COMPENDIUM CULTURAL POLICIES AND TRENDS IN EUROPE
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Latvia/ 8.2 Cultural consumption and participation  

8.2.1 Trends and figures

Since 1990, there has been a drastic decline in the number of people participating in cultural life; consumption of culture and arts activities decreased in all fields. Particularly sharp reduction was seen in 1991 when compared with 1990. The decrease of visits to cultural institutions followed until 1994-1996 when the situation became more stable. The number of museum visits reached the lowest point in 1994; data shows it reduced by 68% compared to 1990. The number of theatre visits decreased by 58% between 1990 and 1995. The most significant reduction was in the cinema field, as the number of visits decreased by 95% between the years 1990 and 1996.

There is a certain correlation between the decrease in the number of infrastructure and the consumption of and participation in cultural activities, as the cinema infrastructure collapsed and respectively the number of cinema audiences was sharply reduced.

Data shows a general stabilisation and improvement in participation levels starting from the end of the 1990s. In 2007-2008, the highest attendance rate at cultural events occurred. A decline starts along with the economic crisis in 2009. Meanwhile, cultural consumption of free events is increasing. In some fields, an increase in visitors to cultural events started again in 2010.

Table 12:   Visits to public museums, public theatres and to cinemas, 1990-2013

Year

Visits to museums

Theatre visits

Cinema visits

Total
visits

per 1 000 inhabitants

Total
visits

per 1 000 inhabitants

Total
visits

per 1 000 inhabitants

1990

3 888 000

1 460

1 559 000

585

19 748 000

7 416

1995

1 319 000

531

659 000

265

1 020 000

411

2000

1 480 000

625

757 000

320

1 457 000

614

2005

2 070 000

925

760 000

339

1 667 000

745

2006

2 166 000

976

756 000

341

2 122 000

957

2007

2 404 000

1 093

860 000

391

2 363 000

1 074

2008

2 556 000

1 174

807 000

371

2 320 000

1 066

2009

2 177 000

1 016

786 000

367

1 944 000

908

2010

2 419 000

1 153

843 000

402

2 106 000

1 004

2011

2 544 000

1 235

951 000

462

2 061 000

1 001

2012

2 647 000

1 301

996 000

490

2 286 000

1 124

2013

2 658 000

1 321

994 000

494

2 378 000

1 181

Source:     Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

Increasing access to diverse leisure time activities has been one of the most significant factors influencing culture consumption patterns. Internet availability has grown substantially. Since the introduction of several publicly assessable IT services, libraries are becoming more important as information centres within the municipalities.

Figure 5:    Availability of internet in households, % from all households, 2004-2013

Source:     Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

See chapter 4.2.6 about consumption of mass media and internet users.

Public libraries experienced a smaller decrease in the number of visitors than other public culture organisations. After 1994, the number of visits to public libraries has constantly grown; a particular increase is visible for visits to public municipal libraries during the period of crisis.

There are several reasons for the increase. First, thanks to digitalisation (see chapter 4.2.11 and chapter 4.2.8), the role of public libraries in local communities has been diversified. Secondly, at the end of 2008, VAT on books was increased from 5% to 21%; even though later, the VAT was decreased and a reduced VAT of 12% was again applied to books, this was followed by a dramatic fall in book sales (see chapter 4.2.3 and chapter 5.1.5). Third, consumption patterns during the period of crisis have changed and the majority of inhabitants are looking for free-of-charge culture activities. Meanwhile, the numbers of loans in public libraries are decreasing. Public libraries are more often used as information centres because of free public access to the internet. For more information see the study on the Economic value and impact of public libraries in Latvia.

Data shows that household expenditure for recreation and cultural activities has significantly increased over the years. Similarly, like other studies, these data show a decrease in spending starting from 2009 up to 2011.

The Study "DNB Latvijas barometrs" (2012, available in Latvian) states that around half of the respondents do not spend money on recreation and about 46% do not spend money on cultural events. Meanwhile, 27% of respondents state that they spend about 28.40 EUR per month on recreation activities and around half of the respondents spend the same amount on cultural activities per month.

The data available from the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia offers a more detailed information on spending for diverse cultural activities.

Figure 6:    Composition and structure of consumption expenditure average per household member per month: Culture and Recreation (EUR), 2002-2013

Source: Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

Since 2007, the annual cultural consumption research is carried out. Studies are available in Latvian: Culture Consumption in Latvia 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010. The comprehensive report includes a number of very important figures and facts on cultural consumption in Latvia. See also Eurobarometer  Cultural Access and Participation: Latvia 2013 (European Commission, Eurobarometer, 2013). New study on cultural consumption will be available in 2015.

The focus of the study in 2008 was on accessibility of culture. The findings show that a significant part of the Latvian population does not have access to cultural events in their neighbourhood. In 2007, about 69% of the respondents were satisfied with the choice of and access to cultural events, while in 2008, only 60% responded positively. 40% of the respondents mentioned that the major obstacle was high prices; 19% considered the location and means to access may be regarded as a barrier to attend cultural events.

