Understanding a city and its residents is a key challenge to any major cultural festival, even more so for a City of Culture which aims to reach the widest possible audience through showcasing local, regional, national, and international talent. Traditional sources of data typically relate to who participates in culture, what they enjoy as audiences, and what they are likely to engage with. This provides an interesting snapshot into the cultural habits of a city but only tells part of the story. The data in some regards can be very limited – traditional data sources are very good at telling you information about who engages but it misses information and detail about who doesn’t engage. As the ethos of any City of Culture is rooted in place, it is important to find out about those who don’t engage to ensure opportunities are provided for all citizens to get involved and participate. Information about those who do not participate is as equally important as for those who do.
For Coventry, UK City of Culture 2021, a unique partnership has developed between the Coventry City of Culture Trust, Coventry City Council, Warwick Business School, and Indigo Consulting to bring together cultural data and non-cultural data in one place to allow for a greater understanding of the city and its population. Bringing this data together creates a more detailed picture of how the city’s population participates in culture, how they feel about the neighbourhood they live, basic demographic information and how all this fits together. As a result, the Coventry Cultural Place Profiler was created. The Cultural Place Profiler allows users to see data about the city at a city level and then broken down by smaller geographic groupings. What this means is that organisers of cultural events in the city who are working in a specific neighbourhood can view data at a local level to help them understand the people who live in that area, how they engage with culture, and how they see themselves as part of the community.
A key part of the Cultural Place Profiler is the Household Survey data. Coventry is a very data rich city as it has been undertaking surveys roughly every two years with the city’s population using a representative sample since 2013 – this means that at a neighbourhood level, we know a lot about the population of Coventry. This rich non-cultural data expands the understanding provided by cultural data and allows us to see patterns and trends in data which means cultural events can be tailored to specific neighbourhoods in which they are taking place. Using data in this way can also ensure the best possible experience for residents through bespoke cultural experiences which meet the needs of communities. An example of this was in 2019, when the Trust took the Carnival of Lights to the community of Foleshill. Foleshill has historic lower levels of cultural participation than other parts of the city, yet the residents are more willing to get involved with community activities. By taking creative workshops bespoke to a specific community allowed them to experience a cultural event at scale which they wouldn’t have normally.
Bringing in non-cultural data for example data on if a community feels safe at night allows someone planning a cultural event to see what the likelihood of an audience attending an event at night is and if they need to bring in additional measures for an audience to feel safe. Using data in this way creates the opportunity for cultural activity to be really targeted towards place-based outcomes. This means cultural activity can positively address the needs of a place, for example the creation of the Trust’s Caring City Team in response to the needs of certain groups in the city.
The Cultural Place Profiler is not intended to be a tool which is only used by a select few individuals in the city, but a tool that is available for all cultural organisations, artists, and interested parties. As the world becomes more reliant on using data to evidence decision making and changes made by a project the Cultural Place Profiler becomes even more important to the city.
Mark Scott, Monitoring and Data Manager City of Culture Trust