Memo August 2004

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A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in August 2004
If one browses earlier editions of BO Memo (the author does sometimes), rarely finds words that are prominent in this one, like festivals, youth culture etc.

The Palmer Report
BO has become closely engaged in the European Capital of Culture movement. This is why we were looking forward to the disclosure of the evaluation of this European mega-project, enlisted among "other actions" on the culture website of the Union.

The study is huge. So far, BO managed to properly absorb the summary only, which by itself offers a lot of interesting information. Just to quote a few points: with the careful reservation of the authors about the meaning of the word, they found an average of 500 projects by cultural capital. There was a wide range in the number of staff in charge of communication and promotion, between one and forty persons; the same span in financial terms went from 1 to 14 million Euros. The average increase in overnight stays of visitors was considerable, about 12% - the best reported score was double this figure, one cultural capital generating 23% more tourist nights than the year before.

No shaking conclusions or recommendations were expected, indeed there are not such in the study. One remark establishes that the capitals have not really succeeded to make the European dimension a primary focus, and to sufficiently promote European integration and co-operation. How much we try and how little is produced.

Observing festivals
By reading the study, we felt a strange kind of déjá vu, the time of déjá being last week. We passed our proposal to the Hungarian authorities upon their query to us to do research on the cultural festivals in the country. The expectations vis-a-vis this project and the way we are planning to tackle the task, the survey we will conduct, all show great familiarity with those found in the Palmer report. 

Although confined to one country (differently from most BO undertakings), the complexity of the research is a great challenge for us. By January, we are supposed to collect evidences for improvements in the public treatment of cultural festivals. That should affect categorisation, up front and post-evaluation,  assessment of impact etc. Mission impossible, isn't it?

Observing youth culture
BO is associated with hard tasks these days. By now Circle board was hoping to have mailed questions to members in the countries, to guide preparations for this year Round Table conference. The working title is: Whose Culture Is It? Trans-generational Approaches to Culture in Today's Europe.

Would you believe how difficult it is to find the right questions? Report about youth culture in your country. Yes, but how to achieve that responses lend themselves to concrete comparisons and theoretical conclusions...

I hope to have raised curiosity about the final 'questionnaire'. For more, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

Observing BO capacities
A cursory visit to the EU site made BO shiver about one more challenge. Whether to respond to the invitation of the Commission to evaluate Culture 2000, alone or with partners? Naiveté? Little time is left to think, the deadline is 22 October.

Most of you are aware what BO has done in this respect. Some of you will receive Culture 2000 with Eastern Eyes in an envelope, as we are in the middle of posting this publication to a couple of hundred addresses.

August veiled
Our eastern inhibitions are pleasantly soothed whenever detecting minor malfunctions in the developed west. While composing this memo, one could read 'what's new' on the Europa site in the early hours of September, 'what was new' in July and before, but impossible to learn about the previous day and the whole of August. It is mere chance that the call referred to above was not hidden from our (and our readers') eyes. José Manuel, will you look into this matter, por favor?