Final Evaluation - UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK


Publication date
Press Release - 29 March 2023

Download the full press release: Final Evaluation - UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK

  • Report published today sets out the social, cultural, and economic benefits of the 10 UNBOXED projects, including the physical events in 107 locations1 across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, presented alongside digital cultural activity and creative content commissioned for broadcast platforms
  • Creative programme bringing together science, technology, engineering, arts and maths (STEAM) attracted a total audience of 20.5 million in 2022
  • UK-wide programme brought societal benefits of £175.5 million2
  • Report finds UNBOXED increased live audiences’ interest in science, technology, engineering, maths, and the arts (84% of those surveyed); opened their minds to new ideas (70%); and they were more likely to participate or engage in cultural activity in the future following their experience of the programme (84%)
  • UNBOXED supported pandemic recovery by investing in jobs, organisations, and communities. 80% of participants reported a positive overall impact on their happiness as a result of UNBOXED activity, and 8 out of 10 said it made them feel proud of their local area

An independent evaluation report, published today, looking at the impact and economic benefits of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK, reveals the benefits to date of the programme for audiences, participants and teachers in 2022. The study explores the impact on audiences' perceptions of science, technology, engineering, arts and maths (STEAM) when delivered through a cross-sector creative programme such as UNBOXED, alongside the social and cultural impact it had across the four nations and the benefits of the programme to the UK economy.

Final monitoring data confirms that across UNBOXED’s activities in 2022, 10 large-scale creative projects delivered a total audience of 20.5 million. This was achieved through a nationwide programme of physical events in 107 locations spanning the breadth of the four nations, digital cultural activities, creative broadcast content, and a UK-wide learning and participation programme.

The findings show that UNBOXED engaged audiences of all ages and from a wide range of backgrounds, with detailed demographics for live audiences set out in the report.

Survey evidence3 indicates that UNBOXED achieved its stated ambition to bring people together through shared experiences that can drive social cohesion, with 90% of participants surveyed agreeing that it ‘allowed them to interact with people they would not normally interact with’. Approximately nine out of 10 local attendees and participants surveyed agreed that UNBOXED provided everyone with the opportunity to come together and have a shared experience. Whilst approximately, eight out of 10 attendees surveyed who lived locally to the live events locations said it made them feel both ‘connected to’ and ‘proud’ to live in their local area.

The report notes the significance of the timing of the events in relation to the COVID pandemic, with the first live event taking place in Paisley on 1 March 2022, not long after severe restrictions had been relaxed. With the creative sectors having been badly hit by the pandemic, UNBOXED supported employment and paid development opportunities, often benefitting freelancers and emerging and underrepresented professionals, who were able to develop their skills and make new connections in their chosen fields.

Analysis of survey data suggests UNBOXED also contributed to people's sense of well-being. At a time when individuals and communities were still feeling the impact of the pandemic, 80% of audiences said that attending an UNBOXED event resulted in a positive overall impact on their happiness and wellbeing.

The report also confirms that UNBOXED generated economic benefits. Data analysed indicates that UNBOXED generated total societal benefits to the UK of approximately £175.5 million. Of this:

  • £92.3 million of total economic impact (measured in terms of gross value added (GVA))4 through delivery of the programme, of which at least £38.2 million of gross GVA was generated in the UK STEAM-related sectors; and
  • £34.3 million of local GVA impact from visitor spend.
  • £48.8 million of total monetiseable social benefits to attendees and participants at UNBOXED live events, volunteers, and digital audiences associated with their participation and engagement.

The data indicating of £175.5 million of benefits only covers activity up to the end of 2022, with several creative teams developing their projects further and other work coming through as a result of the R&D programme. Analysis indicates that the economic benefits through R&D alone could generate indicative future returns of £15.4 million NPV (net present value) over 10 years. Though only indicative, this illustrates the potential for UNBOXED to continue to generate additional economic impact with no further cost investment, once the programme has formally concluded, including through legacy activities.

