Memo July 2008


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in July 2008

BO keeps observing cultural phenomena (under east European eyes) in the middle of summer, too.


Our other channel
Controversy about cultural travel grants in Estonia, legislation for or against illegal traficking of heritage in Bulgaria, Jewish resentment about the capital of culture plans in Lithuania, critical summation about the theatre season in Moldova – BO keeps hunting for euronews like these for you.

Keeping abreast with a growing list
Mankind is going mad about labelling, awarding and listing. This should please documentary instincts like BO, but often the contrary  happens. The world heritage list website (and system), however, has impressed BO – certainly no gaudy Guiness hall of fame.

In July, 27 sites were added to the list. From our region two: the Stari Grad Plain in Croatia and wooden churches in Slovakia. Three in fact, as the Albanian city of Berat is attached to Gjirokastra, which was “inscribed” three years ago. The two are dozens of kilometres apart. The number of such multipole sites is increasing. The 2500 kilometer long chain of markings – crosses, obelisks etc – forming the Struve Arc is one of the strangest.

About every tenth of the 878 items on the world heritage list are situated in our region, at least one in each country. Most of them are built heritage monuments, from the antiquity up to the previous fin-de-siècle. There are two modern 20th century memorials, in Silesia and Moravia (besides the tragic Holocaust memento).

World heritage, European capitals of culture
What is common? Both titles have ever increasing prestige and marketing value, without sizable funding from the nominating international organisation. The capitals of culture have also broken loose from the single site formula, think of Luxembourg et grande region and Ruhr.2010. Unesco has apparently managed to make a sustainable live project from the 1972 initiative with a broad scale of activities. The 13 years younger ECOC has much to learn from it.

El este es diferente
Inhabitants of East-European countries embarrassed us  in the previous memo by not offering any peculiar pattern in a certain case. The latest Eurobarometer poll proves that we are still different. Almost 40% of Europeans are willing to pay higher taxes for the common good. From the east, Estonians and Czechs are a bit more willing than the average, the rest, however, are less eager. Poles, Latvians and Slovaks are eagerly against.



Disbelief in intercultural harmony
Yet our region has its own internal differences, too. According to the same poll, in the five countries that used to be entirely inside the Austro-Hungarian empire, nearly half the population is sceptical about arriving at harmonious relations between people from different cultural or religious backgrounds and nationalities inside their countries. Their gloom is matched by – the UK! The remaining six eastern countries, despite their own inherited conflicts, are way more optimistic.



Low cost concert swapping
BO took part in the mapping exercise co-ordinated by Ericarts to highlight attractive examples – “best practices”, if you wish – for cultural mobility. The longer we examined our chosen case the more appealing it appeared to us.  HungaroConnections is a user friendly project that targets a genre that cultural policies do not habitually favour.

Literary translation grants 2007
The two infodays of the executive agency for EU cultural grants testified about ambitions to serve us better. Progress is apparent, growing more informative year by year, judged by the announcements on the literary translation grants in 2006 and 2007.

By showing more, the agency exposes itself to scrutiny, and unsolicited recommendations. Find BO recommendations based on the scrutiny:

·         Decision should remain based on subjective peer reviewing. Delimited, however, by a few principles:

·         Languages (not countries) should be divided into 3-5 priority categories, along the number of speakers (readers) and titles per year. English must be a category of its own.

·         Change paradigm: source language should weight more than target language. Today Culture 2007 grants help the supply of small markets. In the future the main emphasis must be put on helping isolated literatures’ access to mainstreams. Therefore translating into English also needs to be encouraged, the opposite direction should be discouraged.

·         Culture swapping should remain a goal, helping translate from lesser spread to lesser spread languages.

Before you want to check how these relate to the recommendations drawn from the final external evaluation of the Culture 2000 programme (2000-2006), don’t waste your time. There is almost nothing about the translation programme, and certainly no opinion. (That evaluation will be revisited.)

Luxembourg, Sibiu, 2007
The Palmer-Rae report, which has been the bible of the ever increasing herd of students of European capitals of culture, has received a serious contender. The scope of the final report to Luxembourg 2007 extends that city and year in many ways. Greg and party started systematic monitoring two years before 2007 and kept interviewing visitors at venues, and organisers behind the scene till early this year. The report pays special attention to the twin cultural capital Sibiu 2007, on which a separate report has also been published. The analysis approaches from various angles, uses inquisitive questions, reveals critical issues, very different from the common apologetic success report. This is how it convinces BO that Luxembourg (and Sibiu) 2007 were basically successful.

The next graph exemplifies the peculiarities of comparing the conditions of the cities involved.