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Culture - essential for the dynamics of contemporary democratic societies?


At the 13th Assembly of Compendium Experts, December 2014 in Brussels, Alexander Vander Stichele presented a stimulating report on "The Value(s) of Culture" that also fits well into the context of the new Compendium space on "Culture & Democracy". The presentation underlined the value, meaning and impact of the arts and culture for the daily life of people  and demonstrated that culture can be essential for the dynamics of contemporary democratic societies.

On the occasion of the publication of an English-language summary of this report, the brand-new Flanders Arts Institute, together with IETM and deBuren, stage a panel discussion with researchers and policymakers from all over Europe, Australia and Canada. It takes place in Brussels on 17 February 2015 and will also be shared globally via livestream...

In many European countries, discussions about public investment in the arts and culture are on the agenda every day. While traditional arguments are losing weight and the debate is more and more being fuelled by economic arguments and statistical data, the cultural scene as well as policymakers in this domain feel an increasing need for a new dialogue about the place of the arts and culture within our societies. During the last years in Flanders, this debate has been animated by 'The Value of Culture', an investigative report, in which Pascal Gielen (along with a team of sociologists, economists, philosophers and psychologists from the Rijksuniversiteit of Groningen) assembled a series of research results on this topic.

On the occasion of the publication of an English-language summary of this report, the Flanders Arts Institute, IETM and deBuren are organising on 17 February a panel discussion with researchers and policymakers from all of Europe, Australia and Canada. Pascal Gielen (Universiteit Groningen) starts it off with a presentation of the principle views from The Value of Culture. Mieke van Hecke (former Flemish Volks Representative and Director-General of the Flemish Secretariat for Catholic Education) leads off a panel with Peter Inkei (Budapest Observatory), Mercedes Giovinazzo (Interarts, Barcelona) and Abigail Gilmore (Manchester University). Diane Dodd (IFACCA, the world-wide network of Arts Councils) will moderate.

The panel discussion will be shared globally via livestream. Tune in on 17 February between 15:00 and 17:00 on (the official website of Flanders Arts Institute, English version coming soon) and follow it live. The English-language publication, 'The Value of Culture', can also be downloaded free of charge from the same site. The debate on 17 February is shared publicly with the IETM Satellite meeting, 'The art of valuing: between evident and evidence-based', a two-day seminar on the value of culture, geared towards policymakers (Ministries, foundations, arts councils) from around Europe, Australia and Canada. The intention is to collaborate on new models in order to make the value of culture visible and to take initiatives supporting cultural dimensions of policy making, both at the national and the European levels.

Passionate Democracy

The Scottish Referendum: What's next?


Written in the wake of the independence referendum with its landmark turnout of voters, the personal thoughts and experiences of Compendium expert Andrew Ormston provide us with a first-hand impression of the campaign and what it could mean for cultural policies in Scotland. According to him, there are signs that cultural actors in the (now still) north of the UK may be more attracted by ideas and solutions of close-by Nordic countries than by those postulated in the halls of Westminster….




Only da sea can greet an sing at da sam time:
shade an licht: cobalt, ultramarine an dan
da lönabrak a tize, a frush o whicht.

Extract from the Shetlandic poem
‘Discontinuity’ by Christine de Luca

Passionate Democracy

Andrew Ormston, September 2014

Two days after the Scottish referendum and I remain ‘wrung out’.  This has been an extraordinary journey, with years of fascinating debate and dialogue transforming into a final two weeks of what could only be described as an onslaught of press and media campaigning. 

The opportunity to consider what a country could be like and how you might contribute to its making is something I will remember for the rest of my life.  This discussion took place in many and various arenas, from the Scottish Parliament building to community halls, to the dinner table.  My own favourite forum was Nordic Horizons (1) where invited academics and professionals from Nordic countries would debate a particular sector or initiative, from waste management to culture. The central figure in Nordic Horizons, Lesley Riddoch, became a star of the yes campaign, publishing an influential book (2) and taking the debate to communities around the whole country.  The Edinburgh International Book Festival was perhaps the intellectual high point of the process, taking place less than a month before the vote, with many of its 800 authors either formally or informally engaging with the issues.

