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Belgium/ 8.4 Amateur arts, cultural associations and civil initiatives  

8.4.2 Cultural houses and community cultural clubs

Flemish Community

Cultural and community centres

The government policy regarding cultural and community centres has been part of the Local Culture Policy Decree for several years (see chapter 5.2). The key point in this Decree is the clustering of cultural actors in the community: libraries, cultural centres and local initiatives. Together they should set the course of cultural life in the community.

Communities with a regional function – 76 in total – are eligible for the subsidisation of a cultural centre. These cultural centres have three main tasks: spreading culture, community development and promoting cultural participation. There are three categories – A, B and C- depending on the scale of the centre and the regional function. (In 2010, there were 10 A-centres, 20 B-centres and 31 C-centres and a limited number of exceptions) They get a fixed basic subsidy from the Flemish policy level for staff costs depending on the category. In addition, a cultural centre of the A category is entitled to an additional grant for special projects. These projects are tailored to the specific context of the city. Nevertheless, the Decree sets out a number of issues that will be taken into account when giving priority to these projects. The fixed subsidy of cultural centres from the B and C category may be increased by a set amount, in order to encourage them to respond to the priorities that the Decree stipulates.

There are also several smaller "community centres". They have a similar task, but their culture-spreading task is less central.

The cultural centres work with a long-term policy plan that needs to synergise with the policy plans of other cultural actors in the community. This policy plan must be clarified and – if necessary – adapted into an annual plan of action.

In 2007, some amendments were made to the Local Cultural Policy Decree, including changes to the way municipalities apply for funding; the way cultural centres and public libraries are funded; as well as a fusion of the support centres for local cultural policy and for public libraries. Now, LOCUS is the supporting institute for both.

In the 63 cultural centres, 22.021 activities were organised in 2008; 52% were activities in the field of the performing arts; 23% were educational activities; 3.7% were exhibitions (the rest of the activities made up 20.53%).

Approximately one fifth of the budget of the cultural centres is provided by the Flemish community and 50- 60% by local governments.

Socio-cultural adult work

Socio-cultural work in Flanders has grown historically from several cultural and social emancipation movements with an ideological background. It has played an important role in the Flemish cultural movement, which has led to cultural autonomy since the 1970s.

The work of the socio-cultural organisations that rely on state subsidies in Flanders can be divided into four types: associations, popular high schools, national training institutions and movements. They are controlled by law, specifically by the Decree of 4 April 2003 (which has been changed several times, the latest on 23 December 2010).

Associations are networks of local divisions or groups. There are more than 50 socio-cultural associations active in Flanders of all shapes and sizes. Together, they have almost 2 million members. 13 organisations are federations of migrant organisations.

The 13 Popular High Schools, each working in their own region, organise short or longer courses for adults. The 20 certified training institutions offer a broad educational range throughout Flanders.

Currently, there are 32 movements active in Flanders, specialising in one or more themes, such as peace, active citizenship, and mobility, silence, biomedical developments....

French Community

Locally and in 2013, the French-speaking Community of Belgium subsidises the following within the framework of various types of legislation:

  • 103 local cultural centres (multidisciplinary cultural and artistic activities),
  • 12 regional cultural centres,
  • 168 libraries,
  • 347 youth associations,
  • 156 centres of expression and creativity,
  • 689 continuing education associations (citizen education and participation).

Some local continuing education associations basically concentrate on intercultural issues and audiences of foreign origin. Many youth centres and cultural centres work regularly with intercultural audiences reflecting the cultural diversity of the population.

15% of the budget of the Culture General Directorate is dedicated to local institutions and associations.

The Regions, Provinces and Municipalities also contribute towards supporting these associations or institutions.

Interestingly, a 2010 study into the associative sector by the Fondation Roi Baudouin revealed that cultural associations were the ones hardest hit by the crisis, suffering a significant decrease in public aid (L’impact de la crise financière sur les associations, IPSOS, Fondation Roi Baudouin, June 2010).

German-speaking Community

The government of the German-speaking Community recognises two regional cultural centres which receive greater financial support than the local centres, libraries and creative workshops.

Chapter published: 02-12-2014

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