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France/ 8.4 Amateur arts, cultural associations and civil initiatives  

8.4.1 Amateur arts and folk culture

A survey from 1996 (available in Olivier Donnat, Les Pratiques culturelles des Français Enquête 1997, La Documentation française/Ministère de la Culture: ) showed that half of the French people aged 15 years and older had exercised an amateur artistic practice in their life, and that half of them (23% of the total) continued to practice. For young people from 15 to 24 years old, these proportions rose respectively to two thirds and to half. Furthermore, the younger the amateurs were, the more they practiced two or more artistic activities.

According to a 2008 survey on cultural practices and participation of French people (Olivier Donnat, Les Pratiques culturelles des Français Enquête 2008, La Documentation française/Ministère de la Culture: ), the development of digital technology and the internet profoundly transformed amateur practices, and favoured the emergence of new forms of expression but also new modes of broadcasting auto-produced cultural contents during free time.

With the distribution of digital devices and multimedia mobile phones, the practices of photography and video progressed, weakly in the case of the former, considering the former existence in households of instamatic or polaroid-type devices; however, the number of French people that made a movie or a video in one year doubled in ten years (27% in 2008 against 14% in 1998).

For other activities, the evolution first appears to be less favourable: musical practices have declined, as well as those relative to writing, visual arts and drawing. However, once the creative uses of computing are taken into account, amateur practice seems to be increasing, in the continuation of the trend that was observed in the 1980s and 1990s. Indeed, besides the traditional amateur practices, new forms of content production developed in the field of music, visual or graphic arts and writing.

Analysis also shows that amateur artistic practices became less associated with the young and less elitist, which had been observed at the beginning of 1970s, under the combined effects of certain structural evolutions of society (a rise in the education level, an increase in working people's spare time, a reduction in the retirement age) and an increase in the commercial and public offers (music schools and academies, dance and theatre classes, writing workshops, etc.). This context led to a diversification of the forms of expression and of the modalities of practice.

Besides, several cultural expressions stemming from popular practices were registered on the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity: Compagnonnage, network for on-the-job transmission of knowledge and identities; Gastronomic meal of the French; le Cantu in paghjella, a secular and liturgical oral tradition of Corsica, Processional giants and dragons in Belgium and France, etc.

Chapter published: 17-07-2018

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