However not all debate was so patrician.  Culture did not feature prominently in the referendum White Paper (3), with proposals to divest the BBC of its Scottish resources to create a new public sector broadcaster attracting most attention.  Nevertheless, culture did play an important role:  The pro-independence National Collective of Artists and Creatives (4) provided a full bodied approach to cultural imaginings of Scotland, far from the rarefied atmosphere of the university or gallery.   Once again I had a favourite cultural offer in the form of The National Theatre of Scotland’s ‘The Great Yes, No, Don’t Know Five Minute Theatre Show’ (5).  Not all cultural sector interventions were pro-independence.  For example a group of Scottish publishers penned an open letter voicing concerns that VAT changes would challenge their future sustainability, and 200 UK celebrities signed up to a letter opposing independence.

Social media was a key source of information.  Some journalists maintained a professional eye on proceedings (Channel 4’s Paul Mason was an exemplar, and even provided us a steady supply of Northern Soul music through his twitter feed during the purdah period of voting).  However, many did not and the mismatch between your eyes and ears, and the television screen and radio broadcast led to a dependence on social media to keep abreast of events. 

Passionate democracy did result in a 84.5% turnout, the highest in UK electoral history.  It also meant almost everyone declared their voting intention, and as you can see mine was pro-independence. It was also a turbulent and intense final two weeks, particularly from the day a poll put independence ahead.  Out of the panic arose imprecise guarantees of more powers and the first passionate political speech supporting Unionism delivered by Gordon Brown, a previous Prime Minister.   I was, however, one of the 780,000 postal voters and this was all too late for me.  In the end 45% of the vote was for independence and it was decided by different generations:  73% of the over 65s voted No and 71% of 16/17 year olds voted yes – which explains the tendency found on the pictured Twitter Trendsmap.  Many of us are still processing the emotional and practical aftermath and the early signs aren’t good. 

It is hard to say what this means for the creative and cultural industries in Scotland.  Devolution has meant some clear differences in approach.  The Arts Council became Creative Scotland followed by the well-publicised ructions in unifying creative industries and the arts under one umbrella. National arts companies are separate, with an arguably divisive direct report to the Scottish Government.  Local Government is less diminished than in England, although some Councils have slashed arts funding.   However, it seems clear that devolution has been good for the arts in Scotland.  Government funding commitments to the arts are under pressure, but remain firm.  The strength of Scottish Higher Education is rightly celebrated, just think of the influence of Glasgow School of Art on the visual arts world in recent years.  Most importantly Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence provides a much more effective educational ethos and platform for arts and creative activities in schools.

There is also some difference at the ideological level.  This was clearest when Scotland’s Culture Minister, Fiona Hyslop made an impassioned commitment to arts funding for art’s sake, criticising the instrumental arts funding agenda that has dominated the UK’s approach.  The creative industries entrepreneurship mission also feels different in Scotland - an urge to monetise intellectual property tempered with an identity that honours renaissance values.  A creative sector packed with micro businesses is just as much a challenge for Scotland’s enterprise agencies as elsewhere, but an agency like Highlands & Islands Enterprise is comfortable investing in a mixed creative economy of public, private and third sector interdependence.  Speed of privatisation in Scotland (of the health service for example) has also been constrained by devolution.  The city-centric approach to strategy that is gaining political ground so rapidly is also more mature in a country where the resource battles with the central belt cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh have been going on for decades.

