In Your Own Words Cover

“In Your Own Words” – The ESRC/IEN Research Report

Our report finds that more than half of creatives who put on live/location-based immersive experiences are having to self-fund performances

“In Your Own Words” - The ESRC/IEN Research Report

Our research into the UK’s live/location-based immersive experience sector has revealed it is overly dependent on individuals and lacking in development opportunities and access to funding.

The report was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and co-authored by Dr Joanna Bucknall, lecturer in modern and contemporary drama and theatre at the University of Birmingham, and Nicole Jacobus, production and project manager, both Co-founders of the Immersive Experience Network.

The survey results, outlined in our report, show that more than 55% of work in the sector is being funded, at least somewhat, by the creative’s own personal investment. 35% of new pieces of work are funded by the success of previous shows and experiences.

Dr Bucknall commented: “The findings outlined in this report shows the precarious position the UK live immersive experience sector finds itself in. The sector is overly dependent on individuals in the industry for funding, job opportunities and talent recruitment.

“We also discovered that there is a tendency for those working in the immersive experience space to do multiple jobs. As within the arts, freelancers are depended on heavily to do just about everything, often all at the same time. If the immersive performance sector is to continue to grow in the UK, then it is crucial that the industry makes the sector more accessible for new talent from performers to directors and producers.”

The UK is widely regarded as a world leader when it comes to immersive live experiences and performances. Groups such as Punchdrunk, Immersive Everywhere, Little Lion and Secret Cinema have produced critically and commercially successful shows and experiences, helping to cement the UK’s reputation. But the report shows that funding and finance in the immersive performance space are still lacking.

Dr Bucknall continued: “While it is encouraging that companies and organisations are using profits from successful shows to keep creating, it is a real concern that new shows and experiences are overly dependent on individual creatives having deep enough pockets to invest their own money into projects. Funding is often hard to access, especially for micro and small businesses and those just starting out in the industry.”

The report’s authors argue that for the live immersive experience sector to flourish in the UK action is needed to get more people working in the space, and investment is desperately needed, not just in monetary terms but also in skills development and recognition, and talent recruitment.

Dr Bucknall concluded: “For those operating in the immersive performance space, these findings may not be all that surprising, but what it does is lay bare the lack of resilience in the sector. The UK is lauded for its arts and culture sector all over the world, and immersive experience is a wide-ranging and rapidly expanding area. If we are to capitalize on all the brilliant opportunities and talent that this area of performance can provide, then strategic action needs to be taken, and quickly. The live immersive performance space is currently a house of cards in the arts industry, whereas it should form part of the concrete foundation for the sector.”

Download ESRC Report

Download ESRC Report


Date of article - June 15, 2023
Updated - May 18, 2024
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