Reading of books is the most popular kind of cultural consumption in 2008 (65% of respondents read a book during the previous year); 62% of the population attended an open-air cultural event, while 60% travelled around Latvia. A great part of the respondents (43%) had visited an exhibition or a museum, while only 20% had visited an art gallery. The same pattern can be observed in the area of music events: 40% attended popular music concerts, while only 16% attended classical or symphony concerts. A visit to the cinema was as popular as the theatre – 35% had seen a film and a play at a theatre.

In 2009, Latvian inhabitants most often chose the following activities: 70% saw cultural broadcasts on TV, 69% read books, and 65% visited an open air event in their town or village. More than half of the inhabitants – 56% – travelled over Latvia and visited a church. Only 2/5 of the inhabitants, at least once, visited a theatre, an exhibition or a concert of popular music. There is an increase in such leisure time activities that do not require significant financial contributions. The number of spectators of the cultural broadcast "100 g kultūras" (on public TV) has increased by 7% if compared to 2007. The proportion of those who visited a church in 2009 increased by 3% compared to 2007 and by 2% for those who gamble or read books. Participation in other activities has decreased compared to 2007: by 9% for visits to entertainment parks, by 7% for visits to cinemas and theatres, by 6% for visits to museums.

In 2010 culture consumption continued to decrease.

Table 13:   Participation in cultural activities of Latvian inhabitants, 2007-2010 (%)

Year

Watching cultural broadcasts

Finished reading a book

Visited a church

Travelled around Latvia

Visited an open air event in local town or village

2007

75

68

52

61

N/A

2008

75

65

58

60

62

2009

70

69

56

56

65

2010

67

67

50

54

64

Source:     Culture consumption: 2009 ("Fieldex", 2010), Culture Consumption: 2010 (SAK, 2011).

Table 14:   Participation in cultural activities of Latvian inhabitants, 2007-2010 (%)

Year

Visited a museum

Visited a theatre

Visited an exhibition

Visited opera or ballet performance

Saw a film in a cinema

2007

47

47

41

19

41

2008

43

37

43

12

35

2009

41

40

40

16

34

2010

38

36

37

12

35

Source:     Culture consumption: 2009 ("Fieldex", 2010), Culture Consumption: 2010 (SAK, 2011).

Two tendencies – passive participation in cultural activities (74% of respondents choose watching TV) and participation in cultural activities without financial contributions (41% of respondents look for cultural activities free of charge) are also acknowledged by the study "DnB NORD Latvijas barometrs".

According to the data of European Audiovisual Observatory, cinema attendance and gross box office income of cinemas has significantly decreased in Latvia in 2009 compared to 2008, while in the majority of other European countries, these rates are increasing. Gross box office income has decreased by 15.7% and admissions by 17.4%. There is a number of reasons for that, such as the increased VAT for cinema tickets (see chapter 4.2.3) and moreover, the general consumption level has decreased.

In 2007, a continual cultural accessibility and consumption research report was commissioned by the Ministry of Culture (the first research of this form was carried out in 2001) by the Baltic Institute of Social Sciences: Accessibility of culture in the regions(Riga, 2007; available in Latvian). The report indicates characteristic differences in preferences for cultural products in different regions. Another part of the findings is connected to the views and working circumstances of cultural operators in the regions, the influences of demographic changes on cultural participation etc. (see also chapter 4.2.8).

Involvement of citizens in cultural life can be also measured by the number of associations of citizens. The study "Fostering cultural diversity and governance: non-governmental and private cultural initiatives" (Institute of Social and Political Studies, University of Latvia, commissioned by the Ministry of Culture, Latvia, 2008; available in Latvian) reveals that, on average, there are 1.4 cultural associations of citizens in each rural municipality, while in Riga there are about 200. About 29% of the cities and the rural municipalities do not host any cultural associations of citizens.

In contrast to lower culture consumption and spending for culture and recreation in the regions, participation in cultural activities and amateur art is higher in rural areas than in the urban areas. In 2010, in the cities 1.5% of the total number of inhabitants participated in amateur art groups in cultural centres, while in urban areas it was 4.9% and in rural areas – 4%.

This could mean that activities that require less financial resources or free of charge are more accessible for the inhabitants in rural areas where willingness and possibilities to pay for cultural activities is lower. Moreover, cities concentrate more diverse offer in culture and arts, especially in the professional culture sector. See chapter 4.2.8 on the consumption difference depending on the place of residence and social discrepancies.

Figure 7:    Participation in cultural and recreation activities (%), 2008

Source:     Culture Consumption: 2008, Laboratory of Analytic and Strategic Studies, 2009.

See chapter 4.2.4 about culture consumption of ethnic minorities and chapter 8.4 about amateur art activities.


Chapitre publié: 08-10-2014

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