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: http://www.pratiquesculturelles.culture.gouv.fr ) 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: http://www.pratiquesculturelles.culture.gouv.fr ), 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.
Cultural houses and community cultural clubs
Lots of cultural actions come under a domain that is known in France as “popular education” (éducation populaire). This concept is grounded in notions of class, political struggle, and social transformation. It refers to an educational and social movement, introduced from the end of the XIXth century in France, which tries mainly to promote education that aims at improving the social system, and that is conducted out of the traditional structures of education and out of the institutional educational systems. So, popular education aims at the constant transformation of society and at the advent of a fairer and more united society. It can reinforce the contribution of cultural policy to social transformation.
The popular education actions are led in many establishments, mainly at local level: community and socio-cultural centres, youth clubs and associations (maisons des jeunes et de la culture, MJC), rural centres, holiday and leisure centres, etc. Social Security Offices have 2 000 community and social centres. In 2008, during the 60th anniversary of the creation of the MJC, 1460 MJCs had 630 000 members, 150 000 of which are aged between 16 and 25 years old.
At national level, popular education policies largely depend on the Ministry in charge of Youth and Leisure activities, which has a national operator: the National Institute of Youth and Popular Education (Institut national de la jeunesse et de l’éducation populaire, INJEP). The INJEP supervises the Observatory of the youth and youth policies, as well as a resource centre that is intended for professionals and decision-makers in the sector. INJEP is also the French operator of the European programme Youth in Action. Many federations gather the actors and the establishments of popular education, and structure the sector. They are privileged partners of the Ministry of Culture.
The partnership between popular education federations and the Ministry of Culture is relatively recent. It was not until 1999 that a common charter of objectives was signed between the Ministry of Culture and several federations. Currently, eleven federations are partners of this charter: Centres d’entrainement aux méthodes d’éducation active (CEMEA), Collectif inter-associatif pour la réalisation d’activités scientifiques et techniques internationales (CIRASTI), Confédération des maisons des jeunes et de la culture de France (CMJCF), Fédération des centres sociaux et socio-culturels de France (FCSF), Fédération française des maisons des jeunes et de la culture (FFMJC), Confédération nationale des foyers ruraux (CNFR), Fédération nationale des FRANCAS, Fédération Léo Lagrange, La ligue de l’enseignement, Peuple et culture, Union française des centres de vacances et de loisirs (UFCV).
This charter recognises the role of popular education in the field of culture, and creates the National Council “Culture-Éducation populaire”. The charter gave rise to multiannual agreements between the Ministry and the federations, accompanied by co-financing. These agreements were evaluated and renewed in 2012 for three years (http://www.culturecommunication.gouv.fr/Politiques-ministerielles/Developpement-culturel/Education-populaire).
In February, 2013 the PACTE-CNRS research centre of Grenoble organised a colloquium in partnership with the Ligue de l’enseignement and The INJEP, on the theme “Popular Education and Globalisation. Civilisational challenges of the creative, participative and intercultural society” (L’Éducation populaire à l’épreuve de la mondialisation. Défis civilisationnels de la société créative, participative et interculturelle, https://www.pacte-grenoble.fr/actualites/l-education-populaire-a-l-epreuve-de-la-mondialisation-defis-civilisationnels-de-la-societe-creative).