6. Cultural participation and consumption
Last update: September, 2018
Switzerland has a very rich and diversified cultural life. In the rural regions, local cultural associations play an important role, and participation in cultural life is linked to living traditions (see chapter 6.4). In the cities, an important number of cultural events in a broader sense (street parades, ethnic festivals, etc.) have taken over this function. Nevertheless, there are also many initiatives to promote participation in cultural life in a narrower sense, for example, the "Museum Night", which offers free admission to all museums for the duration of one night. It is organised at different times of the year in various cities in Switzerland. A Swiss-wide programme is the "museum passport", which offers admission to 250 museums all over Switzerland. Switzerland enthusiastically takes part in international programmes such as the "European Heritage Days ".
Most of these activities – whether private or public – are planned and realised at city or cantonal levels. But there are also federal government programmes to support participation in cultural life. Two examples include:
- the projects funded by the Culture and Society Section. It supports cultural projects dedicated to topical social issues and that contribute to furthering mutual understanding between regional, language, ethnic, or other communities (see chapter 2.6). The Section supports projects that reflect and transmit cultural practices and social development; and
- Bibliomedia Schweiz. This is the "Library of Libraries", which, as a public foundation, is committed to library development and reading promotion. As key information hubs, the three Bibliocentres of Bibliomedia provide a broad range of up-to-date books for children, young people and adults in all national languages as well as in several foreign languages. The three centres are located in each of the major language areas, namely, in the cities of Solothurn, Lausanne, and Biasca. 50% of the funds for Bibliomedia come from the federal government, via the Federal Office of Culture, while the other 50% are provided by the cantons.
Pro Helvetia regularly launches theme-based programmes and programmes highlighting other countries for four-year runs. The theme-based programmes focus on important questions pertaining to Switzerland's cultural identity and reflect Pro Helvetia's awareness of its policy task to nurture mutual appreciation domestically. The programmes highlighting other countries contribute to facilitating the artistic-cultural exchange between Switzerland and other countries or regions of the world. They are chiefly initiated at the request of governmental partners or partner institutions abroad. The country programmes serve Pro Helvetia as a vehicle for implementing projects that cultivate and maintain cultural interaction with countries abroad.
Another significant source of activity in Pro Helvetia comes from the SDC-designated countries, where educational and training facilities for such cultural activities as theatre, dance, music, or photography are initiated and financed, or indeed permanent exhibitions, concerts or exchange events. 60% of Pro Helvetia's financial resources flow out of the country; see chapter 1.2.2).
Last update: September, 2018
The latest study on cultural activities in Switzerland provides a valuable insight into the cultural behaviour of the Swiss population. The most important findings are summarised below (Source: 2010 Statistical Yearbook, Federal Statistical Office):
Visiting historical monuments and going to concerts or the cinema were among the most frequent cultural activities in 2008. Around two thirds of the population take part in these activities. Young people attend of cultural events more frequently than older citizens – this predominance is more evident in the case of the cinema and festivals. More highly educated citizens are more culturally active. Income also plays a significant role in most activities. Cultural activities are more frequent in urban areas than in rural ones. Cultural activities are in the first instance pursued out of active interest (68%) and secondly for the sake of entertainment (60%). As regards amateur cultural activities (that is, activities undertaken on a regular basis and with an artistic ambition), photography, the visual arts, and playing a musical instrument are mentioned most frequently. Photography attracts young men in particular, while women are more involved in the visual arts.
The favourite styles of music among the Swiss population are pop and rock, followed by classical music. With regard to concerts, classical music events attract the most visitors by a narrow margin. Persons aged below 30 in particular attend music events. Concerts are generally popular (two thirds of the population attend concerts). Almost 60% would like to attend concerts more frequently. Factors preventing them from doing so include time and money. Family reasons are often mentioned by women. 41% of the population consciously listen to music every day in the privacy of their homes, still predominantly on the radio (or on television). The younger the listeners, the more frequently they use newer media, like the Internet or MP3 players. Four out of five 15 to 19 year olds use an MP3 player. Almost every second person has attended music lessons for at least a year at some time in their life. Today, however, only every fifth person plays an instrument. Persons under the age of 30 play an instrument more frequently (28%) than those aged 60 or over (13%). The most favourite instruments include the piano and guitar, with women playing the piano more frequently, and men the guitar. Most people play music on their own; only 37% of those playing music do so in the company of others.
63% of the Swiss population go to the cinema at least once a year. Age, education, and income are keys in this respect: persons aged 15 to 24 go the cinema most. Among persons with a higher education, 24% went to the cinema more than six times in 2008 (compared to 6% of those who had completed level one secondary school education). A similar situation applies when the analysis is based on household incomes: 57% of the population with a low income did not go the cinema in 2008, compared to only 25% with a higher income. Persons living in urban areas go to the cinema much more regularly than those living in the country. 40% of the population would like to go to the cinema more often. Factors preventing them from doing so include time, start times of screenings, costs, and the family or social environment. The latter is referred to more often by women than men (24% and 17% respectively). For more highly educated persons, time is a key factor. Cost reasons, however, are mentioned, especially by young people.
Video films, DVDs, or films watched via Video on Demand (VoD) were viewed by almost 60% of the population in 2008. The cinema audience and the audience watching videos, DVDs or films via VoD are overlapping increasingly: the majority of persons who do not go the cinema do not watch videos either. Those going to the cinema also watch video films most frequently. Persons living in rural regions not only go the cinema more rarely but also watch far fewer videos, DVDs or films via VoD.
Please find the available information on this subject in 6.2.
Last update: September, 2018
Amateur arts and folk culture
Approximately one million people are culturally active in Switzerland. The majority of the members of cultural associations are active in music and theatre. Approximately half a million musicians are active in 2 000 music associations, 1 850 choirs, 200 orchestras, 8 opera companies, and 380 music schools across the country. 900 amateur theatre groups with a total active membership of around 35 000 in French-speaking Switzerland alone stage 1 000 performances a year. The Swiss Traditional Costumes Association boasts over 20 000 members.
While cultural (umbrella) organisations are mainly supported by the Swiss Federal Office of Culture, an enormous number of amateur arts associations and cultural houses are financed on a private basis or supported by the cities and communes, often by monies generated by state lottery funds. In Switzerland, the significance of the country's intangible cultural heritage for social cohesion, for the country's cultural self-image, and for its image and appearance abroad, as well as that of its various regions, is firmly acknowledged. By ratifying the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of 16 July 2008, Switzerland has formally accepted and become part of the international legal framework for the promotion of cultural diversity (see chapter 2.9). For the period 2012-2015, the principal focus is on amateur arts and popular culture.
Cultural houses and community cultural clubs
Amateur arts associations play an important role within federalist Switzerland. More than 10% of the population serve as volunteers in cultural associations. (For statistics, see chapter 6.2). This is certainly due in large part to Switzerland's observation of the federal principle. This is reflected in the diversity of cultural centres and activities, which are primarily given financial backing at the communal level. There are also public-private partnerships, such as the Dada House in Zurich. Significant for being the birthplace of the Dada movement, the building was rescued from near-death due to a planned building usage change, and has now been turned into the Cabaret Voltaire, a cultural centre, which, among others, is extending aspects of the avant-garde into the 21st century. On the administrative side, related institutions may be located in the corresponding cultural, youth, or social domains.