Survey data indicates that UNBOXED may increase future engagement in similar events. 84% of attendees surveyed at events said they were likely or very likely to participate or engage in more arts and cultural activities, or had done so already, following attendance at an UNBOXED event. This outcome was reported by 91% of surveyed participants and 89% of surveyed teachers (in relation to activity with their classes) who took part in the learning programme.

The UNBOXED programme also supported new collaboration between sectors, across the UK and internationally. In addition to domestic activity, UNBOXED supported international collaboration, with monitoring data evidencing that 94 international partnerships were facilitated through the creative programme and 83 countries interacted through physical and virtual events. In addition more than 10,000 pieces of media coverage raised the profile of UK creativity across the globe.

The programme set out to increase awareness and change perceptions about STEAM sectors and the potential of cross-sector collaboration. 1.7 million young people and families took part in UK-wide learning, volunteer and participation activities linked to UNBOXED projects and the curricula in each of the four nations of the UK. 62,640 individual participants and volunteers were involved in delivering the creative programme across the four nations.

93% of teachers surveyed reported that, following their experience of UNBOXED, they were likely or very likely to participate or engage in more activities with their class that explore the relationship between science and the arts. 95% percent agreed that they had gained new skills or knowledge.

84% of live event attendees and participants surveyed said that seeing 'science, technology, engineering, the arts and maths all work together through UNBOXED has made these subjects more interesting'. Seven out of 10 (70%) live event attendees surveyed felt that the experience had opened their minds to new ideas and ways of thinking. 96% of teachers surveyed also reported that participating in the programme had a positive impact on the way they felt about the importance of creativity to the advancement of STEAM.

UNBOXED set out to support opportunities for the innovative use of technology, from AR, VR and 3D to programming specifically for broadcast and online platforms, which created opportunities for millions of people unable to attend a live event in person to enjoy commission activity. Partners and those involved in developing projects, combining science, technology, engineering and art, also reported benefits. Indicatively, 4 in 5 partners surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that they gained new skills or knowledge through working on UNBOXED and 90% of these agreed or strongly agreed that they expected to put the skills and/or knowledge gained into practice in the next 12 months. Seven out of 10 partners surveyed stated that being part of UNBOXED had inspired them to do more cross-sector and interdisciplinary creative work.

Dame Vikki Heywood DBE, Chair of the UNBOXED: Creativity in UK Board said: "This independent report shows the considerable return in terms of the social and economic benefits delivered through investing in large scale public events that celebrate creativity and innovation. UNBOXED was a highly successful UK-wide programme that invited members of the public to enjoy participative events that celebrated the power of creativity in us all. UNBOXED explored the innovation and synergy between our science, technology, engineering, maths and arts sectors though commissioning ground-breaking projects, investing in talent, and inspiring the next generation. With many legacy activities already underway, I look forward to seeing how UNBOXED projects build on the impact of the programme for years to come."

Phil Batty, Executive Director at UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK, said: "The evaluation shows that as well as an audience of more than 20 million, UNBOXED brought £175.5 million of benefits to the UK in 2022, a figure set to increase due to ongoing activity by the creative teams involved in the programme. This report demonstrates that UNBOXED delivered on its objectives by bringing people together across the UK and increasing public interest in science, technology, engineering, maths, and the arts. I was pleased to see recognised across the evaluation the role that the programme had in contributing to postpandemic recovery, through supporting jobs and paid opportunities, boosting happiness and wellbeing, and supporting the return of live events in 2022."

Stuart Andrew MP, Culture Minister for the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport said: "UNBOXED brought people across the UK together in a celebration of science, the arts and creativity - touching the lives of millions. I am pleased to see that this report shows the positive impact this programme had on individuals, communities and on the recovery of these important sectors from the pandemic."

