Is Europe becoming a less cultural continent? The findings of a new Eurobarometer survey on cultural access and participation – the first on the topic since 2007 – suggest this may be the case. Although there are marked differences between Member States, in general fewer Europeans are engaging in cultural activities, as performers or spectators. Only 38% actively took part in a cultural activity, such as singing, dancing or photography, in the past year. In terms of ‘passive’ participation, the number describing their cultural engagement as high or very high is down to 18%, compared with 21% in 2007. The decline in participation has affected all cultural activities except cinema, with 52% saying they went to the movies in the past year (+1%). The main reasons cited for not engaging in culture are lack of time (44% give this reason for not reading a book), lack of interest (50% say this is why they have not seen a ballet, dance performance or opera), lack of money (25% give this reason for not attending a concert), and lack of choice (10% on average). The survey showed that over half of Europeans use the internet for cultural purposes, with nearly a third doing so at least once a week.
“Culture is a source of personal fulfilment, creativity and joy. I am concerned that fewer EU citizens are involved in cultural activities, as performers, producers or consumers. This survey shows that governments need to re-think how they support culture to stimulate public participation and culture’s potential as an engine for jobs and growth. The cultural and creative sectors also need to adapt to reach new audiences and explore new funding models. The Commission will continue to support cultural access and participation through our new Creative Europe programme and other EU funding sources,” stated Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth. The survey shows that the most common form of cultural participation in the EU is watching or listening to a cultural programme on television or radio (72% did this at least once in the past 12 months, a 6% decrease since 2007), followed by reading a book (68%, down 3%). The least popular activity is going to see an opera, ballet or dance performance (18%, no change).
In terms of frequency of participation in all types of cultural activities, from reading to visiting a museum, Northern countries score highest, led by Sweden (43% describe their rate of participation as high or very high), Denmark (36%) and the Netherlands (34%). At the other end of the scale is Greece, where only 5% report high or very high participation rates, Portugal and Cyprus, 6%, Romania and Hungary, 7%, and Italy, 8%. Moreover, 34% of the EU population say they never or hardly ever participate in cultural activities, a 4% rise since 2007. This figure has significantly increased in some countries, such as Hungary (54%, +26%), Romania (55%, +14%) and Greece (63%, +8%). Here to read more.