Memo March 2012

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A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in March 2012

A newsletter in fluctuating mood.

Member search

A few more days are left to get at least one culturally engaged member into the steering body (the Policy Learning Platform) of the European Creative Industries Alliance – the deadline of the open call has been extended. The Alliance is a programme of the industry directorate of the European Commission. The creative sector includes culture, and the Alliance covers the cultural industries; nevertheless the deeper you dive among the pages of the website of the programme, or read statements, the less you hope to find any proof of it. Those industry guys accept the approaches of the cultural sector that seeks greater recognition, and are perhaps pleased by them (even offer front page visibility).

The idea behind such alliance is of course great. Not only because the streamlined cultural framework programme promises to keep, even increase its position in the next seven-year budget, but because indeed, the crisis obliges us to unlock the economic potential of culture better than before. The precise effects on the various kinds of cultural jobs and operations still need to be specified more.

Fifteen grants

After all that grumbling here come words of appreciation for the first fifteen grants that have been announced in the frames of the Eastern Partnership programme. The 8.2 million euro will be spent in the six beneficiary countries of the programme. Armenia is involved in 13 projects, followed by Georgia and Ukraine (12-10). Twelve organisations from twelve countries outside the region are also participating, ranging (alphabetically) from Bulgaria to Turkey. Six of them are project leaders but the greater part of the fifteen endeavours are led by local bodies: Ukrainians in the greatest number (four). The Union shows candidness (and courage) by granting project leadership to a Belarusian organisation, with no “western” participant at that.

The projects are complex and mostly geared to capacity building, worth browsing the handy layout. Subjects include film, defying the ‘culture-media’ separation.

The only feature to criticise is the folkloric clichés that dominate the website, particularly the opening page.          

Festival matters

Out of the myriad, fourteen festivals have won an annual EU grant. The Slovene success rate is extraordinary: fourteen applications – three grants. So is the Italian rate: forty-nine applications – zero grant. 

Ljubljana will host the next atelier for young festival managers in October. The one-week intensive course addresses emerging artistic festival directors, not administrative staff, and focuses on the artistic role of festivals, as opposed to event management. Participation is not cheap, especially for non-members of EFA, the European Festivals Association. Membership is not cheap either, which may explain why they are so few, for instance two only from festival power Austria, or four from France or Britain.

À propos Britain, the programme of this year’s Edinburgh Festival is out. Its richness justifies the 8.2 million pound budget in 2011: 49% of it from public grants.

Cultural education

In March BO hosted a workshop of an international project on art education. The participants from England could report about the review of cultural education in that country, done by Darren Henley. Read the 24 recommendations, duly responded by the ministry and by the Arts Council. Some of these are fairly obvious and general, but there are original points too, and the transparency of the procedure is commendable.

Tourist nights

Tourism is important for culture (cf. cultural tourism). Data come slow, latest Eurostat figures cover 2010. Has the crisis redrawn the map? The graph shows who won and who lost: percentage change of hotel nights between 2005 and 2010. As colours show, trends do not follow an east-west pattern. Not even north-south. Odd groups appear: Iceland, France and Greece receiving over 20% more tourists, while Romania and the UK more than 10% fewer...

 Before we are carried away by the spectacular growth of tourism in Iceland (or Estonia), a glance is recommended at the absolute figures in 2010 (million nights in hotels):

Champion in 2010, France used to be fourth in 2005. Poland deserves a mention too: 15% growth in five years, with nearly 56 million nights bring that country close to Greece!

BO spent three nights in Poland in March, attended the opening of the Regional Observatory of Culture (ROK) at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan (po polsku).

Heritage awards

There is a large, about 800 km diameter area in the middle of Europe that remains without an Europa Nostra award this year. The Aegean Sea area was decorated nicely, and our region received three awards further to the east. These are a watermill museum in Lithuania, and two items in Romania: a Moldavian monastery, and a Transylvanian lady. Paraschiva Kovacs, aka Kovács Piroska is an enthusiast of carved wooden gates in Szekler villages.