Memo July 2005


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in July 2005

Deadlines are more powerful than the desire to go on vacation.

Inclusive Europe? Horizon 2020
It needs little explanation why it was recently decided to put a question mark in the middle of the title of the European cultural forum to be held in November. Preparations can be followed here; you can receive e-mailed updates from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The soul lingers on
As is widely known, this string of conferences of European culture ministers began in Berlin, where (among others) the new commissioner for culture made his first public appearance. The motto of the event, borrowed from Jacques Delors, made an impact on him. See what he said to members of the European Economic and Social Committee in July:

"Commissioner Figel' claimed that culture is a necessity for the success of the European project: ‘Culture is the soul of Europe. On culture, we need credible and committed action. Culture is not just for Sundays, it's not just for some' he claimed."

Holding conferences of ministers of culture used to be habitual with the Council of Europe. In fact, there was one in Budapest nine years ago, and the last one was held in Opatija in 2003.

In a friendly letter from Strasbourg, we were advised that on an early occasion (in Athens, in 1978) ministers decided to set up a European Cultural Charter. Later (in Berlin, in 1984) they felt contented with adopting a Declaration on Cultural Objectives. This comes closest to a valid European Cultural Charter. Has it had any effect? Lessons of the past make BO careful about toiling for the next charter.

Creative capital
During the final phase of its edition, the BO co-ordinated team that works on the Budapest bid for European Cultural Capital in 2010 decided to put creative urban development for a livable city into the centre of the proposal. Thereby the main stress has been shifted from water and the Danube, which were in the focus of the earlier version.

The principal developments and the events will (hopefully, if the city wins) be concentrated around the magnificent riverside, their two peaks being the regeneration of a gas factory site in the north and the river port public warehouses in the south, with substantial cultural loading.

Diverse capital
Some voices question the notion of multiculturalism these days. Others keep searching for ways how multiculturalism can best be capitalised on.

We acted a bit like what the Comedia team does (consulted a propos creative cities) who "try to find out the extent to which the growing cultural diversity of certain cities is, or might become, a source of creativity, innovation and ultimately competitive advantage". Having examined Budapest, BO team was able to put little of the Comedia expectations into the draft report submitted for the Circle co-ordinated survey about multicultural co-operation in European cities. Although the urban landscape has been coloured by recent migration also in east-central Europe, official - and rather low key - concern about diversity is still focusing historical minorities, including the Roma.

Capital wisdom
People with the common fixation of comparing cultural phenomena across borders came together in Amsterdam at the beginning of the month, including BO. As usual, the authors of the Compendium collection solved a number of common methodological problems. And as usual, they were made to remember the ancient wisdom, this time expressed by Otto from Vienna, that the more information we collect, the more new questions arise about their value.

Behavioural inequality
Here is a piece that cries for equivalent indices from other countries. The analysis of the recent national survey of cultural habits of Hungarian adults shows that the top fifth (by cultural activeness) of the population consumes more than 200 times as much as the bottom fifth. By consuming culture instances of visiting a theatre, cinema, cultural centre etc., reading a book was meant, based on the responses given to the interviewers. 

  Instances of cultural activity per person, per year
Top fifth 65.8
2nd 21.2
3rd 10.1
4th 3.9
Bottom fifth 0.3
Average by person 20.4