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Societies and Cultures Institute

Pandemic Preparedness in the Live Performing Arts: Lessons to Learn from COVID-19

How do lessons learned from COVID-19 across the UK, Germany, Canada, USA, France, Italy and Japan help us create a resilient UK live performing arts sector that is prepared for future crises? 

This research project, carried out between April 2023 - January 2024, brings together researchers from across the G7 to review and compare the different responses of the live performing arts sector and governments to the challenges posed by COVID-19. It asks what worked, where, and why, taking an international perspective to pinpoint new strategies for resilience. In the face of future crises, whether by new pandemics, climate-related disasters, demographic changes, or economic pressures, this is of escalating importance.
Our UK-led international team of researchers is composed of Co-Investigators in the USA, Canada, and Germany and Research Associates in France, Italy, and Japan. Each team carried out a literature analysis to fully gauge their respective pandemic and post-pandemic live performance scenes. Many of the teams also carried out interviews with stakeholders representing diverse industry practitioners to deepen our understanding. Themes include supporting the creative workforce, the case for culture, grant types and application models, digital performance, audience attitudes, and structures of funding. The comparative successes, failures, and learning points that emerged from this form the basis of a set of actionable recommendations. 
To hear more about this unique project’s findings and recommendations, please watch the YouTube video of the online launch of our report and recommendations, hosted at 2-3.30pm on Tuesday 26 March 24. 

This research is supported by the British Academy’s Pandemic Preparedness: Lessons to Learn from COVID-19 across the G7 Award.

Research team:

UK project leads:                          

  • Pascale Aebischer (University of Exeter)  
  • Karen Gray (University of Bristol)​ 

UK research assistant:                  

  • Blakeney Clark (University of Exeter)​ 

 Germany lead:                                

  • Heidi Lucja Liedke (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt)​ 

Germany research assistant:          

  • Ronja Koch (Goethe-Universtät Frankfurt)​ 

 USA lead:                                        

  • Barbara Fuchs (UCLA)​ 

USA research assistant:                  

  • Rhonda Sharrah (UCLA)​ 

 Canada lead:                                    

  • Kelsey Jacobson (Queen's University)​ 

Canada research assistant:              

  • Meghan Lindsay (Queen's University)​ 

 Japan Research Associates:            

  • Jonah Salz (Ryukoku University)  
  • Hirotomo Kojima​ (Professional College of Arts and Tourism, Hyogo Prefecture)

Italy Research Associate:                  

  • Luca Antoniazzi (Università di Pollenzo)​ 

 France Research Associates:            

  • Stéphanie Havet Laurent (INSEEC Grande École, Lyon)  
  • Caroline Demeyère (Copenhagen Business School)​ 

Partner organisations:

Freelancers Make Theatre Work:             

  • Josie Underwood and Paul Carey-Jones

Something To Aim For:                             

  • Gini Simpson

Lived Experience Panel:

United Kingdom:                             

  • Tian Glasgow (New Slang Productions)
  • Funlola Olufunwa (freelance creative professional)


  • Tina Lorenz (Staatstheater Augsburg)
  • Birgit Weiger (freelance creative professional)


  • Indrit Kasapi (Theatre Passe Muraille)
  • Jenna Rodgers (director and dramaturg)


  • Jesse Berger (Red Bull Theater)
  • Jon Lawrence Rivera (Playwrights’ Arena)

Technical and research support:

University of Exeter:                           

  • Susan Leedham (Department of English and Creative Writing)
  • Gemma Poulton (Digital Humanities Lab, University of Exeter)
  • Marina Altoé (Policy@Exeter)
  • Harvey Everard (Societies and Cultures Institute)

Goethe-Universität Frankfurt           

  • Evgeniia Maksimenko