So, what next?  Creative Scotland has laid out a ten year strategy and is busy translating the findings of a range of sector reviews (I am currently working on one of them, a review of the Scottish literature sector) with new delivery plans.  The country’s major arts organisations are awaiting the results of an open call for three year funding from Creative Scotland which will shape arts provision for the immediate future.  Scotland’s enthusiasm for playing a full part in Europe came to the fore in the referendum campaigning and this may result in a re-energising of European relationships amongst Scotland cultural and creative organisations.  However cultural policy has not caught up with the devolution opportunity as yet and remains a ‘scaled down version of British cultural policy’ (6).  There are clear opportunities in grasping the prospects of the Curriculum for Excellence and the new Community Empowerment legislation (7).  A rethinking of how creative industries are aggregated and framed could also lead to more effective interventions by agencies.  The Youth Guarantee schemes of Finland and Sweden have clear potential in Scotland, and we should consider the national potential in schemes like the Edinburgh Guarantee (8) for culture and creative graduates and practitioners. Nothing embodies Scotland’s renaissance heritage and knowledge economy ambitions better than the library. A current review into public library provision will also air discussions about an integrated national library service that could provide all Scots with a more ambitious digital and analogue resource.

There is an upbeat commentary that the referendum has changed politics for the better.  But faced with the incompatibility of a ‘first past the post - winner takes all’ electoral system and five year fixed term Westminster governments, I am struggling to see this.  There will be creative people that do, and I look forward to supporting their efforts.



2          Blossom - What Scotland Needs to Flourish, Riddoch.L, Luath Press, 2014

3          Scotland’s Future - Your Guide to an Independent Scotland, Scottish Government, 2013, ISBN: 978-1-78412-068-9



6          Schlesinger. P, in: After Independence - An informed guide to Scotland’s possible futures for anyone who is pro or anti independence, unsure or just generally curious,  Hassan.G & Mitchell.J, Luath Press, 2014




Council of Europe WebTV Journal now on Twitter

Complementing Council of Europe information on the general website and on more specific Internet portals, e.g., the CoE Directorate of Communications has launched a weekly TV Journal in 2013, see Insert Image:CoE_Jounal.jpg

Every Friday, it offers the latest TV news, features and interviews regarding human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
In addition to other social networks, this WebTV service has now been extended to Twitter, see The Journal and other content, e.g. videos, photos and special reports, are all downloadable. They cover, inter alia, themes dealt with in the Compendium such as: heritage issues; cultural awards; education and training; intercultural dialogue; media; social cohesion; human rights and human dignity (e.g. gender equality); languages; minorities/Roma; and youth.

Directorate General "Democracy": introducing the new web portal

The Directorate General of Democracy (DGII) of the Council of Europe has launched its new Internet portal at The portal is to serve users with a more dynamic, intuitive interface and improved navigation. Providing a quicker access to the complete range of DGII activities, structures and tools that promote human dignity and democratic competences, the portal facilitates the direct access to all actions related to culture and heritage, including the Compendium. The latter contributes as well to other DG Democracy topics such as: education and training; intercultural dialogue; media; social cohesion; human rights and human dignity (e.g. gender equality); languages; minorities/Roma; youth.


The overall mandate of the Directorate General of Democracy is to support the Council of Europe action in fields which are critically important for the sustainability of democracy and for ensuring human dignity:

  • To ensure the respect for human dignity of all without discrimination and on the basis of human rights standards
  • To improve the functioning of democratic institutions and to secure compliance with democracy and human rights standards
  • To strengthen the democratic competencies of the citizens and their willingness to engage themselves in the democratic process
  • To democratically manage the inner diversity of European societies in a spirit of solidarity and tolerance based on the political and legal standards of the Council of Europe.

Tribute to Vladimír Bina

With great regret we have to announce that our Compendium colleague Vladimír Bina has recently died after severe illness. Until his retirement, Vladimír worked as a research coordinator for Culture and Media at the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science in The Hague/Netherlands. He had studied sociology at Charles University in Prague and at the University of Tilburg (Netherlands), receiving his Ph.D. from the Free University Amsterdam. During the last decade, Vladimír contributed actively to the Dutch country profile and to the development of empirical tools of the Compendium.

