Ashley Smith-Hammond

The Festival of Architecture teamed up with Culture Republic to find out who its audience is and what they thought of the festival.

The Festival of Architecture 2016, promoted by the Royal incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) took place as part of Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design (YIAD). It was a nationwide celebration of Scotland’s built environment. The Festival was a very collaborative and therefore complex undertaking, with over 460 events delivered by over 120 partner organisations throughout Scotland from March to November.

The Festival benefitted from a range of public sector funding, including EventScotland, the Scottish Government and Creative Scotland, with a mix of many other sponsors and patrons. As a result, the Royal Incorporation, as Festival organisers were committed to a robust evaluation to confirm its impact both internally (for their own good practice) and for this body of stakeholders.

The Royal Incorporation had an ambitious vision, to reach people of all ages from around Scotland, the UK and the world with an inspiring and engaging festival for architecture novices, enthusiasts and professionals alike. Participants would learn how architecture and design shapes Scotland, transforming its places and benefitting its people and their lives.

What they wanted

The RIAS needed to monitor the success of the Festival over the course of 2016. The team wanted an impact report to cover the full year of the Festival. It was particularly important that they had strong evidence around the economic impact of the Festival.

They launched a competitive tender process for a research project to help gather key information from event attendees like: where they were from, what they attended, what they thought of it, how they heard about the event, how they travelled there and how much they spent to attend. This information lay the groundwork for an economic impact assessment. 

What we did 

We were very pleased to be selected from the pool of competitors to carry out the RIAS’s research. Culture Republic’s researchers started by creating a survey that could be used to gather information from the Festival’s audiences.

The team used the eventIMPACTS methodology, which is recommended in EventScotland’s Scotland the Perfect Stage Events Strategy. This approach offers insights on overall attendance impacts, economic impacts from visitors and social impacts.

lego model of NNM presented by its maker
National Museum of Scotland Lego Model 2016. Photographer Neil Hanna. Copyright The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS).

Researchers administered the survey in person at six of the Festival’s most high-profile events. Plus, it was also sent out to many more audience members afterwards for them to fill out online. Using both methods makes sure that we get the best possible response rate and the best quality data. The Culture Republic team project managed the research fieldwork, monitored the online survey data and analysed results for each event as well as the Festival overall.

What we found

The evaluation had an excellent response rate and with many hundreds of people feeding into the survey. The results were encouraging too, with 90% of respondents rating the Festival as ‘Very Good’ or ‘Good’ and 80% of respondents rating their experience in Scotland positively.

a man and a woman peek out behind a display of huts
Ideal Hut Show (Glasgow) 2016. Photographer Martin Shields. Copyright The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS).

The RIAS Festival team was provided with individual reports for their highest profile events: Hinterland; The Ideal Hut Show; Out of their Heads: Portraits of Scottish Architects; Pop-Up Cities Expo; Adventures in Space and Cake Fest Scotland. A final economic impact report that brought together the results from all of the events in aggregate was supplied to the team.

We were able to help prove that the Festival of Architecture had a significant impact for Scotland during 2016. The headline events alone reached nearly half a million people, generating an overall economic impact of nearly £9m to the Scottish economy as a result of the Festival.

Many of the Festival’s audiences (around a third) came from within the local authority of a particular event, showing that the events were doing a good job of reaching and enriching the local community. The other two thirds of the audience travelled, either across Scotland, across the UK or even across the globe to take part in the Festival.

map of the UK showing where visitors came from

The map insert shows the spread of folk who came from the UK but visitors also came from across the EU, from the USA and as far afield as Australia and New Zealand. This is a result that speaks to the significant economic impact of the Festival (international travellers generate the greatest economic impact thanks to their spending on meals and accommodation) as well as its contribution to Scotland’s positive profile for visitors from around the world.

The Royal incorporation was enthusiastic about the work from Culture Republic – they even sent us a letter to say so. We love it when that happens.

 letter of endorsement from the Festival

Main image credit: Cakefest 2016 by Malcolm Cochrane. Copyright The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland.