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Belgium/ 8.4 Amateur arts, cultural associations and civil initiatives  

8.4.2 Cultural houses and community cultural clubs

Flemish Community

Cultural and community centres

The Flemish government policy regarding cultural and community centres was traditionally part of the Local Culture Policy Decree (see chapter 5.2). The key point in this Decree is the clustering of cultural actors in the community under one policy umbrella: libraries, cultural centres and local initiatives. Together they should set the course of cultural life in the community. The cultural centres recognized under the Local Culture Policy Decree had three main tasks: spreading culture, community development and promoting cultural participation. However, as we indicated in chapter 5.2, there is a major shift in the relation between the Flemish Community and the culture and community centres, granting more autonomy to the municipalities. As of 2016, the Local Culture Policy Decree does not serve anymore as the policy framework for the cultural centers, hence the Flemish Government seizes to formulate the main objectives of the 70+ centers spread all over Flanders. Both the policy frameworks and the budgets will now solely be defined by the local governments. Before this transition, approximately (and on average) one fifth of the budget of the cultural centres is provided by the Flemish community and 50-60% by local governments.

Socio-cultural adult work

Socio-cultural work has a strong tradition in Flanders and has grown historically from several cultural and social emancipation movements with an ideological background. It has played an important role in the Flemish cultural movement, which has led to cultural autonomy since the 1970s.

The work of the socio-cultural organisations that rely on state subsidies in Flanders can, up to 2017, be divided into four types: associations, popular colleges, national training institutions and movements. They are controlled by law, specifically by the Decree of 4 April 2003 (which has been changed several times, the latest on 23 December 2010). Together they account for around 250 000 volunteers and around 2 000 professionals in Flanders and Brussels.

Associations are networks of local divisions or groups. There are more than 50 socio-cultural associations active in Flanders of all shapes and sizes. Together, they have around 14 000 local divisions and almost 2 million members. 13 organisations are federations of migrant organisations.

The 13 Popular Colleges (or Vormingplus centers), each working in their own region, organise short or longer courses for adults in diverse themes, but mostly social and cultural.

Also the 24 National Training Institutions offer education for adults, but they focus on a specific domain (nature and environment, care, personality and relationships etc.) or a specific target group (physically disabled people, employees etc.) and operate for the whole of Flanders.

Currently, there are 35 movements active in Flanders, specialising in one or more themes, such as peace, active citizenship, and mobility, silence, biomedical developments... operating nation-wide.

In 2017 a new Decree on Socio-Cultural Work for Adults was voted (see chapter 5.2). This law offers a combination of multi-annual structural funding and project subsidies, a qualitative evaluation procedure and a functional approach.

Hence, the aforementioned traditional four categories and definitions make way for a more flexible functional approach. Organisations choose in their applications for one or more of the following functions: culture function, learning function, community function and societal movement function.

French-speaking Community of Belgium

Locally and in 2013, the French-speaking Community of Belgium subsidises the following within the framework of various types of legislation:

  • 103 local cultural centres (multidisciplinary cultural and artistic activities),
  • 12 regional cultural centres,
  • 168 libraries,
  • 347 youth associations,
  • 156 centres of expression and creativity,
  • 689 continuing education associations (citizen education and participation).

Some local continuing education associations basically concentrate on intercultural issues and audiences of foreign origin. Many youth centres and cultural centres work regularly with intercultural audiences reflecting the cultural diversity of the population.

15% of the budget of the Culture General Directorate is dedicated to local institutions and associations.

The Regions, Provinces and Municipalities also contribute towards supporting these associations or institutions.

Interestingly, a 2010 study into the associative sector by the Fondation Roi Baudouin revealed that cultural associations were the ones hardest hit by the crisis, suffering a significant decrease in public aid[1].

German-speaking Community

The government of the German-speaking Community recognises two regional cultural centres which receive greater financial support than the local centres, libraries and creative workshops.

[1] L’impact de la crise financière sur les associations, IPSOS, Fondation Roi Baudouin, June 2010.

Chapter published: 16-01-2018

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