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The 2nd part of a major longitudinal study on participation trends was published in 2011 in Flanders.

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Belgium/ 8.2 Cultural consumption and participation  

8.2.2 Policies and programmes

Flemish Community

In Flemish cultural policy, cultural participation and cultural competence have been a main point of interest for several years. Consecutive governments wish to increase cultural participation through several strategies and, at the same time, create favourable conditions so that everyone can develop cultural competence. Also, in the current legislation participation is an important topic. One of the strategic goals of the current minister of culture is to "anchor participation and diversity as an engine for innovation" in the cultural field. Each sub-sector (socio-cultural, arts, heritage) must continue to focus on the themes of participation, diversity and interculturalisation.

Audience participation is an important aspect of different decrees.

  • "Community building" is one of the objectives for cultural and community centres funded by the Decree on Local Cultural Policy.
  • Under the Arts Decree, organisations with arts education or socio-artistic work as their primary function can request a subsidy for two or four years. Activities in these areas can also be subsidised in the form of projects. In addition, arts organisations can register arts education and socio-artistic work as an add-on to their main work, for which they can get money as part of their general finances.
  • The Decree on Flanking Measures and Incentives to Encourage Participation in Culture, Youth Work and Sports is the full title of the Participation Decree (9 January 2008). The Decree bundles a whole range of flanking measures to encourage audience participation. The Decree distinguishes a number of specific disadvantaged groups and provides the legal anchoring of some previously existing organisations such as CultuurNet Vlaanderen and DÄ“mos (see chapter 4.2.8).

The aims of CultuurNet Vlaanderen are to promote cultural participation and to strengthen cultural knowledge, to centralise information about cultural activities, to inform people about these activities and to promote cultural activities abroad. This centre functions closely with the existing support centres in the different cultural fields and with the communication centres already functioning on a regional or local level. One of the tasks of this centre is an online agenda covering the activities of the whole Flemish Community (

DÄ“mosis a knowledge centre that aims at making culture more accessible for disadvantaged target groups and using culture as a lever for democracy. It does so by supporting socio-artistic practice and by deepening and broadening audience participation with a focus on intercultural dialogue.

Over the last years, the Flemish government has supported a major longitudinal study on participation trends carried out by the university support centre "Beleidsrelevant Onderzoek Cultuur, Jeugd en Sport" [Policy-relevant Research in Culture, Youth and Sport] (see chapter 4.1). In 2006 and 2011, the results of large surveys within the Flemish population about culture participation were presented. The last survey, conducted in 2009 among a representative sample of the Flemish population between 14 and 85 years old, aimed to answer questions related to trends in and determinants of participation in arts and culture, community life and sports.

The French-Speaking Community of Belgium

Cultural democracy is one of the key objectives across the cultural policies in the French-speaking Community of Belgium. Provisions on access conditions for all audiences are laid out in the programme contracts for all artistic sectors and for the majority of the institutions receiving subsidies. These conditions relate particularly to those sectors of the public who are suffering socio-economic difficulties, young people and the elderly. Many institutions and associations run specific strategies to provide information and raise awareness among these audiences by means of events and collaborations with associations involved with these sectors of the public.

One association plays a particularly exemplary role in this area. This is the association ‘article 27’, which takes its name from Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: ‘Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts (…) its benefits’. In a short space of time, this association has succeeded in creating and coordinating an extensive system right across the French-speaking Community of Belgium of offering free or cut-price show seats to people experiencing economic difficulties. The association is currently looking at extending the offer to forms of cultural and artistic activities other than shows.

The cultural associations also play other roles, via their objectives: raising awareness among the general public of issues in society, delivering cultural and artistic productions, disseminating culture, planning training courses, workshops and artistic and creative activities, the collective expression of issues in society, defending and publicising minority rights, events in public spaces, and getting cultural issues on the agenda in public and political debates.

It should be noted that the development of multimedia and the digital revolution led in 2013 to the reorganisation of the media libraries, which are public spaces loaning out sound recordings and audio-visual material in hard copy – borrowings having dropped by 55% in 10 years – into ‘Culture Points’, which are now transverse spaces promoting access to culture and cultural participation for all audiences. These are actually local cultural outlets.

In certain sectors, such as the cultural centres, the youth cultural organisations, the organisations involved with continuing education and cultural leisure, the centres of expression and creativity and the youth centres, the essential focus is on participation and active involvement of citizens in cultural projects.

The conditions for subsidies to these associations include the critical analysis of society, the stimulation of democratic and collective initiatives, the development of active citizenship and the exercise of social, cultural, environmental and economic rights.

Chapter published: 02-12-2014

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