“A good story to tell the next day”

How Late at Tate is changing perceptions of a gallery visit for young people.

Sabine Doolin, Audience Research & Insight Manager at Tate, reviews findings from audience research of Late at Tate.

In 2015 we ran six events and conducted audience research[i] to find out who is coming and to better understand the before, during and after of a visit to Late at Tate.

Part 2:

Before the event – drivers to visit

Word-of-mouth is the most dominant source of information. Talking with young people we found the key drivers to spreading word-of-mouth to be: Relevance in terms of look/style as well as where they find information is the starting point; a combination of clear facts yet intriguing information, something new yet with the credibility of a familiar brand generates interest; and uniqueness induces a “fear of missing out” and makes the spreader of word-of-mouth look interesting.

It is fear of missing out is that will get people there, you don’t want to be the one to miss out and see people going to it and then think ‘oh why did I not go to it’.


“Something exclusive, because then you feel you are the carrier of good news… the limited time, this is the only night.”

“Another thing would be credibility because it is a late evening but it is still Tate, there is weight behind, it is legitimate, it is not an art gallery in the corner you have never heard about.”

In our communication, the programme and images of young people speak for themselves and provide authenticity, this makes more explicit explanations redundant. Including an age range in communication (e.g. “18-25”) was considered okay, a line such as “by young people for young people” divided opinions, for some it added relevance for others it sounded patronising. That the programme was by Tate Collective was interesting though required more explanation as not everyone is aware what Tate Collective is. Appealing design is playful, informal and needs to be eye-catching to cut through, rather than appearing too perfect.

Uniqueness that promises a good story to tell drives a visit. Intrigue and uniqueness is key to turn interest into an actual visit. Visitors told us they are looking for live or one-off moments – something they can only experience now (“If it’s always there I wouldn’t go”). Curiosity is also part of the deal, they want to be surprised when they are there. Something interesting to do, to be seen doing and to tell others about is also a key trigger, relating to young people shaping their identity.

Almost part of going out at night is having a good story to tell the next day. So you can say ‘oh I went to the pub like everyone else or I went to a night at the museum’.


The programme and the free entry then close the decision to attend. “The mixture of art, music, film and activities” is a key reason to attend, in particular for those who initiated the visit. This is followed by “my friends going”, in particular for those who are on a visit initiated by others, and “the art exhibition/free displays on show”. Live music is also a draw. Experiencing art while socialising in a museum and the opportunity to be in the gallery after opening hours encouraged attendance and is often perceived as novelty. Opportunity to project a positive personal image was a key driver and that the event was free.

“The overall experience it promised… the whole package… had live performances, it was a proper event, you could see this is going to happen here, this there… I like this creative energy and going past paintings, the live aspect, also the opportunity to meet people, networking in a socialising manner it was cool.”


[i] The research was conducted by Sphere Insights (Angela Diakopoulou) using a mixed quantitative and qualitative methodology with 824 face-to-face surveys at the events, 30 in-depth friendship group interviews, one focus group and several depth telephone interviews.

Images copyright Dan Weill