Memo March 2004


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in March 2004


Sitting at your PC and doing some interesting work is nice. Discussing the same work at a meeting with smart colleagues in a foreign city is even nicer. This has happened to BO twice in March.

BO is proud to be an active part of one undertaking that has manifested real sustainable development in the past decade. We were guests of the German foreign ministry between 11-12 March in the former headquarters of Erich Honecker and party. Researchers of European cultural policies held methodological discussion over the Compendium, a complex comparative project - comprende?

Here it says: "LAF-UNESCO meeting, London, 17-18 March. Over forty representatives of literature institutes and organisations from Europe and other continents engaged in the international promotion of literature and support for literary translation met to discuss future cooperation."

BO is trying hard to contribute, by observing facts and trends, as a LAF partner.

Frequent travellers
From the flux of data presented in London, those in the room seemed to watch the most eagerly the list of publishing houses that have won EU translation grants every single year since 1999. None of the presses from east and central Europe have so far been able to come close to such consistency in bidding and winning.

BO intends to look beyond figures, and observe the contents of projects as well. Eyebrows ran high at the mentioning of community contribution to the success of Harry Potter by subsidising translations in at least two countries in 1999.

Cultural citizenship
Undoubtedly more significant event than those mentioned above, was the disclosure of the first outline of the cultural actions of the European Union after 2007. There will be great many opportunities for great many observations and suggestions on that document. If, as a first step, BO is asked to comment on the brief resume the Commission made on the day of the release, the first reaction is that of approval.

Past stories of cultural investment
A recurring remark at gatherings on financing European culture is that the direct EU actions are less powerful than the potentials in the structural and related funds. References tended to be anecdotic and evasive (here is a fine exception).

There is an enormous data bank now to chew on. We have learned through EFAH about a collection that the Commission made available on what was spent on culture-related develoment projects between 1994-1996. No mistake, ten-year-old data is that we are rejoicing over.

Anyway, at last one can find out about facts. Hoping that past century information of the 15 old members will help interested people in the new member countries, who search for the key to get community money to cultural investments in the next few years. BO promises to try. We can read French -the language of this collection.

Fast is beautiful
BO has certain understanding for the Commission's slow reactions. We enjoy the difference. Not being bound by the enormous responsibility of a multinational bureaucracy, BO can afford the pleasure of allowing you to peep into our pot during cooking. The analysis of C2000 grants in the first four years has been updated and complemented. "Updating" is a euphemism for correcting errors by re-calculating all tables. If you have quoted exact figures from C2000 with eastern eyes better check. However, no change in merit.

Faster would be more beautiful
BO yearns for someone to buy us more time to spend on such analyses. Our computers badly need upgrading. The one culture ministry that gave some help in 2003 appears to have second thoughts this year. BO feels like two businessmen on the New York pavement after their latest bankruptcy: "All that remains to us is our nice Hungarian accent."

P.S. Daniela has no Hungarian accent. And BO is confident about public acknowledgment - also in cash.

Flag-bearer Poles
However, BO went on evolving examinations - which will be complemented with the 2004 results, instantly as they are disclosed. We have lately focused on the dynamics of bi- and multilateral co-operation in the frames of Culture 2000. A cluster of four east and central European countries have been identified, whose organisations participated jointly in higher number of projects than any other combination. BO was divided about the interpretation. Is it a sign of introvert search for security or a happy symptom of regional cohesion? Probably both.

Have you guessed the foursome? Would you bet on the Visegrad quadriga? Wrong: cultural operators from Poland and the three Baltic republics were the most frequent combination, in five projects. The next most frequent cluster, too, included Poland with Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia, three times.

These will be added to the mapping of C2000 operators soon.

Creative Britons
In addition to their unjust advantage of talking the language of the leading culture of our civilisation, Britons are also innovative in cultural policies. The concept that has had the greatest impact lately is that of creative industries, a smart re-definition of the cultural sector, originating from the UK. Already in August, mention was made about the fertility of the idea; lately news came from a similar initiative in Lithuania, the Creating cultural capital programme of the Council of Europe has genetic links and BO has spent some good time exploring a related British site.

Opportunity to be trained
If you are a resident of an accession country, interested in the economics of culture and bear summer in Spain, may ask for further information This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.%20">here.

Never too late
Register for the April Informal European Theatre Meeting in Budapest, also for the working groups. C2000 has created great interest among early birds; you may discuss the fate of smaller languages, compare various theatrical models, the parallel theatre systems in east-central Europe and more.