The basic principle governing cultural policy in Germany – a principle that has been enshrined in some of the Land Constitutions – is to enable the greatest possible number of citizens to participate in the country’s cultural life. All public cultural policy endeavours and expenditures serve the aim of creating the conditions for free and unfettered participation in cultural life. As in the past, however, some segments of the population are still afraid of trying something new and unfamiliar. Appropriate cultural support measures – in the fields of museum, theatre and arts education – are therefore being undertaken at all policy levels to reduce obstacles to access posed by educational deficiencies.
In the cultural policy debate, a direct link has, for some time, been established between the subject of cultural participation and issues of citizen involvement, of social cohesion etc. These issues are becoming increasingly important in relation to discussions on demographic developments and the growing significance of intercultural, inclusive and dialogue-oriented initiatives. Recently, some initiatives started to promote participation in cultural life, for instance for people with lower incomes or for children and young people.
In recent years, numerous programmes have been set up to promote cultural participation. These relate to (disadvantaged) children and young people, for example. Particularly noteworthy in this context is the programme Culture makes you strong (“Kultur macht stark”) launched by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in 2013, which supports projects that are explicitly aimed at children and young people in “difficult social situations” (low education, low income or parental unemployment) in order to “also enable these children and young people to have good educational opportunities and participate in society” (see also chapter 5.1). The Kulturrucksack (culture backpack) initiative launched in North Rhine-Westphalia in 2011 also aims to provide young people between the ages of 10 and 14 with free or low-cost access to cultural facilities. Cultural institutions also support this goal, for example by providing free admission for children and young people, as is the case in numerous Berlin museums, in Saxony with free admission for children up to 16 years of age to all public museums, for children and young people up to 18 years of age to all museums of the Rhineland Regional Association, and in many municipal museums in Frankfurt am Main.
Worth mentioning is also the initiative of Kulturlogen (culture lodges). The idea is to enable people with lower incomes to have free access to cultural performances by distributing seats that are provided by theatres and other cultural institutions. The first Kulturloge started in 2009 in Marburg; meanwhile the idea spread to other major cities such as Berlin, Hamburg, Dresden, Göttingen, and Gießen but also to rural districts e.g. Lahn-Dill-Kreis.