The municipal government of Brussels-City has promised extra funding worth €300,000 for Flemish cultural projects and associations in the capital, as compensation for cuts announced by the Flemish regional government.
Last month the Flemish government of Jan Jambon (N-VA) announced an across the board cut of 6% in funding for cultural institutions, and a cut of up to 60% for individual artists.
The major institutions, including deSingel in Antwerp, Flemish Opera and Ballet, the Royal Flemish Theatre (KVS) and the Ancienne Belgique (AB), will suffer a cut of “only” 3% of budgets which are already higher than the rest.
However according to Brussels mayor Philippe Close, some of the institutions affected are a crucial part of the Brussels cultural scene, among them the KVS – where Brussels owns the fabric of the building – the AB, a music venue admired worldwide, and lesser-known venues like Kaaitheater, Beursschouwburg and the Flemish youth theatre Bronks.
“The announcement of drastic reductions in cultural subsidies by the new Flemish government took us aback,” said Close, flanked for the announcement by the councillor for Flemish affairs Ans Persoons (sp.a) and councillor for culture Delphine Houba (PS). “Brussels-City considers culture and its development an important point of attraction in a city of 184 different nationalities. Culture represents some 7-8% of the budget we have just adopted for the coming year. We wish to continue to defend a project that is inclusive, and to show the sector that it matters to us.”
Prime beneficiary is the KVS, which because of its structural links to Brussels-City receives €1 million for the coming year, as well as subsidies for investments in the future. In addition, the city will provide subsidies of between €5,000 and €25,000 for artists and arts organisations linked to the main cultural houses like Beursschouwburg and Bronks, on a project-by-project basis. Given the name of “Kangaroo BXL,” the adoption of small cultural organisations by major houses will benefit to the tune of €200,000.
Close stressed that the decision was not directly related to the decision of the Flemish government, but a sign of the city’s overall support for all cultures. Approached by Bruzz, meanwhile, Flemish minister-president Jan Jambon declined to comment. “Brussels is an autonomous region,” he said. “I have no comment to make.”
Within the Brussels-Flemish cultural sector itself, the reaction was one of gratitude tempered by loss. Kobe Matthys, representing State of the Arts, a movement created in reaction to cuts back in 2013: “This is a friendly initiative from the city of Brussels. In particular, the Kangaroo BXL project that encourages the cooperation between small-scale artists and the major culture houses is extremely useful. But at the same time this €300,000 from Brussels-City is only a small plaster on an open wound, once you realise that the Flemish Community in 2020 alone will take €10 million out of cultural cooperation.”