.

"For me, some of the highlights people can look forward to include fresh new research about digital change and opportunities to take part in action research following the Let’s Get Real learning blueprint. 

"When people choose to work with us, they can expect to navigate an uncertain future with more confidence.”

Jane Finnis, Consultant Director at The Audience Agency and former CEO at Culture24, said it was the perfect time to merge.

"Understanding how to meaningfully capitalise on the value of digital has never been more critical for our sector," she said. "Equity, inclusivity, climate change and environmental sustainability are major challenges our sector faces. 

"We know that a key part of what is needed to meet these challenges is high levels of digital literacy, and confident digital leadership. 

"Together, we can offer the sector a new generation of services, built on our shared learning, that will support the kind of positive change so urgently needed. This merger harnesses the expertise, knowledge, insight and relationships of both organisations.”