Increasing cultural participation has been a central aim for Swedish cultural policy at least since the 1970’s. As such, it has been included in the instructions to every government agency dealing with arts and culture. In the words of the present objectives for Swedish cultural policy (see chapter 1.1), “Everyone should be able to participate in cultural life.” Historically, such programmes have focused on making arts and culture activities available throughout the country – which is the second least densely populated country in the EU – and on widening audiences in terms of class and education background. In recent decades, increased emphasis has been placed on other factors, such as gender, functional disability, sexual orientation, and immigrant background, as well.
Within theatre / music, visual arts, and literature, there are organisations aiming at increasing cultural participation specifically supported by the government for such purposes. Cultural organisations are also involved in neighbourhood projects, and in finding new ways to promote culture to new groups of people. Skådebanan (theatre and music) provides information and tickets through special voluntary representatives at work places. The National Touring Theatre (Riksteatern) has long been active in making arts and culture available throughout the country. Konstfrämjandet (mainly visual arts) reach people in their working environment to promote the purchase of professional art, mainly graphic, and literature, at reduced prices so that quality art can be accessible to all. Public libraries exist in all municipalities. Every year a catalogue (Barnbokskatalogen) is distributed by the Swedish Arts Council listing all newly published children’s literature. The catalogue is intended to spark an interest in reading by showcasing the new and exciting books that become available. The catalogue is free and is distributed to libraries, bookstores, and schools.
Policies intended to enhance the participation of citizens in cultural life and, particularly, in artistic activities, also focus on the availability of both in-school and out-of-school arts education. The Creative School programme (Skapande skola) is a government programme allowing municipalities and other school principals to apply for grants from the Swedish Arts Council for cultural projects involving children in preschools, and in the obligatory first ten years of school (ages 6-16 years old). The Creative School programme was granted SEK 196 million for grants in 2021.Voluntary municipal music schools also exist in most municipalities, providing after-school activities for schoolchildren. Since the 1990’s their activities have widened their focus from classical music to a broad selection of cultural expressions, including subjects such as music, dance, drama, theatre, and art, with music retaining its status as the most commonly offered subject.
The major recipients of government grants for cultural activities on the amateur level are the national study associations. In 2019, their funding from the national government amounted to more than SEK 1.9 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 organized 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.
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