How after-hours events can help break down barriers to museum participation

Rap Under The Rubens: How after-hours events can help break down barriers to museum participation

Co-authored by Culture24’s Nick Stockman and independent researcher Elizabeth Duru, and described as ‘an exploration into how the Emerge Festival and other evening programmes reach underrepresented communities’, the report contrasts the audience development successes of after-hours programmes with overall museum visitation.

Download the full Rap Under the Rubens report here

Download the Rap Under the Rubens Executive Summary here

Watch the report launch event here: launch event with subtitles, launch event without subtitles

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More about the report

The report uncovers some concerning trends in overall museum visitation in England, for example:

  • An estimated 41% of London’s population identifies as Black, minority ethnic and Asian yet only 24% of visitors to London’s top 17 museums are in this demographic. 
  • Though 29.8% of the over 16 population in England in 2019 was 16-34, only 25% of over 16 visitors were in this age bracket in 2019/20, and has decreased since 2018.

However, between 50% – 79% of the audiences to the after-hours programmes studied in the research were aged 16-34.

At a time when museums are confronted with big decisions regarding equitable representation, museums in England still don’t attract representative proportions of the population. This report finds some after-hours programmes produce impressive audience development progress, yet they can be sidelined, under-researched and since the pandemic, are now in danger of dropping off the agenda completely. 

Co-authored by Culture24’s Nick Stockman and independent researcher Elizabeth Duru, with a foreword from Culture24 trustee and co-CEO of Birmingham Museums Trust, Zak Mensah, the report poses the question, how can Museum Lates dismantle barriers to participation that exist for young people from underrepresented communities

The authors use four ‘Lates’ programmes from around the world as case studies; Emerge Festival (Culture24) and Tate Lates in the UK; Museumnacht (Museum Night) in Amsterdam, and Nocturnal from Melbourne Museum in Australia.

With a particular focus on age, ethnicity and class, the report combines insights from the latest sector research and reports, with demographic and visitation data, to paint a picture of how ‘Lates’ reach underrepresented audiences – and how they might be even more successful in the future. 

Museums are grappling with issues of diversity in their workforce and decolonisation with their collections but need to not lose sight of equitable audience representation. Our report examines the success Lates are having in reaching underrepresented people, while highlighting how much more needs to be done, across museum programming, to broaden their appeal beyond the white, well-to-do, and middle-aged.

Nick Stockman

After-hours programmes are providing a much-needed social space for underserved audiences to connect with museums in ways that are relevant and meaningful to their lives. After-hours audiences that we studied are often younger and more diverse than daytime audiences, suggesting that this area of co-creative and experimental programming should be considered as part of a museum’s strategy to attract audiences that are more representative of UK society.

Elizabeth Duru