Memo February 1999

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A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in February 1999

Dear Daniela, Dorota, Eva, Katrin, Oskar and Vesna,

Now that our web site is functioning, my monthly circulars need not be all-inclusive. I hope you have the opportunity to check the site from time to time. We update it practically every working day. Not that there are so many achievements or news; as we are beginners in editing an Internet site, most of the modifications are indeed corrections of earlier errors. Yet we hope you appreciate the result. Zita arranged for a nice BO logo and Aniko does her best to apply it to the home page this week.

I admit I am not satisfied with the speed of the Best Practices project. Also, the first and only sample on the site is a bit too lengthy, formal and will need more figures. We are working on that, under the pretext of updating the profile with 2000 data. I thank for the new proposals some of you sent and beg for more.

Our energies were taken up by technical things in February: learning to edit the web-site, preparing for the two spring meetings, arrangement for the replacement of Zita while she is on practice at Unesco, Paris. (Yes, for the whole of March.) Less energy remained for other projects. It is a shame, how few answers we have up to now from our region in the Arm's length collection.

BO was present at the seminar organised by Oskar in Bratislava on 17 February. I hope he was satisfied with the contributions of the two gentlemen from Budapest. They returned with useful and nice booklets written and published by Oskar's institution.

There is one point where urgent assistance is needed. We have limited funds to invite foreign participants to the April conference on regional and cultural development. (See the site for more!) Just now we received the letter from the Hungarian cultural ministry in which they offered to co-finance participants from six countries: Croatia, Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. In order not to lose that money, we must have candidates from all these places. Co-financing means that the ministry expects the visitor to cover travel costs. (If necessary, BO can help.) The candidate should be interested in the relationship of regional planning and culture but not necessary specialising in them. No contributions are expected - you remember how the conference went last year. An important criterion is: he or she should promise to reply BO e-mails from time to time. Daniela and (hopefully) Oskar are coming, please advise about possible participants from the remaining countries. Or from other parts of the region.

Since two of you are coming in March, we are not going to have a full steering team meeting in April. Instead, we shall indeed have an English language round-table on the topic of the conference on the second day. Of course, I shall watch out for possible BO projects during that meeting, too.

Yes, Dorota and Vesna agreed to attend the March seminar on culture in the EU. Thanks to the organisers of the Budapest Spring Festival, three more participants can come: the director of the Timisoara theatre (Romania), a lady from the Estonian Cultural Fund (her contribution can be read on our site) and another lady from Croatia (would-be author of a best practice case-study).

There is a preliminary agreement with the Osterreichisches Sudostinstitut about preparing a small joint seminar in autumn. Suggestions needed on the theme. So far the following emerged: the state of quality (art) cinemas, the legal status and management techniques of cultural institutions, the situation of cultural management training, all these of course with reference to East-Central Europe. Advice? 

Now we have confirmation from the Council of Europe about their interest in the project on tax incentives. A group of young lawyers are involved in it in Budapest. We shall soon see how far we get without field contributors.

There seems to be some promising activity around Circle. Communication is continuous, the site is kept up to date; I hope this will help in our networking efforts, too.

Also, contacts with various Soros institutions in Budapest seem to contribute to the same end.

All in all, Unesco has remained the most solid supporter of BO so far. Although there is still no written commitment, we are confident in receiving funds from both its regular and participation programmes.

Time is approaching when the attention of other cultural ministries than the one in Budapest can also be called to the potentials of BO. It is largely up to you.

Looking forward to meeting you in March or April.