The global outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic sent Ireland into lockdown in March 2020 and saw all cultural activity ground to a halt. The pandemic turned everything on its head and disrupted our cultural norms. Despite all the challenges, and with the help of technology, we’ve seen a breaking down of geographical barriers enabling access to arts and culture in ways we could never have imagined 15 months ago. This report examines one such example.

In January 2021, The Approach by Mark O’Rowe, starring Cathy Belton, Derbhle Crotty and Aisling O’Sullivan, was broadcast live from Project Arts Centre in Dublin.

Presented by Landmark Productions, in partnership with Project Arts Centre and St Ann’s Warehouse in New York, The Approach saw audiences tune in from all over Ireland and around the world.

It was presented with the support of the Arts Council of Ireland and Culture Ireland. The live broadcasts of The Approach took place on 21, 23 and 24 January, 2021 and were available to watch on demand from 24-31 January.

This research report was commissioned by Project Arts Centre and funded through the Arts Council’s Capacity Building Support Scheme. It set out to understand the opportunities, impact and reach of digital theatre and was based on the live broadcasts of The Approach.

Project Arts Centre is grateful to audience members who shared their experiences and offered feedback through interviews and comprehensive online surveys. Special thanks to Anne Clarke of Landmark Productions who facilitated this research through the presentation of The Approach.


For those of us working at Project Arts Centre, the changes of the last 15 months have provided us with an opportunity to think more deeply about our vital role as a place where artists and audiences come together.

While It has been heartening to see the outpouring of support for our organisation from our many, varied audiences, we miss being able to welcome them back to our building in their usual numbers. Project has worked to engage our audiences in lots of different ways over the last 15 months, and this presentation of Mark O’Rowe’s The Approach, with Landmark Productions and St Ann’s Warehouse in New York, was a major highlight. It has been incredibly useful to have had the opportunity, thanks to support from the Arts Council, to engage Sinead McPhillips in a detailed research project with the audiences for this work.

This production was presented in a very specific time and context (January 2021). We learned a huge amount about how our audiences have been impacted by the pandemic, how we need to build capacity to grow and diversify our audiences, and how projects like this have created opportunities for access by audiences who cannot attend our venue on a regular basis. As we develop a new 5-year plan (2022-2026) and launch a new policy, Working Towards Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, this research will be vital in setting new standards for how we engage with our audiences in innovative ways. It will inform how we develop and communicate our programme, and how we connect a greater number of people with the fantastic artists who make their work in and around the Big Blue Building.

Cian O’Brien, Artistic Director, Project Arts Centre


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