6. Cultural participation and consumption
Last update: November, 2016
Increasing cultural participation has been a central aim for Swedish cultural policy since the 1960s, and such aims are included in the instructions to every government agency dealing with culture. Within theatre / music, visual arts, and literature, there are organisations aiming at increasing cultural participation specifically supported by the government for such purposes. Skådebanan (theatre and music) provides information and tickets through special voluntary representatives at work places. Cultural organisations are also involved in neighbourhood projects, which find new ways to promote culture to new groups of people. The National Touring Theatre and National Touring Exhibitions also play roles in this area. Konstfrämjandet (mainly visual arts) reach people in their working environment to promote purchasing of professional art, mainly graphic, and literature, at reduced prices so that quality art can be accessible to all.
Policies intended to enhance the participation of citizens in cultural life and, particularly, in artistic activities, to a large extent focus on the availability of both in-school and out-of-school arts education. 34% of the total budget for cultural policy is allocated to folkbildning (popular adult education), where aesthetic courses account for a large part of the activity, often organised in cooperation with voluntary associations. Cultural associations also play an important role in stimulating participation in cultural life (see chapter 6.4).
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.
Last update: November, 2016
Most people under 80 years old are culturally active, in the widest sense, visiting at least one cultural institution per year (concert, film, library, museum, drama, art exhibition). The general trend is that more and more old people attend cultural events. However, younger people, in the last 10 years, have shown a decrease in activity in the traditional cultural areas, which have been measured since 1976.
The most recent published general survey of cultural activity in Sweden includes data from 2014. At that time 43% of the adult population attended theatre performances, 18% classical concerts, 47% visited museums, and 55% public libraries. 7% sang in choirs, 86% had read at least 1 book in the last year, 22% and had written poetry or diaries. Women generally seem to have a wider interest in the arts than men do. Participation in cultural associations decreased in the 1990s but was in 2009 stable at a level where about 5% of the adult population are members (for more information, see table 5 below).
While younger people show less attendance at traditional cultural events than other age groups, they participate actively in cultural activities to a higher degree; this includes not only new activities, but also established activities such as playing music and participating in amateur theatre. Young Swedes also access the Internet more than other age groups and are active users of a number of Internet services for publishing their own work. Expenditure on films, festivals and music among young people is also very high.
Internet use in Sweden is among the highest in the world. In 2012, 90% of Swedes had access to the Internet and 74% used it daily. In 2011, 66% of Internet users used it to listen to music, 64% used social media such as Facebook, 66% used the interactive encyclopaedia Wikipedia, 40% read blogs and 25% participated in file-sharing. These figures illustrate the drastic changes, opportunities and challenges posed by new modes of communication to cultural policy, as well as too other policy areas. According to recent studies, illegal file sharing is now increasingly outcompeted by legal services such as Spotify.
While reading trends among adults are stable or increasing, young people read less (at least when it comes to printed material), but the trend towards decreasing reading in the 1990s has not continued into the new century (lately decreased reading of printed material among young people may also relate to Internet sources taking over the role previously held by non-fiction books, such as encyclopaedias, as a source of information).
In general, cultural statistics have been criticised for not being adapted enough to the changes that have occurred in cultural habits, especially after the spread of internet use and IT related cultural habits in the last decade. In a report form 2013, the Swedish Agency for Cultural Analysis stated that current cultural statistics is “mainly focused on the cultural form and its distribution. There are, for example, questions about cinema and book reading, rather than on consumption of film and literature. The surveys focus on form and means of distribution rather than on content, and thus become vulnerable to technological change”. Current developments thus raise new questions on how cultural statistics can be conducted better.
Table 6: Cultural habits in Sweden, 2014
|Activity||% share of surveyed population who do this yearly|
|Read a book||86|
|Photographed or filmed||71|
|Drawn or painted||29|
|Written diary or poetry||22|
|Played a musical instrument||23*|
|Sang in a choir||7*|
|Played theatre, LARP etc.||4|
|Visited a library||55|
|Participated in a study circle or course||30|
|Been to a cinema||66|
|Been to a theatre||43|
|Been to a rock or pop concert||34|
|Been to a musical||28*|
|Been to a classical concert or opera||18|
|Been to ballet or dance performance||14|
|Visited a historical site or building||60|
|Visited a museum||47|
|Visited an artistic exhibition||44|
Source: Myndigheten för Kulturanalys 2016: Kulturvanor: Rapport 2016:1
* Information from 2013.
