Professor Ben Walmsley

Professor Ben Walmsley


I am currently the University’s Dean of Cultural Engagement and also Director of the Centre for Cultural Value – a national research centre funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Arts Council England and Paul Hamlyn Foundation, based at the University of Leeds.

As Dean of Cultural Engagement, I oversee the cultural engagement strategy for the University of Leeds, working across the institution and with cultural and policy partners to support and showcase the impact of arts and culture on higher education and communities, and broker collaborations between the University and the arts and cultural sector. I also chair the steering group of the University’s Cultural Institute

As Director of the Centre for Cultural Value, I recently acted as Principal Investigator on an AHRC-funded grant investigating the impacts of Covid-19 on the UK’s cultural industries and on an ESRC project aimed at improving the collection, collation and analysis of cultural sector data. Since 2017 I have led the AHRC-funded International Network for Audience Research in the Performing Arts (iNARPA) and in 2014–15 I was the Principal Investigator on a NESTA/AHRC/Arts Council England funded project Respond – a collaborative project run with Yorkshire Dance and Breakfast Creatives to develop, test and evaluate the impact of a responsive online platform designed to broaden and deepen audience engagement with contemporary dance. In 2013/14, I worked as Co-Investigator on an AHRC-funded project to explore cultural value as a complex system through a case study of the LoveArts Festival in Leeds.

I joined the University of Leeds in 2012 and in my wider School and University roles, I research and lecture in areas related to cultural value and engagement, arts management, arts marketing, audience research and cultural policy, with a particular focus on audience engagement and enrichment, change management in the arts, and cultural value and leadership. From 2018–2021 I was Director of Research and Innovation in the School of Performance and Cultural Industries and from 2015–2018 I was the School’s Director of Postgraduate Research Studies, where I also served on the University’s PGR Exams Committee. In 2014, I was awarded a University Student Education Fellowship to explore the experience of international taught postgraduate students. Prior to this, I worked as Operations Manager and then Producer at the National Theatre of Scotland, before moving to Leeds Metropolitan (Beckett) University as a Senior Lecturer in Arts and Entertainment Management in 2008.

From 2017–2021 I was Co-Editor of the peer reviewed journal Arts and the Market and have published widely on cultural value, arts marketing, arts & entertainment management and cultural policy in a number of leading arts management and cultural policy journals. I edited the acclaimed book Key Issues in the Arts & Entertainment Industry (Goodfellow, 2011) and in October 2019 I published a research monograph on audience engagement for Palgrave Macmillan's new book series, New Directions in Cultural Policy Research.

Beyond the University of Leeds, I am an Expert Advisor to the UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, a Visiting Professor at NUI Galway and at Kedge Business School in France, an Academic Advisor for CultureCase, Chair of Flux, Rotherham’s Creative People and Places programme, and Vice-Chair of Transform theatre festival in Leeds. Between 2010 and 2017, I was engaged as an Artistic Assessor for Arts Council England and from 2017–2019 I was a trustee of The Audience Agency. Since 2014 I have been the Academic Director of the Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy programme, which is now one of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisations. From 2014–2020 I directed the highly acclaimed National Summer School for Arts Fundraising and Leadership and the corresponding PG Cert in Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy. In this role I developed a MOOC for arts and cultural leaders on fundraising and change management. I am currently leading the evaluation of the National Theatre's Theatre Nation Partnerships and Speak Up programmes and the research programme for LEEDS 2023.


  • Director, Centre for Cultural Value

Research interests

My research interests cohere around theories and practices of cultural leadership and audience engagement, and are therefore broadly located within the fields of arts marketing and management and cultural policy. I am particularly interested in the experiences of theatre audiences and the impact that theatre-going has on their lives, as well as how arts and cultural organisations engage with audiences and co-create meaning with them. My other research interests include cultural leadership (especially charismatic and quiet leadership); arts fundraising and philanthropy; organizational behaviour and change management in the arts; and strategic arts management and evaluation. I have published primarily on the audience experience (motivations for and impact of theatre-going) and am fascinated by the roles of flow, ritual and catharsis in the theatre experience.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD
  • MBA
  • BA (Hons) in French and German

Student education

I have taught on a range of programmes across our BA (Hons) Theatre and Performance, MA Culture, Creativity and Entrepreneurship and PG Cert Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy. I was Programme Leader for MA Culture, Creativity and Entrepreneurship from 2012-2015 and for PG Cert Arts Fundraising from 2015-2018.

Research groups and institutes

  • Audience, Engagement & Experience

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>