© 2019

Audience Engagement in the Performing Arts

A Critical Analysis

  • Explores the implications of changing audience expectations and evolving practices of engagement

  • Provides a thorough summary of existing scholarship in the field, drawing out key and emergent themes

  • Draws on the experience of the author as theatre producer and manager turned academic to explore audiences from an interdisciplinary perspective


Part of the New Directions in Cultural Policy Research book series (NDCPR)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xi
  2. Ben Walmsley
    Pages 1-23
  3. Ben Walmsley
    Pages 63-90
  4. Ben Walmsley
    Pages 111-139
  5. Ben Walmsley
    Pages 165-198
  6. Ben Walmsley
    Pages 225-241
  7. Back Matter
    Pages 243-248

About this book


This book explores the concept of audience engagement from a number of complementary perspectives, including cultural value, arts marketing and co-creation. It offers a critical review of the existing literature on audience research and an overview of established and emerging methodologies deployed to undertake research with audiences. The book draws from a rich diversity of academic fields to make the case for a radically interdisciplinary approach to audience research.

The book’s underlying thesis is that at the heart of audience research there is a mutual exchange of value wherein audiences ideally play the role of strategic partners in the mission fulfilment of arts organisations. Illustrating how audiences have traditionally been side-lined, homogenised and vilified, it contends that the future paradigm of audience studies should be based on an engagement model, wherein audiences take their rightful place as subjects rather than objects of empirical research.


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Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.School Performance Cultural IndustriesUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK

About the authors

Ben Walmsley is Associate Professor in Audience Engagement in the School of Performance and Cultural Industries at the University of Leeds, UK and Director of the Centre for Cultural Value. Previously, Ben was Producer at the National Theatre of Scotland and an Assessor for Drama for Arts Council England. Since 2014 he has been the Academic Director of the Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy Programme, now one of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisations. He is also Co-Editor of Arts and the Market.

Bibliographic information


“Ben Walmsley's book draws together and reviews a considerable body of existing scholarship and does a vital job in identifying and drawing out key and emergent themes. In doing so it marks a moment in the maturation of the field. It has a particular and persuasive focus on the trajectory from arts marketing to audience engagement, which it argues with commitment and impressive scholarship.” (Matthew Reason, Professor of Theatre and Performance, York St John University, UK)

“This book offers a fluid, engaging and philosophical approach to the topic of audience engagement that will make its mark on the creative industries.” (Ruth Rentschler OAM, Professor of Arts & Cultural Leadership, University of South Australia, and Author of Arts Governance: People, Passion, Performance)