The Government’s UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK festival came in under its £120 million budget and generated £175.5m of societal benefits, having engaged an audience of 20.5m across the UK, according to an independent report.

The report conducted by KPMG and commissioned on behalf of the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments along with the Northern Ireland Executive, found the festival cost £103.1m.

KPMG said UNBOXED’s “monetisable benefits”, including money spent in the UK economy and investment in jobs, were worth £175.5m – a net gain of £72.4m to the UK economy. The £175.5m was broken down as £92.3m of total economic impact, £34.3m of local GVA impact from visitor spend and £48.8m of total monetiseable social benefits

UNBOXED consisted of 10 large-scale creative projects (see below) involving a free-to-attend programme of physical events in 107 locations across the UK last year. Among the project leads were executive director Phil Batty OBE and chief creative officer Martin Green CBE.

The KPMG research found that UNBOXED is likely to have an ongoing positive economic impact resulting from creative teams developing their projects further and other work coming through as a result of the R&D programme. The report suggests that the economic benefit from R&D could amount to £15.4m over 10 years.

Batty said, “The evaluation shows that as well as an audience of more than 20 million, UNBOXED brought £175.5m 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 post-pandemic recovery, through supporting jobs and paid opportunities, boosting happiness and wellbeing, and supporting the return of live events in 2022.”

The Unboxed projects

About Us – Produced by 59 Productions, it explored 13.8 billion years of history using projection mapping technology incorporating poetry and music performed by live choirs.

Dandelion – Produced by Dandelion Collective and commissioned by EventScotland. A Scotland-wide project inspired by the global ‘grow-your-own’ movement. It featured vertical farms, free music festivals and plant giveaways.

Dreamachine – Produced by Collective Act. Presented in the UK’s capital cities, it was an “artwork experienced with your eyes closed that unlocks the power of the human mind”.

GALWAD: A Story from our Future – Produced by Collective Cymru. A transmedia experience that saw Wales propelled thirty years into the future, commissioned by CreativeWales.

Green Space Dark Skies – Produced by Walk the Plank. Involved 20,000 “lumenators” creating outdoor artworks in 20 of the UK’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Our Place in Space – Produced by Nerve Centre. A 10km sculpture trail scale model of the solar system designed by artist Oliver Jeffers including an interactive augmented reality app, commissioned by Belfast City Council.

PoliNations – Produced by Trigger, it involved giant fabricated trees and thousands of plants across the centre of Birmingham, with the aim of creating a colourful canopy for a festival of live performance including spoken word, music and drag.

See Monster – Produced by Newsubstance, a decommissioned North Sea offshore platform in Weston-super-Mare was transformed into one of the UK’s largest public artworks.

StoryTrails – Produced by StoryFutures, it used new developments in 3D internet technology and augmented and virtual reality to reveal the hidden and forgotten histories across 15 UK towns and cities.

Tour de Moon – Produced by Nelly Ben Studios, it was billed as “a festival of nightlife and countercultures travelling in convoy around England”.