6. Cultural participation and consumption
Last update: January, 2011
There have been no significant changes in cultural policies involving other issues of civic participation, citizenship, civil society development / cohesion.
University students are entitled to a 50% discount on admission fees to all state-owned cultural institutions. Other than that, there are no programmes or special provisions to promote public participation in cultural activities.
Last update: January, 2011
According to a report by the Council of Europe for the book sector in Albania, theatrical, musical and cinema performances have practically come to a standstill in recent years and specific government help is needed. As a result, the main media for the dissemination of information and culture are radio, television, books and magazines. The growing number of satellite dishes in Albanian towns makes television to be by far the leading medium.
Today, there are 28 daily newspapers, but their individual circulation ranges from 500 to 20 000 copies. While the number of newspapers has doubled over the last five years, their total circulation has fallen by around 30%. The newest daily, "Shqip", which was launched in March 2006, is actually the biggest. "Shqip" is an affiliate of the country's biggest media group, Top Media, which controls the leading Top Channel TV, Top Albania Radio and Digitalb platform for satellite and terrestrial digital paid programmes.
Experts say that the crisis in the printed media market is due to newspaper editorial policies. In recent years, many big business companies have invested in this market, but they have tried to use the power of their media to put pressure on, or even blackmail the government. Other media have been explicitly backing the government. There is a growing concern in society that the media is being abused by their owners, often suspected to have links with the underworld, in their power games. As a result, more Albanians abstain from reading daily papers. Publishers may offer prices as low as 10 ALL (0.08 EUR) per paper, which is half of the lowest price applied to any paper in 2000, or may offer the paper plus a music CD for 100 ALL (0.8 EUR) or 200 ALL (1.6 EUR) for the paper plus a bestselling book. Nevertheless, sales continue to fall and more readers prefer to read any paper offered for free from their favourite coffee bar!
The situation with regard to book reading is little different. Readership figures are generally low and even the leading best sellers sell fewer than 2 000 copies over a two-three year period (according to publisher's statements). Various interviews on this subject produced the following responses:
- in relation to average income, books are expensive; the average price of a book is approximately equal to an average day's pay (500 ALL);
- older people read more than the young, who read very little or not at all;
- dedicated readers prefer more traditional narrative material, especially from the 19th century; and
- the events of 1997 have had a negative effect on library lending.
All the interviewees emphasised that until the 1990s, reading was the predominant cultural activity and had no competition from other media. This explains both the age range and the preferences of dedicated readers. Nowadays the purchase of books is held back for economic reasons, even for this readership group, while, at the same time, public access to books is hampered by the terrible state of the libraries around the country, many of which were damaged during the crisis of 1997.
Recent reports from the Book Publishers' Association show a slight increase in book sales, mainly during book fairs. The book fairs may be considered as the "new fashion" in the book sector in Albania. At the end of October 2006, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture organised a three-day book fair, offering free exhibition space for all Albanian publishers and free admission for all visitors. The following week, the Book Publishers' Association organised its privately managed book fair.
To date there have been no surveys and thus, there is no statistical data regarding the participation of national minority or immigrant groups in cultural life.
Please find the available information on this subject in 6.2.
Last update: January, 2011
Amateur arts and folk culture
Amateur arts in Albania have a long-standing tradition, especially in the field of music. Folk groups are active in all Albanian towns and several music associations have been established. The Ministry of Culture finances a nation-wide folk festival in Gjirokastra, in which minority groups can also participate.
In fact, folklore, especially folk songs and dances, have always been considered a matter for amateurs in Albania. Under Communism, amateur groups of all genres and art forms could count on financial and technical support from central and local government. Nowadays, the only amateur groups to get some project funding are folk ensembles (occasional support for recording and CDs) and Tirana high school students, who participate in an annual amateur festival for teens.
The most important institution of folk music and dance is the Folk Song and Dance Ensemble, now a division of the National Opera and Ballet Theatre. It has a sixty year long history and several awards at international folk festivals. At the time of its establishment, the ensemble was formed through auditions open to all amateurs interested. All selected members were trained in year long courses by professionals. With time, things changed and more and more graduates of the Academy of Arts joined the Ensemble, though it remained open to amateurs. Due to their status as full-time professionals, the Ensemble was never allowed to compete for any of the awards at the National Folk Ensemble in Gjirokastra, but as always it was invited to perform as a guest of honour during the final night.
Folk festivals are a new interesting reality in Albania. The National Folk Festival of Gjirokastra, first held in 1968, is still in business and is held every four years. All participants must meet the Festival's strict criteria: to perform an original piece of art, be it a song, a dance or an instrumental work, that was never performed or recorded before. The last edition of the Festival was in September 2009. Some 1 200 musicians, singers and dancers performed live during the week of the Festival on the stage within Gjirokastra Castle.
Other festivals are held in tourist cities, like Vlora, especially during the high tourist season in August. As a rule, they are non-competitive and open to international folk ensembles and performers. An exception is the Bylis Festival of Polyphony, which emphasises polyphony as a brilliant tradition of Balkan folklore.
Cultural houses and community cultural clubs
Most of the cultural centres are located in Tirana. The Italian Institute of Culture, the British Council, the Alliance Française, the Goethe Institute and USIS have opened reading rooms and also offer book and DVD or VHS lending. Apart from public libraries, there are no public or state-owned cultural clubs for youth or other communities or groups.
Unfortunately, community cultural centres or intercultural centres are not yet a cultural issue in Albania.
The table below provides an overview of the number of music associations in Albania, which are very important aspect of the country's cultural life.
Table 6: List of music associations and number of members
|Name of association||Number of members|
|Association of Piano Teachers and Professors||400|
|Friends of Talented Children||400|
|Albanian Section of CIOFF||16 associations|
|Association of New Albanian Music||55|
|Albanian Association Frederic Chopin||55|
|Tirana Association||2 000|
|Association of Creative Intellectuals||100|
Source: Directory of Art, Culture and Sports published by the Albanian Foundation of Civil Society.