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Sweden/ 8.4 Amateur arts, cultural associations and civil initiatives  

8.4.1 Amateur arts and folk culture

In 2012, the voluntary cultural organisations cooperating in Ideell Kulturallians claimed over a million members. These organisations are, in most cases, organised in a way typical of Swedish NGOs (see chapter 8.4.3), each dealing with amateur activities in a particular art form or other cultural activity, such as, for example, choirs, music, theatre or local heritage. The largest of these organisations is the Swedish Local Heritage Federation (Svenska Hembygdsförbundet), which, in 2012, reported over 430 000 members in 1 973 clubs all over the country. Thousands of people are active in associations dealing with traditional crafts and folk dancing. Choir associations, the second largest group, had around 125 000 members, in more than 5 000 choirs. Large national associations organise national and ethnic minorities, organising many cultural activities in both Swedish and their native languages. While many organisations have a high numbers of active members, their financial resources remain limited and their activities to a high degree rely on volunteers. This is even truer of associations not belonging to a national organisation.

Most government funding for national associations in culture does not come via the Ministry of Culture, or from its government agencies. Government funding for voluntary cultural organisations, as such, is relatively limited – on the national level as well as on the regional and local levels. If such organisations receive government funding, they tend to receive funding designed for other purposes. Some of them are registered as youth organisations and others are organisations for national or ethnic minorities, both of which are eligible to access special funding.

The major recipients of government grants for cultural activities are the study associations (see chapter 8.4.3). Together with the popular high schools, these are annually funded by the government with more than SEK 3.3 billion. To this are added varying sums from local and regional governments, as well as income from various fees. Statistics show that most of the activities organised by the study associations can be described as cultural activities, ranging from lectures and study circles on cultural matters to rock music and theatre groups rehearsing. Easily available music training and public facilities for rehearsals have often been pointed out as an explanation for Sweden's internationally successful music scene. Others have pointed to the prevalence of cultural group activities such as study circles and singing in choirs to explain the cohesiveness and high levels of trust in Swedish society.

Large numbers of people are also active in cultural activities within the religious denominations. In 2009, this included 113 000 people singing in church choirs in the Church of Sweden. The Church of Sweden also owns and maintains a large number of the nation's buildings protected as cultural heritage.

There are also a number of new, or relatively new, activities that may be termed cultural, that are increasing. The use of computer games is increasing. It is possible that the decreasing numbers of people writing in other forms will be connected to the increasing numbers of people publishing their own writing on the Internet. Another form of cultural activity that is increasing in size and importance is the cultural festivals, e.g., historical and musical festivals. The Hultsfred Rock Festival can be given as an example of an event that has become an important feature of the field of popular music, both in Sweden and in neighbouring countries. Another example of a Swedish cultural festival is the Medieval Week (Medeltidsveckan) of Gotland, which is now among the premier tourist events in the region. Both of these events were originally organised by amateurs and volunteers organised in small non-profit associations. In both cases, these groups were dominated by younger people. Much like older and more established voluntary organisations, they were financed in several combined ways, such as grants from the local municipality and study associations, as well as by local commercial interests. They did not, however, hold the large memberships of established associations. In Hultsfred, a cluster including both non-profit associations and commercial companies formed around the original organisation as the festival grew into a major event. On Gotland, the organisational centre is now a foundation connected to local authorities, business and other already established organisations. Since starting in the 1980s, both festivals have thus developed into more institutionalised forms, without conforming to the established model. Reliance on volunteers, however, remained high in both cases.

Chapter published: 16-05-2017

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