In 2007, Polish government was formed by the neoliberal and pro-EU coalition of two political parties, Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska) and Polish People’s Party (Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe), who stayed in power until 2015. A noticeable result of this eight-year period was a substantial development of cultural infrastructure, in many cases with support of EU’s funding (e.g. the construction of a new building for the Karlowicz Philharmonic in Szczecin). The priorities were put on investments, cultural education and broadening access to cultural offer (including readership development and the support for digitalisation programmes). The topic of the socio-economic importance of culture and its industries was widely discussed in the public debate regarding cultural policies. At the same time, the government was reluctant to address several social issues, i.e. alarming financial and professional situation of artists (the first artists’ strike under the slogan ‘A day without art’ was organised in 2012).
Since 2015, the majority in the lower house of the Polish bicameral parliament is held by the right-wing informal alliance “The United Right” (Zjednoczona Prawica), led by the political party Justice and Law (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość). Piotr Gliński, who also holds a position of a Deputy Prime Minister, had been appointed as the Minister of Culture and National Heritage. Since October 6th, 2020, after the reconstruction of the government, Gliński is the Minister of Culture, National Heritage and Sport. The priority framework for Polish cultural policies has been set to foster historically-oriented policies, including the preservation of monuments and the promotion of Polish history and identity (e.g. the launch of a long-term programme for the 100th anniversary of independence, among others). At the same time, the scope of the state’s intervention in the field of culture was extended, covering cultural industries such as video games, design and architecture.
An important step for the Polish cultural landscape was taken in 2018, when the National Conference for Culture organised a series of debates in many Polish cities, inviting representatives of all cultural fields to take part in discussions. These debates had been widely dominated by defining the concept of a “status of a professional artist”. As a result, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage has undertaken a task to create systemic support for professional artists. The project has been publicly consulted and the final bill shall come into force in the beginning of 2021.
During the public debate, some representatives of the cultural sector accused the Minister of Culture of the interference in the internal affairs of public institutions, such as recruitment decisions and programming (conflicts arose surrounding such institutions as the Museum of the Second World War in Gdansk or the Polish Film Institute). Another strong criticism concerned the politicisation of the news broadcasted by public television.
The year 2020 has been dominated by the difficult situation of cultural industries and artists, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage has prepared a multistage programme to support culture. So far, PLN 20 million has been distributed among artists and creators in form of social support. The entire budget for counter-measuring the negative economic effects of the pandemic on cultural industries has been estimated at PLN 6 billion. Currently, there is an ongoing process of evaluation of applications for the Culture Support Fund – the programme with a budget of PLN 400 million (EUR 89 000 000) aiming to cover remunerations of employees of cultural organisations. The government has also launched a new programme to support small movie theatres, film producers and distributors, whose initial budget does not exceed PLN 157 million (EUR 35 million).
In the face of the entirely new reality, such countermeasures were mostly implemented intuitively. Keeping that in mind, extensive research projects regarding the aftermath of the pandemic and its effects on cultural industries deserve a positive recognition. One of such projects, which include both qualitative and quantitative research methods, has been initiated by the Raszewski Theatre Institute in Warsaw and inquires the situation of Polish theatres during the pandemic (the Creative Economy Research Centre of University SWPS participates in the research project, conducting an analysis of the theatre artists’ financial and professional situation). The results of the project are expected to provide an objective overview of the situation of the whole theatre sector, estimate loss, articulate needs and create further a strategy.