An important source on cultural participation in Flanders is the Participation Survey (‘Participatiesurvey’). Since 2004, this survey is commissioned every five years by the Flemish government (the current survey has met delay and is scheduled for 2021-2022). It is each time carried out according to a similar methodology, which allows for comparison over time. Table 3 presents data on receptive participation in cultural activities by the Flemish population (between ages 15 and 86), in 2004, 2009, and 2014. Table 4 presents data on active participation in artistic hobbies in Flanders in the same period.
Table 3: People who participated in or attended a certain cultural activity during the last 6 months in the Flemish Community (in % of the population, over 3 available years)
|Concerts of classic music||5.2||5.9||6|
|Popular performing arts (circus, revue, etc.)||30.2||32||28.1|
|Concerts of non-classic music (pop, rock, jazz etc.)||9.8||15.7||19.8|
|Art museums and exhibitions||19.2||18.3||20.1|
|Museums and exhibitions (other than art)||16.8||18.6||21.3|
|Monuments and other cultural heritage activities||38.7||48.1||40.5|
|To read literature (novels and poetry)||33.2||38.4||39.5|
Participation Survey and related web tool (2015)
The data of subsequent editions of the Participation Survey show that the share of visitors of many cultural activities has remained stable throughout 2004-2014. There are some significant exceptions:
- there is a strong increase of the share of visitors to non-classical music concerts throughout the whole period
- the share of readers of novels and poetry clearly increases between 2004 and 2009, remaining stable afterwards
- the number of ‘one-time’ visits to monuments and other cultural heritage events has a steep rise in 2009, resulting in a temporary surge in the total share of visitors
- the number of ‘one-time’ visits to concerts of classical music rises, resulting in a slight increase of the total share of visitors
- the share of visitors to popular performing arts events drops in 2014, which is mainly an effect of less young and middle-aged visitors
- the number of frequent cinema visitors drops, resulting in a slight decrease in the total share of cinema visitors throughout 2004-2014
- When lumped together, the share of ‘artful’ performing arts (by which the researchers denote theatre, ballet, contemporary dance, and folk dance) remains relatively stable over the whole period. There is, however, a drop in frequent participation in these activities by young people
Table 4: People who have carried out artistic amateur activities in the Flemish Community in the last 6 months by type of activity, in % of total population, period 2004-2014
|Painting, drawing or graphic work||6.6||7.4||6.4|
|Other visual arts (sculpting)||1.6||1.1||1.5|
|Dance and ballet||4.3||6||4|
|Playing an instrument||7.1||6.3||8.1|
Source: Participation Survey and related web tool (2015)
The data on active participation in artistic amateur activities show a rather capricious pattern, prompting the researchers of the Participation Survey to conclude that no clear upward or downward trends can be discerned. The overall data do show that, between 2004 and 2014, one out of four people in Flanders carried out an artistic hobby at least once a month.
The Participation Survey also probes into the background of respondents. The results of the analyses of these data are in line with the outcome of international research, pointing out that age, gender, level of education, place of residence, and the environment in which respondents grew up play a role in cultural participation. There also seems to be a positive correlation between the size of the cultural offer in a certain place and the degree of cultural participation. The data gathered for the Participation Survey are insufficient to make claims about the role of culturally diverse backgrounds of respondents. When looking at non-participation in Flanders, respondents mainly indicate a lack of interest as cause — rather than, for example, practical or financial thresholds.
Though it has confronted the researchers with methodological issues, the Participation Survey has also tried to track the impact of digitisation on cultural participation. Here, the data show a very clear increase between 2009 and 2014 in the use of the Internet as a medium in both receptive and active cultural participation, as an information channel on cultural events, and as a platform for distributing and obtaining cultural artefacts.
In general, the Participation Survey concludes that, contrary to other regions and countries, cultural participation in Flanders has remained quite stable between 2004-2014. The researchers nonetheless highlight some signals that indicate this situation might change in the long run. Especially cultural participation of younger generations might prove to become an issue in later surveys. We should, however, also refer to the results of the SCV-survey. This survey was carried out on a yearly basis between 1996 and 2018 by Statistics Flanders. The methodology is different from the Participation Survey and it does not provide as detailed information, but its most recent data on receptive cultural participation does not suggest a general downward trend (and even a slight increase in the share of participants in certain artistic activities).
 Unless stated otherwise, this and following paragraphs are based on Lievens, John, Jessy Siongers, and Hans Waege, eds. 2015b. Participatie in Vlaanderen 2. Eerste analyses van de Participatiesurvey 2014. Leuven: ACCO Uitgeverij, 13-64.
 In general, there is few quantitative research on cultural participation in Flanders that takes culturally diverse backgrounds of respondents into account.
 Lievens, John, and Hans Waege, eds. 2011b. Participatie in Vlaanderen 2. Eerste analyses van de Participatiesurvey 2009. Leuven: ACCO Uitgeverij, 323-324.
 Lievens, John, Jessy Siongers, and Hans Waege, eds. 2015b. Participatie in Vlaanderen 2. Eerste analyses van de Participatiesurvey 2014. Leuven: ACCO Uitgeverij, 157-181.