Last update: November, 2016
Table 5: Household expenditure for private cultural participation and consumption by domain, 2012
|Item||Household expenditure for culture in national currency||% share of total household expenditure|
|Investment costs for TV, video, DVD etc.||8 124||0.63|
|TV licence fees||6 804||0.53|
|Fees for cable and satellite TV etc.||8 165||0.64|
|Film, music and games||2 227||0.17|
|Tickets for music, theatre, cinema, museum etc.||4 825||0.38|
|Cultural and artistic activity||2 680||0.21|
|Musical instruments and art||2 227||0.17|
|Other reading||2 074||0.18|
Source: Kulturens finansiering 2012-2013, Myndigheten för kulturanalys 2014.
Last update: November, 2016
Amateur arts and folk culture
In 2012, the voluntary cultural organisations cooperating in Ideell Kulturallians claimed over a million members. These organisations are, in most cases, organised in a way typical of Swedish NGOs (see chapter 1.2.5), each dealing with amateur activities in a particular art form or other cultural activity, such as, for example, choirs, music, theatre or local heritage. The largest of these organisations is the Swedish Local Heritage Federation (Svenska Hembygdsförbundet), which, in 2012, reported over 430 000 members in 1 973 clubs all over the country. Thousands of people are active in associations dealing with traditional crafts and folk dancing. Choir associations, the second largest group, had around 125 000 members, in more than 5 000 choirs. Large national associations organise national and ethnic minorities, organising many cultural activities in both Swedish and their native languages. While many organisations have a high numbers of active members, their financial resources remain limited and their activities to a high degree rely on volunteers. This is even truer of associations not belonging to a national organisation.
Most government funding for national associations in culture does not come via the Ministry of Culture, or from its government agencies. Government funding for voluntary cultural organisations, as such, is relatively limited – on the national level as well as on the regional and local levels. If such organisations receive government funding, they tend to receive funding designed for other purposes. Some of them are registered as youth organisations and others are organisations for national or ethnic minorities, both of which are eligible to access special funding.
The major recipients of government grants for cultural activities are the study associations (see chapter 1.2.5). Together with the popular high schools, these are annually funded by the government with more than SEK 3.3 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 organised 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.
Large numbers of people are also active in cultural activities within the religious denominations. In 2009, this included 113 000 people singing in church choirs in the Church of Sweden. The Church of Sweden also owns and maintains a large number of the nation's buildings protected as cultural heritage.
There are also a number of new, or relatively new, activities that may be termed cultural, that are increasing. The use of computer games is increasing. It is possible that the decreasing numbers of people writing in other forms will be connected to the increasing numbers of people publishing their own writing on the Internet. Another form of cultural activity that is increasing in size and importance is the cultural festivals, e.g., historical and musical festivals. The Hultsfred Rock Festival can be given as an example of an event that has become an important feature of the field of popular music, both in Sweden and in neighbouring countries. Another example of a Swedish cultural festival is the Medieval Week (Medeltidsveckan) of Gotland, which is now among the premier tourist events in the region. Both of these events were originally organised by amateurs and volunteers organised in small non-profit associations. In both cases, these groups were dominated by younger people. Much like older and more established voluntary organisations, they were financed in several combined ways, such as grants from the local municipality and study associations, as well as by local commercial interests. They did not, however, hold the large memberships of established associations. In Hultsfred, a cluster including both non-profit associations and commercial companies formed around the original organisation as the festival grew into a major event. On Gotland, the organisational centre is now a foundation connected to local authorities, business and other already established organisations. Since starting in the 1980s, both festivals have thus developed into more institutionalised forms, without conforming to the established model. Reliance on volunteers, however, remained high in both cases.
Cultural houses and community cultural clubs
Cultural houses of various sorts are maintained by many Swedish municipalities. These often include public libraries (which exist in all Swedish municipalities), theatres and other local cultural institutions. Other cultural houses are maintained by the municipalities for leisure activities for young people (fritidsgårdar). New and larger cultural houses, concert halls, and art galleries have been built in recent years by relatively large municipalities, such as Helsingborg and Karlstad, in small communities, like Hässleholm, Vara, Mariefred, and Skärhamn, as well as in suburbs of major cities, e.g. the Centre for Cultural Diversity in Botkyrka (Stockholm) and the Dream House in Rosengård (Malmö).
Three major national associations are supported by the national government to maintain cultural houses and other similar facilities throughout the country: Folkets Hus och Parker, Våra Gårdar and Bygdegårdarnas Riksförbund. All three have a background in the popular movements that arose in the late 19th century. The largest of the three is Folkets Hus och Parker, an organisation maintaining about 900 venues all over the country. It has close ties to other organisations sharing its origins in the labour movement.
Another major organisation is The Swedish Local Heritage Federation (Svenska Hembygdsförbundet), representing 1 973 clubs all over the country, often maintaining their own houses. It focuses mainly on preserving local cultural heritage in the form of immaterial heritage as well material heritage, such as for example local buildings and private museums. In small towns and villages, such facilities often play a significant role in local social and cultural life.