Memo March 2016


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in March 2016

Hoping to see you at the Culture Forum in Brussels.

With Italy everything is different

From the many diagrams that BO created from Eurostat-Cofog data we showed you an interesting one with 15 countries, and later with 22 countries. Italy was missing. But as the data for 2014 arrived also the Italian figures were entered retrospectively which made us redraw the graph. And it made us reconfigure our mind about the trends since 2004.

We saw earlier that the cultural budgets of the central governments suffered most after the 2008 credit crunch. Complete with the Italian data the decline proves to be even more critical. By 2013 and 2014 central government spending on culture of the 23 countries dropped below the initial amount. (Their combined total central cultural expenditure was €16.2bn in 2004 and €16.1bn in 2014.)

Adding Italy and the figures of 2014 modified the trend of local (primarily municipal) cultural expenditure to a lesser extent. The relative importance of local funding has been reinforced. You will be as surprised as BO is to see that nearly 20% of all local public money is spent on cultural services. What a silly mistake! The last line has been corrected with apologies.

The data in the table have been derived from Eurostat-Cofog. By culture the category 08.02 cultural services is meant. Missing EU members are Austria, Germany, Latvia, Romania and Slovakia.

Active theatre people

Seeking smart and effective arguments to boost public support to culture was the topic of an IETM gathering in Paris. The plenary meeting of the organisation in Amsterdam will have greater dimensions, with nearly as rich a programme as that of the Brussels Forum a couple of days afterwards.

Activity for refugees

After the financial crisis the migration crisis has been shaking Europe. The Creative Europe programme has addressed the issue. From celebrating diversity the emphasis has shifted to the integration of refugees. Organisations (“bodies”) active in the creative and cultural sector should form consortia from at least two countries for two-year long activities to this avail. The European Commission finances up to 80% of the costs. The selection criteria are available on page 3 of the call for proposals.

The 1.6 million euro seems to be too little to the size of the challenge. Yet the urgency of the matter demands short deadline which does not favour making larger scale alliances across borders – a feature of Creative Europe – for this relatively new task. Early successes may produce bigger purses.

The Council of Europe is also collecting information on culture-related projects serving the integration of migrants / refugees. Successful practices will be presented on the Compendium site. Cases were to be submitted “best before 31 March”, so there is still some leeway.

Business also as usual

With regard to the regular Creative Europe actions the call for literary translation subsidies has been disclosed. Publishers from Ukraine can apply now, following Georgia and Moldova from the east. Cultural operations in other Eastern Partnership countries must wait for opportunities in joint actions like the cooperation projects.

Culture in the city

Later this year Agenda 21 for Culture – United Cities and Local Governments, jointly with Mexico City, will give an award (and €50k) to a city that excels in culture and sustainability. 83 cities have nominated, including four in BO remit (Cesis, Kaunas, Pilsen and Tartu), which is three more than at the previous, first edition of the prize (Kotor). The first award went to Belo Horizonte.

While bearing the heavy legacy of a post-light-industry metropolis, Lodz (in Polish Łódź) exhibits vitality in contemporary culture (e.g. here). In the frame of the 9th study tour of the Culture for Cities and Regions project BO could acquaint with the latest efforts of revitalisation - see the report of the visit.

As a last minute improvisation, you may join the second open Nordic Urban Laboratory in Borås and Gothenburg.”A few seats are still available”.

Before Dubrovnik, Osijek and Pula, the Croatian city of Rijeka (aka Fiume) won the title of European Capital of Culture in 2020. They have to wait till July to learn with which Irish city they will share the title.

The Cinderella in European cultural policies

Gracias a la Red Española de Centros Culturales... I mean thanks to the Spanish Network of Cultural Centres – SNCC, the BO paper on socio-culture is available now in Spanish. Let us hope it reaches those who can do about the issue. This graph illustrates that the matter is no trifle.