In addition, he has been involved in international efforts to improve and harmonise cultural statistics and indicators. Among other assignments, he participated in the Eurostat Leadership Group on Cultural Statistics and collaborated with international bodies such as the UNESCO Institute of Statistics and OECD. He has also been one of the coordinators of the European Group on Museum Statistics (EGMUS).

In order to pay tribute to Vladimír and to his important support of the Compendium, we feature again one of his last papers: "Indicators on Cultural Participation and Access to Culture".

Colin Mercer: Expanding the knowledge base for cultural policies

Colin Mercer, one of the leading strategic research and development experts for the creative sector worldwide, passed away in July, 2013. Honouring his broad experience gained during over 30 years work as a professor, researcher and advisor in fields such as cultural mapping and planning, indicator development and creative industries policies, the Compendium editors selected him in 2012 as a Special Advisor to the Expert Group on Cultural Participation Issues.

In June 2012, at the Compendium/CultureWatchEurope event in Helsinki, Colin gave one of his last public presentations.

Since this contribution could indeed be interpreted as his legacy for researchers and other cultural policy experts, we feature it again.

Here are the central propositions of Colin's lecture:

  • Need to enhance the quantitative baseline (cultural statistics and other data) and the qualitative baseline (evidence on 'social impacts', the relationship between culture and quality of life, social cohesion and inclusion);
  • Need to move along and up the 'knowledge value chain' from data (statistics) to information (indicators) to knowledge (benchmarks) to wisdom (policy);
  • Need for a research and knowledge-development culture which is stakeholder-based involving both 'top-down' research expertise and 'bottom-up' local knowledge, expertise and ownership;
  • Need to position indicators, governance and the strategic place of culture in public policy within a unified conceptual horizon within which an enlarged and enriched concept and ambition of citizenship is the central landmark and stake;
  • Need a strategic positioning of 'culture' like 'the environment'.

Cultural Participation: New Challenges and opportunities

Pier Luigi Sacco, Professor at the IULM University in Milano, surprised participants with his keynote lecture at the recent Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Culture, held in Moscow with the overall theme: “Governance of Culture – Promoting Access to Culture” (see the final statement of the Conference here - it coincides nicely with Compendium plans to set European standards for user / non-user surveys).

We provide a link to Sacco's presentation, which is based on an earlier analysis of the road leading from "Culture 1.0" towards "Culture 3.0" and the most likely consequences for future cultural policy making in Europe. To a large degree, this on-going process is shaped by the success of new technologies (in particular, the digital revolution) as well as by social change in most of the European societies.

His main conclusions can also be understood as a call for further conceptual and empirical research:

  • Culture is not simply a large and important sector of the economy, it is a ‘social software’ that is badly needed to manage the complexity of contemporary societies and economies in all of its manifold implications.
  • The total indirect macroeconomic impact of cultural participation is likely to be much bigger than the (already remarkable) direct one.
  • Once we become able to measure the indirect effects of culture on the various dimensions (to ‘capitalize’ culture), it will be possible to bring cultural policy at the top ranks of the policy agenda.
  • These effects are further strengthened by the growth of the cultural and creative industries, but only insofar as such growth is as inclusive and participative as possible.

The Effects of the Financial Crisis: Grim but not hopeless?

A New Compendium Monitoring Tool

Monitoring_Cultural_Budgets(AJW) Societal and budgetary challenges triggered by the current economic crisis are bound to affect not only arts and heritage infrastructures or initiatives, but also political efforts to widen access to culture and to increase the participation of all citizens in a multifaceted cultural life. The important role arts, media and heritage activities can play for the social, educational and economic development of our societies may already be at risk, according to some observers. However, previous assessments did not show uniform trends: Until now it has been difficult to determine, at least in more exact – and comparable! – figures, whether and to what extent public cultural financing in Europe has really suffered from the crisis.

In order to better reflect and monitor these (potential) effects, the new comparative table E.2 on public funding of culture has been developed in the ERICarts Institute. The table will be constantly updated, based on more recent figures in national profiles.