Beverley Wall, Department for Communities Deputy Secretary for Northern Ireland, said: “The Department has been pleased to support the Northern Ireland commission for Unboxed, and I am delighted that the evaluation of the wider festival echoes the many positive reports that we have already heard from those who took part across Northern Ireland. Innovation and creativity ensure that our sectors grow and thrive, and we saw first-hand how collaboration can enhance that, and also help our communities to engage with new experiences. Bringing together arts, science and technology produced something which magnified the sum of the parts in new and exciting ways. Northern Ireland will enjoy the legacy of the programme for years to come and I hope that all involved will continue to grow and nurture the collaborative networks which have been built across the four nations.

Bridget McConnell CBE, UNBOXED Board Member for Scotland, said: "Through new partnerships and cross-sector collaborations, the unboxed programme has been unique and exciting addition to our cultural landscape, fusing ideas and imagination from across the creative spectrum. Scotland’s contribution to the programme reached right across the country, encouraging communities to take part and think positively about how we can shape a more a sustainable future. This independent report outlines the huge impact that the overarching programme has had on audiences and participants across the country highlighting the multitude of benefits that cultural investment brings to communities. In particular, given UNBOXED was delivered throughout Covid times, it’s fantastic to see how the programme supported new jobs and paid opportunities cross-sector during a time of great need, and that the programme impacted so positively on the wellbeing and experiences of those that took part."

Dawn Bowden, Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, Welsh Government, said: "I was delighted to take part in many events associated with UNBOXED in Wales, which was an exciting celebration of creativity, based on co-creating, and involving diverse communities right across the country and I’m pleased to see that the report shows the positive impact delivered by the project throughout the UK."


The evaluation report can be downloaded from: www.unboxed2022.uk/evaluation

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Calvert: ccalvert@brunswickgroup.com / 07587 037 263
Ben McKnight: benmcknight2023@gmail.com / 07716 778 850

Notes to Editors

  1. UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK was an unprecedented programme of 10 large-scale commissions, the majority of which were delivered between March and November 2022 across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
  2. It was funded by all four UK Governments: the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), the Northern Ireland Executive, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government, and co-commissioned and delivered in partnership with Belfast City Council, EventScotland and Creative Wales.
  3. The impact and economic evaluation was commissioned in 2021 and undertaken over the course of the UNBOXED programme, which took place across the four nations of the UK in 2022 and included live inperson events, digital activities and creative content specifically commissioned for broadcast, alongside an extensive learning and participation programme.
  4. UNBOXED was designed to bring people together across the UK to experience the programme in a variety of ways. It included live events and opportunities to participate, alongside cutting edge digital cultural programming and content specifically commissioned for broadcast. This was crucial to a programme that set out to reach audiences in different ways, and to reach people across the UK living in places that are often underserved by major events and cultural investment. Several projects tested new approaches to digital and broadcast programming.
  5. The programme included a spectacular multimedia journey through 13.8 billion years of life, from the Big Bang to the present day (About Us); a Scotland-wide project mixing food growing and culture aimed at young people and communities to inspire future generations (Dandelion); an immersive artwork and research project investigating the human mind (Dreamachine); a conversation with Wales 30 years in the future that combined digital, broadcast and live activity (GALWAD: A story from our future); thousands of people creating public artworks at 20 landscapes across the UK (Green Space Dark Skies); the solar system recreated as a 10 kilometre sculpture trail (Our Place in Space); a city centre super garden inspired by the diversity of the UK's plant life and population (PoliNations); a decommissioned North Sea offshore gas platform transformed into a vast art installation that explored reuse and sustainability (SEE MONSTER); new developments in AR, VR and 3D technology to bring innovative, immersive storytelling to life (StoryTrails); and a multi-event project across England inspired by the moon that funded new opportunities for young and emerging creatives (Tour de Moon).
  6. The 10 commissioned projects were developed following an open call for original ideas in September 2020. This generated 299 submissions, involving almost 3,000 individuals and organisations drawn from across science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM). 30 project teams were selected from the submissions to take part in a pioneering, funded three-month research and development programme, which ran from November 2020 to January 2021. The R&D programme was built around collaboration between creatives from different sectors and involved over 500 creatives from across the UK, including more than 100 freelancers, at a time when sectors were affected by the Covid lockdown. A final rigorous assessment process, involving representatives from the four nations, resulted in 10 projects being selected to be commissioned for what would become UNBOXED.
  7. All UNBOXED events and activities were free, with the majority taking place amongst communities outside major metropolitan areas across the four nations of the UK, many less well served by major cultural investment. Amongst thousands of activities, live events took place in 107 towns, cities and rural locations, from the Outer Hebrides to the Chilterns and Omagh to Swansea. Some projects were designed primarily to be experienced digitally and through broadcast channels.
  8. The UNBOXED creative engagement programme drew together the work of the 10 commissions to create a wide range of learning, participation, and international activities.

