Memo November 2002


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of The Budapest Observatory (BO) in November 2002

Who can be expected to create, when there is an event on creation each week? November was such a month.

Art councils and other formats
Felt like preaching to the converted. I had been concerned about IFACCA, the world federation of arts councils, to be deemed to the splendid isolation of the Commonwealth, keeping distance from the non-arm's-length formations of public granting to culture. Although it was clear that in a number of important places of our world, the established direct links between administration and cultural operators will be maintained, the reason of which led us to the dilemma of Why? Why not? (Apologies once more.)

Yet by the time my turn came to convince IFACCA board, who kindly summoned BO director to their meeting in Barcelona, they had decided to open their doors wide: all institutionalised forms of public support to culture are invited to exchange ideas, experiences and URL addresses; here's to start with: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Gambling on culture
This year's Circle Round Table was a real success. Bravo Rome and Carla, congratulations Circle.

We went to hear how lottery revolutionarised public cultural finances in the UK and Italy, where these were most visible. And we got surprised by the high rate of countries where culture is being funded from lottery money: 16 out of 29 that sent a report. One of them (Finland) doing so for over 75 years now! The great variance in volumes and mechanisms was also impressive. Keep checking whether the results are on display.

Hungary seemed to be the only odd case, where using lottery money for culture was tried and abandoned recently; we learned on the spot that in Slovakia the same happened as the commissioned entrepreneur went bankrupt.

There is money but...
There is money around for culture but it is rarely spent on culture. One hears this so often but would not expect to be repeatedly pronounced in much-torn Bosnia. (Bosnia-Herzegovina, as always put by themselves.)

Dayton put an end to war, but produced a complicated administrative system, full of contradictions. Who cares, if it works - but the two-day Council of Europe seminar was a good opportunity to reveal the many structural problems, symptoms of waste and inefficiency, which largely stem from the great power social engineering masterpiece. "Elsewhere, you can live without ever meeting a minister. Here, everybody is, was or will be one" - albeit on a cantonal level. 

I am afraid, that instead of stirring up, we left with vested interests and established systems being reinforced.

Beware, Europe is Coming
The Convention and EU Enlargement are creating more and more fever in east and central Europe, including cultural circles. The latest week-end in Ljubljana provided this in strong concentration.

The event was instructive, at times sobering and disillusioning, but on the whole inspiring when thinking about what the convention and enlargement will bring to culture, especially in the eastern half of Europe. You may share the feeling by joining the European Federation for the Arts and Heritage; chairman Dragan is especially concerned by eastern Europe and heritage organisations being under-represented.

Start by visiting

Against hunting?
Typing instead of, takes you to the European Federation Against Hunting, which might not be your primary intention.

Bigger, Better, Beautiful in print
It was astonishing to meet a key speaker of our February conference who had not seen the print version of the report. Anyone wishing to get one will find it This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">here .

At long last
How much is spent on culture from the budget? The simplicity of the question is not always commensurate with the answer. Mark pointed this out in his paper prepared for the conference on cultural statistics in Montreal.

BO missed the event, yet at last we began to disclose what we have done in this area, the analysis of the budgets in Hungary.

Much has been said at the November meetings about identities. BO is not indifferent about the issue, especially when it is about its own.

Mark in the mentioned article quotes a Frenchman, Augustin Girard in explanation of the word ‘observatoire'. These institutions have not been created to rule or control; rather, to observe, monitor, and provide information passively. In Girard's words, "We cannot agree on a center, but we can have an observatory. It is a pleasant name. An observatory is a place of negotiation, of interactivity. It does not deliver judgments." Fine for BO.

BO is no QUANGO - quasi non-governmental organisation. From Eduard we have learned now what we are: a totally autonomous non-governmental organisation - TANGO. Fine for BO, again.