Extracted mainly from the latest official statistics provided in many of the Compendium country profiles, data on public cultural expenditure per capita for 2000, 2005 and 2009-2011 as well as the latest ratios for culture budgets in total public expenditure and in GDP could be compiled.

In this context, per capita figures serve mainly as a "horizontal" indicator for national trends in times of crisis, while the overall budget and GDP-shares can provide "vertical" - and relatively neutral - yardsticks for comparative assessments of the strength of public involvement in culture.

Similar to the previous assessment, the results of this exercise show a differentiated picture: Clearly, we can see, in many countries, budget cuts as a result of the crisis. On the other hand, quite a number of state and city governments seem to be acting "countercyclical", possibly because they know that a diverse and productive cultural environment can raise the spirit of many citizens and will, at the same time, result in important tangible contributions towards overcoming the present difficulties faced by governments, civil society and economic players.

En route to a Practice of European and National "Culture-Related Impact Assessment" (CRIA)?

Legal and administrative proposals by Jörg Michael Schindler

The Council of Europe, due to its 1954 European Cultural Convention and related activities, can reflect upon a long history of assessing impacts of political, legal and socio-economic developments in the sphere of the arts, heritage and media.

Special projects or task forces and, more recently, its "National Cultural Policy Review Programme" (initiated in 1986 along the lines of the OECD Education System Reviews) and the monitoring tool "Compendium of Cultural Policies & Trends in Europe" (since 1998) usually team independent experts with representatives of governments in order to check current policies and practices or develop alternative solutions.

Within the framework of the European Union, such ideas took, and still take, much longer to gain ground: In 1992, the Maastricht Treaty first incorporated into the founding treaties of the EU a so-called "Cultural Awareness Clause" (now anchored again in Art. 167.4 TFEU). This could have been the moment to replace the historically-determined cultural blindness of the EU's institutions by an obligation to take into account cultural facts and problems in its policies and action.

The clause has a protective function and an active dimension. In recent years, the protective function has receded into the background of debates, although it promises more comprehensive, resource-friendly and enduring political and cultural effects. The reason for this is that the practical implementation of the protective function has so far remained an unsolved problem. As such, and in the face of an astonishingly perplexed corpus of administrative and legal theory, the practice of the EU institutions continues to lag far behind both the long-standing and current expectations of European citizens, particularly of those engaged in the cultural sector.

The now widespread practice of "Regulatory Impact Analyses" (OECD) and “Integrated Impact Assessmentsè (EU), which have been developed and refined during the last decades mainly for environmental, economic and social concerns, could turn out to be a remedy to the current ineffectiveness of Art. 167.4 TFEU's protective function. However, since systematic culture-related assessments are still more an exception than a rule on the European, national or local levels, the author has elaborated, in a new study[1], the model of a è˜Culture-Related Impact Assessment' process (CRIA). CRIA is easily justifiable in legal terms and can be described with considerable precision on the basis of existing administrative instruments.

In order to make this model accessible, via the Compendium, to a wider European and international public, the author has summarised its background and main components in an essay, which focuses on European perspectives.

Download here

[1] Jörg Michael Schindler: “Kulturpolitik und Recht 3.0 - Von der Kulturverträglichkeitsprüfung zur kulturbezogenen Folgenabschätzungè (Cultural Policy and Law 3.0 - from 'Cultural Compatibility' en route to Culture-Related Impact Assessment), Köln/Cologne 2011, ISBN 978-3-930395-87-3

New Challenges to the Landscape of Cultural Policies in Europe

A few thoughts by Robert Palmer (Council of Europe)

The Council of Europe, among its many functions, collects information and monitors developments in 50 European countries. All of our work in culture and heritage is related in some way to the theme of the right to culture framed as a human right. "Cultural rights" include, but are not limited to: rights to access to culture, participation in culture, and the right to freedom of expression. Particular attention is paid to the rights of minorities, and to approaches linked to the management of increasingly diverse communities in European societies.

