Ashley Smith-Hammond

This episode looks at families across Scotland and explores the value, which is not simply monetary, of engaging widely with families as arts participants and attendees.

This month’s podcast takes a look at family audiences in Scotland. Families are a broad category with lots of internal diversity but at its core it is a mixed age groups of adults and children attending or participating in an arts experience together.

We wanted to find out from arts organisations what its like in real life to try and connect effectively with family audiences to highlight the practical challenges where arts organisations can learn from each other. To do this we talked to Louise Dingwall of Platform (a Glasgow venue that programmes a range of work for families) and Amy Briggs of Starcatchers (an Edinburgh-based touring organisation that is dedicated to making work for very young audiences).

Family audiences have similarities in terms of the practical considerations – like buggy parking or changing stations. But, in other ways they reflect the wider trends around the growing diversity of the country. Families’ time and finances are also under pressure and this influences their ability to attend or participate. Programmers and marketers need to be sensitive to these constraints and provide appropriate opportunities. Listening to Louise and Amy it is clear that they are staying close to their audiences, constantly communicating with them to refine the creative offer and improve service.

Both interviews highlighted how loyal family audiences can be once they’ve come to trust you as an arts provider but also how this loyalty can add to the challenge of programming work for family audiences. When families have more than one child and work is produced for a particular age range, arts organisations need to be flexible and stay in close communication – with audiences and with artists – to navigate this challenge successfully.

Louise and Amy were clear that work for family audiences is not limited to performing arts work and both reflected on the similar needs of the audience is around practicalities for programming visual arts work or for participatory events.

This episode looks at families across Scotland and explores the value, which is not simply monetary, of engaging widely with families as arts participants and attendees. Early arts attendance helps to build lifelong habits and bring in new audiences by introducing non attenders to the arts.


Let’s start with Scotland’s population to contextualise what we’re talking about.

  • Scotland’s Census shows that young people (under 16s) made up 19.2% of the Scottish population in 2001 and this decreased to 17.3% by the 2011 census.

According to the National Records of Scotland:

  • The population is about 5.3 million people. In 2013 there were 56,000 babies born in Scotland representing just over 1% of the total figure.
  • The population overall is aging. By mid 2014 there’d been a 3% decrease over the past 10 years in total number of children under 16.
  • Since the mid-1970s, there has been a trend towards women having children at older ages. This is partly due to a steady fall since 1970 in women aged under twenty becoming mothers.

What about arts attendance? At Culture Republic we use Mosaic Scotland, which is a tool that segments Scotland’s 2.4m households based on demographic characteristics, lifestyles and behaviours. According to this tool, just over 20% of the households are likely to have children at home – around 523 thousand households. We can then marry this data with additional data to get an insight around arts attendance patterns.

Culture Republic collects box office data from across the country and this can give us a picture of the booking patterns for family audiences. This is box office data only so it misses out a lot of non-ticketed arts attendance – like going to the museum and community or participation events – but it is still very useful for an indication.

We looked at ticket purchases in fiscal year 2013-14. Our ticketing database in that period was drawing together 35 box office feeds for 48 organisations. In that year there were 745,182 tickets sold to the three Mosaic Scotland groups most likely to have children in the household. In our dataset this made up about 20% or about a fifth of the marketplace. In terms of booking patterns, we could see that:

  • 70% of them only booked tickets once a year, but
  • 15% booked tickets twice a year – and this is worth paying attention to because repeat bookers generate disproportionately more revenue for arts organisations.
  • When they did book, about 35% tended to book early –at least 28 days in advance. But of course this pattern can, and does vary across the country and from venue to venue.

If we return to the Culture Republic box office dataset, there’s one more pattern. Instead of looking at types of households, we can look at types of programming. Again, using the FY2013-14 data, we looked at ticket sales for events coded as children’s or family – this equalled about 295k tickets sold and yielded over £2m in revenue for Scottish arts organisations. In this group repeat bookers were even more important. Repeat bookers bought 162k tickets – or approximately 55% of all of the tickets sold. And this yielded £961k – 47% of the total revenue for family and children’s events.

It is clear both from the numbers and experiences on the ground that family audiences are loyal and valuable for building relationships across a lifetime.



Listen on Soundcloud above or subscribe on iTunes or on Stitcher.

Thanks to Amy from Starcatchers & Louise from Platform. Connect with both of them on Twitter @starcatchersuk and @PlatformGlasgow

If you want to learn more about Scotland’s audiences you can get in touch with us or tweet @culture_public

Audio production by studio engineer Barry Reid – @barryspad

Music by Drew Hammond of Mesura Music

The Culture Republic Podcast by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Main image credit: Family Love by Takashi Hososhima (CC BY-SA 2.0).