Memo March 2010


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in March 2010

We found spring everywhere, from Pécs to Barcelona.


Recontre de Pécs

BO attended the Rencontre de Pécs, the nice Hungarian city of 156 000 that shares the cultural capital title with twelve million Istanbullus and five million strong Ruhr2010. It has other challenges, too: delays in practically all constructions connected to the cultural capital, including the four lane motorway from Budapest (and Ferihegy airport). What Pécs can offer is more intimacy.

For BO two of the conference highlights were Emmanuel’s comprehensive landscape about the effects of crisis on culture, as well as Anne calling attention to Eleonora’s important paper on lack of conceptual rigour in cultural policy – on bullshit.


Operational grant

In March, BO found itself in a winning team, a Deusto University-led “policy analysis grouping”, which is one of Encatc’s seven working groups. The subject is cultural observatories and cultural information and knowledge, harmonisation and improvement of observatory methods.

Support comes from Strand 2 of the EU Culture Programme, a unique scheme that contributes to operating costs of the beneficiary organisations (and not just to their “projects”).

Three more organisations won the same from the Commission, one of them distinguished BO partner. (In fact each winner is based in the richest corners of western Europe, just like the five organisations a year earlier. The one based in a Swedish county got maximum financial support on both occasions.)


Statistical framework

While working on observatory know-how, the team will digest the 100-page Unesco framework for cultural statistics (FCS). This work reflects the complexity of culture, incorporating various classification systems for cultural products, services, activities, jobs etc. The basic structure contains six headings (from heritage through arts to design), four transversal domains (from education to archiving), and two related domains (sports and tourism). And much more.

International statistics usually cannot handle our “houses of culture”. BO tested FCS. Take an average city in eastern Europe – e.g. Słupsk in Pomerania (German name Stolp). The 2010 cultural budget is 14,3 million zloty. 18,6% of it serves two centres of culture (one for youth and one for all).

·         In the international classification of activities for time-use statistics (ICATUS) “attendance in meetings, participating in community social functions, accompanying adults to social activities come closest.

·         In the international standard classification of occupations (ISCO) of the International Labour Organisation “cultural centre managers” figure in the Dissemination branch of Sports & Recreation.

Jobs and activities identified, albeit awkwardly, but not yet the slot for the 18,6% of the cultural budget of Słupsk. Animation of local community culture still needs recognition.


Rate of success

The agency that administers EU cultural funding has displayed statistics about applicants and winners in 2008. Warning: on this chart the submitting organisations appear only, without the hundreds of co-organisers. Left column: number of applications, right column: winners of grants.



Just as BO found in the previous seven years, Italians are the most assiduous applicants: their 189 applications are five more than what was sent from altogether 13 countries in the east. On the other hand, the Italian failure rate was exceeded by Spain only (5.7 and 6.1). A rate of 1.0 was achieved by sober Estonians only: one application – one grant.


Heritage and festivals

In a mansion that is being revitalised by descendants of the pre-communism owners, the economy of heritage was discussed at a conference. BO conferred about the place of built heritage in festivals – drawing from our data pool on festivals in Hungary.


Industrious forum

In a larger mansion, the European Forum on Cultural Industries took place. Participants included ministers of culture and high representatives of the European Commission. Time was divided roughly equally between the position of cultural industries (and the creative sector) on the one hand, and intellectual property issues on the other. (Apropos the latter, meet the global anti-piracy observatorium.)

Fabulous figures were quoted about the ascent of cultural industries and the creative sector (rarely distinguishing between the two), and we were even warned of mainstreaming too fast. BO found no trace, however, of this breakthrough in the latest top EU documents on industrial competitiveness or on the effects of the crisis, not to speak of the draft 2020 strategy: “creative” sometimes, “cultural” never.

The economic potential of culture will be better unfolded – including its catalytic effects on creativity and beyond – through close alliance between the public bodies in charge of culture and the economy – as this happens in some countries. Including Estonia that Ragnar branded in Barcelona as a laboratory for cultural industries policies.  


Support for accession

As much as € 300 000 can be received for groupings of civil society organisations – including those active in culture – coming from three accession countries (Turkey and the western Balkans) plus from one EU country. Deadline – 1 June (practically end of May).