Memo November 2013


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in November 2013

Wishing you patience for three charts this time.

Scandinavia up, Visegrad down

The latest comparative figures on cultural participation across Europe that Eurobarometer disclosed at this year’s Culture Forum did not bring much joy to the delegates to the three-day event in Brussels. Engagement in most kinds of culture and in most countries was weaker than what the last such research detected in 2007.

From the rich diversity of information we have selected the "index of cultural practice". This is a combined indicator built up from scores given to each respondent upon their answers about accessing the nine forms of culture in the questionnaire during the past year. The percentage refers to the share of citizens who received "high" or "very high" scores in this aggregation. The smaller column on the left shows the difference from the same index in the previous poll in 2007.

The Finns behaved quite atypically by increasing their cultural activeness by 12% in the past six years reaching a high attendance level of 29% - still below the spectacular Swedish score of 43%, who have also grown by 7%.

Citizens in eighteen countries, including all but one (Lithuania) from east-central Europe have, however, reduced their engagement with culture. The EU average is identical with the German data: 18% of people are regular consumers of culture, three less than the 21% in 2007. The largest drop occurred in the Visegrad four: CZ – SK – PL – HU. 11% of Hungarian gave up their cultural habits in the course of the past six years.

Intercultural appeasement

At about the same time Eurobarometer published the latest report on the social climate in Europe. Citizens were asked to judge, among others, relations in their environment between people from different cultural or religious backgrounds or nationalities. There are pleasant surprises, provided we interpret the data properly.

The European means were 40-41-28: 40% said the relationship got worse in recent years, 41% found it currently bad and 28% expected to get even worse.

People in countries with sizeable cultural (linguistic) minorities were much more optimistic about intercultural co-existence than the European average and even more than some fairly homogeneous countries. In Estonia, with over 30% inhabitants having a non-Estonian  mother tongue only 20% of respondents found the relationship “bad” and only 7% worried about the future in this regard. This last figure was the same in Lithuania and Latvia (with 38% non-Latvians), and the data from Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia also give reason for hope.

On the other hand 35% of Dutch and 38% of Czech people encountered by Eurobarometer pollsters said that this relationship will get worse “in the next twelve months”.

Festival profiles

The findings of first comparative international research on festivals have been announced, 390 music festivals from Europe (and Quebec) were involved in the survey. One major conclusion is that festivals have reached a degree of institutionalisation when only a tiny minority keeps to the older stereotype of a vacation-time transitory event run by a sole operator and having a single genre programme; researchers found nine such cases out of the 390 festivals only. Especially newer festivals spread onto the off-season (between October and March), events held outside of the regular festival agenda are on the increase, programmes have become more eclectic and sustainability is being sought by a variety of co-operation between festivals.

As to the statistical findings, here is one specimen, a graph indicating the composition of revenues of the 390 festivals: 

Public funding – the green slices – adds up to 45%, reaching 31% even at rock-pop festivals. Local sources: municipalities take the largest of this share. Each of these three figures is higher than what BO would have guessed.

In 2011 the typical music festival had a budget of about €280 thousand, offered 25 concerts on 7 days, charged €20 for a ticket (27 for a pass), its 51 year-old male director had been in office for 12 years and commanded a staff of about 51 people, 23 of whom are volunteers. National differences are greatest in the last aspect, in the ratio between paid and unpaid staff: some Nordic festivals are run almost exclusively by volunteers.

Did Wagner say so?

The Festudy quotes an excellent definition by Richard Wagner about festivals: “an extraordinary event, in an extraordinary place, at an extraordinary time.” BO searched for the source. Wikiquote does not contain it in any of its language variants. Google spotted the saying used in three English sites: one, two, three (but no German – Wagner uttered it in English?), without identifying the source. Is this another one of those nice wishful fake quotations?