Using the 'Compendium' and a great many other means of gathering information, we are trying to examine è˜macro-trends' that affect culture in Europe. To this effect, we have formed a special platform called è˜CultureWatch Europe' (see more under

From my perspective, the landscape for cultural policy in Europe is now very challenging. The focus seems to be on re-invention, re-engineering, reform - almost everywhere. These are positive words in abstract - but my concern reflects as well a few worrying signs and their implications in terms of implementation.

Let me mention a few of these:


I am aware of a growing resurgence of nationalism in cultural policies in Europe. Much debate is focusing on national identities, but also on the ways in which the cultures of minorities - migrants in particular - should be managed.

In many countries, priority appears to be given to revitalizing the national dimension of cultural policy - preoccupied in some cases with the protection of national heritage, often at the expense of contemporary creation. There is a clear prominence given to the export of national cultural products and an increased emphasis on cultural tourism and 'creative industries' as a means of promoting a nationally centered profile of a country.

There are clear and worrying threats posed by nationalistic tendencies in many states, especially when cultural policy is used as a basis for identity policy. We must watch particularly carefully the impact of these tendencies on the fragile cultures of our minority and migrant communities and, at the same time, continue with our efforts to promote the processes of a true intercultural dialogue.


We have been monitoring carefully the impact of a re-structuring of economies in Europe and the effects of the debt crisis and cuts to public expenditure.   It is still too early to determine the full impact of a potential re-shaping of public financing of culture, even if alarm bells are ringing everywhere.

It seems impossible to see the real picture only from the figures we are gathering. In fact, we cannot get many governments to provide those facts and figures we really need to evaluate and analyze the current position accurately and forecast likely future impacts. Therefore, much of the evidence gathered remains anecdotal.   It may be useful to focus on and begin to measure the impacts of change directly and indirectly caused by the changes of approaches to state financing of culture in further observations and research.


Going beyond facts and finance, the re-shaping of cultural policies as we know them are being significantly influenced by shifts in values and new processes of cultural production and dissemination: influences that are behavioural, environmental and digital.

Boundaries and barriers between forms and types of culture are eroding. The latest video games create new cultural experiences which may prove to be more powerful than the traditional means of involvement in culture.

Conventional ideas about distinctions between the work and value of cultural “professionalsè and “amateursè are becoming increasingly meaningless.

The economics of music and other artistic disciplines have been transformed. The notions of è˜cultural meaning' are being re-examined.


There seems to be an increasing emphasis on the 'mainstreaming of culture' - a term used regularly now by the European Union. Culture is linked to well-being and health; culture is used to address social cohesion and inclusion; culture has become a means of provoking the urban revitalization of cities and regions, and culture is now profoundly linked to processes of development.

Since this trend is connected to our societies as a whole, it would be illusionary to delegate their implementation mainly to artists and intellectuals - and even less to cultural policymakers. However, this mainstreaming is a powerful influence, which now makes conventional arguments about the “instrumentalisationè of culture redundant and reductive.


A final trend I want to mention is one that is associated with fundamental changes that are taking place as regards the models of governance in culture. This calls for a profound re-examination of the role of civil society in the management of culture. There is a break-down of state authority in many sectors and dimensions; this may, and should indeed, lead to a growing involvement of non-state actors. Which includes of course commercial interests in cultural industries. Such changes are leading to a turning point in how culture is controlled and managed, and which is provoking a profound debate about the reduced role of the state in developing and implementing cultural policy, and the impact of regulatory mechanisms of the state that influence the management of cultural goods and services and the protection of standards and rights.


Robert Palmer is the Director for Democratic Governance, Culture and Diversity of the Council of Europe. The text is largely based on his opening address to the International Congress on 'Active Cultural Participation in Europe', held 8th-10th June 2011 in Ghent on the occasion of the annual assemblies of the experts of the Council of Europe/ERICarts 'Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe' and the AMATEO network for active participation in cultural activities.

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