Memo December 2015


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in December 2015

Happy New Year!

The Dutch mean it

The Netherlands wants to exploit the opportunity of the EU presidency to the full on the cultural scene. 

“Amsterdam will be a cultural capital for over six months” (a more realistic claim than twelve). The programme includes a 450 meter brick wall near the main venue of the high level meetings, in fact “an off- and online programme of art installations and related performances”. A temporary fabulous city will be built at the Java-eiland, “a self sufficient society where young (why this silly discrimination against the middle aged?) people will work, create, research and come up with solutions for every day city problems”.  

BO particularly values the endeavour to use the Brussels design for featuring Europe, the beleaguered union, in place of nation branding.

The cultural policy agenda is admittedly thin, with digital heritage and digital media in focus. 

Getting ready – Slovakia

Time for cities

As regards capitals to culture briefly mentioned above, four cities in Romania have remained in the competition for the twelve-month test in 2021: Baia Mare, Bucharest, Cluj and Timişoara.

In the same year a city from a “third country” of today can have the title, too. Herceg Novi and Novi Sad are preparing for the play-off.

Here we present a chance that is still open for any city. Fifty thousand euro is at stake. Key concepts are culture and sustainable development.

Times to submit

Ifacca organises the seventh world summit on culture in October in Malta. You may apply (or recommend someone) to join the programme with a topic on cultural leadership, the many aspects of good governance. (5 February)

The 9th international conference on cultural policy research (ICCPR 2016will be held in July in Seoul. The distance makes is difficult for the Korean organisers to beat or approach the record attendance of 453 at ICCPR 2014. Mark your willingness! (20 January)

Those who dream about a European Diploma in cultural project management should turn to the Hicter Association in the matter. (15 January)

After Glasgow, Florence will host the next ELIA biennial conference from 30 November. European self-examination is on the menu with or without you. (5 January)

Ailing fourteen

One out of the fourteen most endangered European heritage sites is in BO remit, east and central Europe: a sea fortress built by the tsar in Reval, today’s Tallinn. A few more are to be found in the broader neighbourhood, in ArmeniaEast GermanyGreece and Turkey. We wish them better.

Mind your language

Spillover is the favoured and recommended term for the effect, impact, added value or externality that culture induces in society – positive, by definition, as we like to believe. A highly focused research programme came to this conclusion upon reviewing 98 relevant studies from Europe.

It was high time for such an undertaking, to get beyond the journalistic jubilation over culture’s impact on the economy (or rather over culture’s liaison with the creative industries). The first report really aims to identify what investment in which culture generates what impact. Spillover, I mean.

BO would still prefer distinguishing more carefully between public investment in culture and in creative industries. Identifying spillovers of the latter is not big game.

Views on the climate

Rich and poor, northern and southern, catholic and protestant (and more), Latin, Germanic, Slavic (and more) – yet the cultural climate barometer shows that the east-west divide is what still prevails. Perceptions of experts from eastern (postcommunist) and western countries (with established democracy and capitalism) about the most problematic factors on culture show characteristic divisions.

Not every discrepancy is obvious though. E.g. why is the gap the greatest about the financing of local culture? 29% of “western” respondents selected this item (as the third greatest concern) against only 9% from the east. The fact that 16% more western colleagues complain about the spillover hype is no wonder. Also that political interference is a nuisance to 17% fewer in the west than in the east. (The percentages refer to the western group, the more numerous in the survey.)

The preliminary draft of the report reveals much more about the factors that affect the climate of culture in 2015.

Ukrainian annex

As an annex to the online survey, or indeed a bonus, the participants of a conference on regional cultural policies held at the Dnipro early in December filled in the questionnaire, too. Below you can see how cultural operators in the Dnipropetrovsk region assess positive factors in hard times. 

The Dnipropetrovsk meeting was combined with a small workshop in the frame of the Eastern Partnership programme in progress. Cultural cooperation with the rest of Europe is growing.