Memo April 2006

A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in April 2006
I know it is no longer April. This memo needed more time to put together than usual.

How to detect diversity and interculturalism?
The annual editorial workshop of the authors of the Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe took place in the middle of April in Budapest - not hosted by BO, but with our participation. Credit should go to the Council of Europe for not hiding behind the smoke screen of subsidiarity and for running a project that highlights, compares and thus indirectly assesses national cultural policies in Europe. One sees no real (legal) obstacle against why the EU should not spend on similar enterprises.

Not only the nearly 40 countries are different, so are the authors of their profiles. This year's task was to reach an (editorial) consensus about presenting the follow-up of two recent international documents on diversity in cultural expression (Unesco) and intercultural dialogue (Council of Europe, Opatija). The political consensus about these two concepts has made it only a bit simpler to grasp their concrete meaning. How to detect them in national cultural policies? Or how to „measure" their impact? The next updates of the national chapters will tell whether the authors succeed.

Credit should go to EricArts for the work that they have invested in preparing the discussion of these vague fields.

A white spot in the middle of Europe
BO was astonished in the previous memo about the absence of a Czech or a Slovak researcher among speakers of the 4th International Conference on Cultural Policy Research next summer. Add BO astonishment about the absence of a Czech or Slovak national cultural policy profile in the Compendium.

A bright spot in Slovakia
An energetic lady sees to it that Slovakia should be on the map of cultural policies in Europe. On the 11th of April a hall in Bratislava was packed with cultural operators of the country, who listened to and discussed the theory and practice of the arm's length principle in the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom, presented by high level representatives from those places. BO was present, telling about the case in east and central Europe in general, and Hungary in particular.

The Commission spends
If not on cultural policies, what does the European Commission spend on?

The (probably) most successful cultural project of the Union, the European Capitals of Culture gets a tiny bit only: "financial assistance ranges from € 200 000 to one million per project."

April saw two examples on where else the money goes.

"€ 500 000 is intended to finance the organisation of cross-border venues in Augsburg, Salzburg and Vienna and to highlight the importance of Mozart's work for music and European culture". One cannot find many cities that are better off in Europe than these three; or a cultural icon that is marketable easier than Mozart.

"€ 1 000 000 is intended, at the time of the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, to finance the preparation and organisation of an exhibition tracing the history of European integration which will be held in Brussels ..."

The call emphasises that there will be a single beneficiary only. What was on the mind of the decision makers when they prepared, voted on and announced this call? Who believes that serious businesses and organisations will set to pulling together a bid for a one million project within a few weeks on the basis of the available information? Without awards offered for the second, third etc seated concepts...

BO expects precious little from the exhibition. For BO it is indifferent who the creator will be. BO would trust anybody that the Commission named upfront. With this procedure, however, much of the trust is gone. In this context the pedantic listing of the 25 countries from where candidates are eligible is silly and/or cynical. Excuse my language. You may This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to us your confidential guess about the single beneficiary: if many of you send the same name, BO can be of considerable help to the selection board.

Essen - Pécs - Istanbul
The German authorities had invited the EU panel for the European capitals of culture in 2010 to make the final choice between Essen and Görlitz. "After an exhaustive debate the panel reached a firm consensus to recommend Essen for the title, given the innovative character of the project". It was not a price competition: Essen offered to spend much less (€ 78 000 000) on the event than Görlitz. (Pécs is offering € 141 million, plus perhaps € 36 million - this is not clear in the report.)

The selection of Istanbul has made Dragan's report about that city's cultural prospects even more timely and topical.  

Eastern sound of music
In the previous memo BO complained about the less than proportionate representation of musicians from the east in the European Youth Orchestra. The latest round of recruitment has improved the balance: 21 out of the 132 members will be from our region.

Two British items
BO has brooded on the unfair advantage that the British enjoy because of their language.  Nevertheless we close this memo by pointing at two remarkable items from the British pool of cultural policy actions.

One is a publication on how differently culture is looked upon by cultural professionals, politicians and the public - and how to treat this situation. The other is a conference on creative industries, the cult term of our days. You can take your time for reading Cultural Value and the Crisis of Legitimacy by John Holden. However, the Creative Clusters meeting has a 22 May deadline for submitting papers.