Nicolas Maeterlinck

Cultural sector concerned about proposed funding cuts

The cultural sector in Flanders has expressed grave concerns about the cuts in funding proposed by the Flemish Culture Minister Jan Jambon (nationalist). Mr Jambon’s policy note that envisages cuts of up to 6% in the subsidies given to cultural institutions to cover their operating funds and 60% in the subsidies given to cover the costs of specific cultural projects. It has been met with consternation form Flanders’ cultural institutions. 

Leen Laconte of the Federation of Artistic Organisations told VRT News that “Whether it is the Vooruit or the Singel, Rosas or the Beurschouwburg, everyone feels that it is regrettable that so much is being cut from project subsidies. Because a lot is done with them and they allow new artists to start off, meaning that the sector is able to innovate”.        

The Director of the Ghent arts’ centre Vooruit Franky Devos told VRT News that "The big cuts to project subsidies undermine the influx of new artists”.

The Director of the Royal Flemish Theatre in Brussels Michael De Cock describes the cuts as "a great blow for theatrical art. Moreover this goes against the spirit of a coalition agreement that talks about excellence. I really don’t understand that this can come from a nationalist party that believes that identity is important”.     

The pianist Jef Neve is has also expressed his concerns about the 5 million euro that will be cut from the project subsidy budget. He told VRT News that "Very many projects from young emerging artists will no longer continue to exist. We will have a generation of young people for whom chances are no longer created. If the Flemish Government believes that culture very is important it shouldn’t be hypocritical. These cuts take away the opportunity for young people to develop into great artists or great musicians”.   

Consequences for the audience

Ms Laconte, Mr Devos and Mr De Cock are also keen to point out that the cultural sector has been subject to funding cuts for the past decade.  

"We have already had to made 25 million euro in savings in recent years”, Leen Laconte said.

"The speed with which the cuts are to be implemented will have serious implications for the current season, but also for the season that will follow." 

She added that the cuts will weaken the sector and that they will have implications for the cooperation, efficiency, jobs and for audiences.   

Talks with the Minister

Vooruit’s Franky Devos would like to have a meeting with the Culture Minister "It is a missed opportunity that no talks have been held to see how we could structure the sector differently so that we could show solidarity in the cuts that Flanders needs to make. Rather than being subject to linear cuts as now is the case”.  

Mr Devos calls on Mr Jambon to engage with cultural sector. Not least because “there are a number of positive things about culture in the coalition agreement”. 

Jan Jambon: "Policy-making is a question of choices”

As the Culture Policy Note has not yet officially been published and the concerns expressed above are based on leaks to the press, Mr Jambon says that he is not prepared to give an in depth response before the document has been discussed in committee.

He told the VRT that "Policy-making is a question of choices”.

“It has been known for a long time that saving would have to be made. We have succeeded in limiting the cuts to 3% for a few institutions. We are also launching a number of new initiatives. This means that there is enough room for an innovative cultural policy”.