    .7 million young people and families across the UK took part in the free, learning and public participation programme linked to the commissions and showcasing collaboration across science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM). Designed by educators, teachers, technicians and artists with a wealth of experience in STEAM, the learning programme offered a range of resources, which are still available, plus live online classrooms, presentations and visits to projects, to stimulate young people’s creative thinking, encourage global citizenship and develop the skills they will need for the future of work. With a focus on engineering, design, scientific research and technological innovation, including AR and artistic work, activities and resources were aligned to the curricula of the four nations of the UK.

    The UNBOXED Young Ambassadors programme aimed to give diverse young creatives and freelance practitioners access to their chosen industry, networks, and to develop the talent pipeline by encouraging more young people to consider a career in STEAM sectors. Development opportunities included bespoke training, mentoring and networking events. More than 6,000 jobs and paid development opportunities were supported at a critical time for sectors badly affected by the impact of Covid.
  9. The UNBOXED international programme connected with over 85 countries, forging new cultural collaborations and shared experiences to highlight UK creativity, many of which continue beyond 2022. It brought together a global community of researchers and practitioners to further vital conversations about the role of collective creativity and innovation in building better futures.

    The British Council supported UNBOXED to develop international networks, working with local artists around the world and enabling direct collaborations between UNBOXED commissions and creatives and organisations in 23 countries. The British Council partnership supported two inbound delegations with participants from 20 countries to see commissioned projects in the UK and exchange ideas. As a result of seed funding, various international programmes and collaborative projects will take place in 2023 for individuals working across the creative sectors in Malaysia, Brazil, Egypt, Vietnam, and Africa. UNBOXED was also represented at overseas events, including SXSW in the USA and MONDIACULT in Mexico.

    The RSA’s Collective Futures Programme involved individuals around the world and has collated all the research conducted with UNBOXED. There will be continuing opportunities to get involved, including engaging with the Collective Futures exploratory space, attending global conversations and events.

    The international networks established across the programme have created opportunities for skills development and collaboration between organisations and creative practitioners in the UK and overseas. The commissions have highlighted the UK as a hub of creative innovation and will go on to exchange and share best practice in future projects around the world.



1 UNBOXED used a broad geography to articulate the total of 107 locations across the programme. Several commissions undertook activity in close proximity to one another and numerous activities taking place across a single location or postcode area (including surrounding suburbs, villages and towns) have been represented as one of the 107 locations. In addition, the locations of schools taking part in the learning programme and additional community activities are not included in this figure. The total number of unique locations may vary from this representation, for example when including all schools or community event locations, or in reporting per commissioned project

2 This includes economic benefits in the form of gross value added and monetised social and cultural benefits.

3 Findings are based on representative surveys of attendees, participants, partners, and teachers. In total approximately 7,700 surveys were conducted across the programme, a statistically significant sample size for programme-level analysis.

4 GVA estimates include direct, indirect and induced impacts. Direct economic impacts arise as a result of the direct activity or spending; Indirect economic impacts arise as a result of spending with suppliers, and the subsequent activity through the broader supply chain. Induced economic impacts are generated as a result of the spending of wages in the UK economy by those directly and indirectly employed as a result of the initial spending.