The second declaration of the independent organizations in the sphere of performing arts.

08.10.2010

PRESS RELEASE

We, the undersigned representatives of the non-governmental sector in performing arts, explicitly declare ourselves to be against the policy of information blackout and centralization conducted by the Ministry of Culture in the decision making process with respect to the statutory provisions affecting the Bulgarian contemporary arts and culture. We insist that such censorship practices be discontinued and that all procedures for a public debate on the preparation of a Performing Arts Act be immediately set in motion.

Our specific demands are contained in the enclosed declaration which will serve as testimony to the present situation before the European media and cultural organizations

TO Mr. Boyko Borisov

Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria

Copy to:
Mrs. Tsetska Tsacheva,
Chair of the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria
Mr. Simeon Dyankov,
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance
Mr. Vezhdi Rashidov,
Minister of Culture
Mrs. Menda Stoyanova,
Chair of the Committee for Budget and Finance at the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria
Mrs. Daniela Petrova,
Chair of the Committee for Culture, Civil Society and Media

at the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria

TO  Bulgarian News Agency (BTA)
Monitor Daily

Sega Daily

24 Chassa Daily

Capital Weekly

Dnevnik Daily

Trud Daily

Standart Daily

Bulgarian National Television

bTV

NOVA TV

PRO BG

TV7

Bulgarian National Radio

Sofia, 4th October 2010

DECLARATION

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

After the announcement of the strategic reasons behind the reform having been launched in the field of performing arts has been postponed for a couple of months and due to the persisting entire lack of transparency in the work of the Ministry of Culture on the drafting of a Performing Arts Act according to which the said reform would have to be implemented and on behalf of the independent sector of the performing arts,

We hereby declare:

For us, it is absolutely unacceptable and inadmissible to start a theatre reform without a clearly announced and widely discussed specific strategy for the development of the entire sector. The announced intentions and the real actions are extremely alarming, they are not guided by a clear and integrated concept for development of the sector and only relate to the institutions directly funded by the state budget as no stand has been taken on how these changes would affect the independent sector. The promises made in early September of forming a working group on the theatre reform issues which were also to include some representatives of the independent sector have not resulted in any concrete actions to date. We have found neither any stand on the project-based funding, nor any strategic paths to ensure stability and development of the independent scene. So far, our repeated insistence that practicing professionals from the private and independent sector be granted access to the working groups engaged in the preparation of a legal model and tools for state funding has been given only spoken and informal responses and, vague promises whose fulfillment is being ceaselessly postponed. The public debate that the Ministry itself speaks of on its website has not been carried out in any form whatsoever.

These facts make us think that the reform so launched is being planned and conducted without the actual participation of the professionals it concerns. This makes it a serious threat both to the opportunities for real development of the performing arts sector in the future and to its practical survival in general The wave of protests to be staged by different companies of actors and representatives of all art sectors in the country clearly speaks of the groundlessness of the undertaken reform. Changes that are systematically imposed and utterly inconsistent with the specific needs of the theatrical practitioners nullify the claims of the Ministry of Culture of democratic administration of the sector and public debate.

The reform so implemented threatens to centralize, at rapid pace, the theatre production exclusively into the state and municipal structures in the capital city. This is an act that runs counter to the common European values of cultural diversity, decentralization and free access to cultural products for every citizen. We are very much alarmed by the fact that instead of drawing on the experience of the practicing theatre professional with their efficient organizational patterns in order to set up a new, adequately functioning system in the field of performing arts the Ministry of Culture implements a policy of hasty and inefficient decisions, in a completely non-transparent manner and while displaying obvious incompetence. Thus, any calls for an effective reform of the sector and ones that “culture should go to the market” become plain populist moves that aim to cover up a policy of seizing all opportunities for free enterprise by the state and its structures.

For it is being argued in public that the reform is necessary for the Bulgarian taxpayer and the state we keep insisting that our questions as follows be answered:

1. Why are the decisions leading to some fundamental changes in the functioning of the sector taken in secrecy, without the knowledge of the practicing professionals and the general public and without consulting them?

2. Does a thoughtless and forcibly implemented reform make taxpayers, this to include each and any representative of the independent sector, bigger losers or bigger winners?

3. Is that how the Government policy should provided that the Government itself has declared education and culture to be priorities of its administration?

4. What is the concept of the Ministry of Culture for the field of performing arts within the term of office of this Government?

5. Why is the Bulgarian taxpayer imposed the idea that Bulgarian culture is created only within the state sector and whom does that manipulation benefit?

6. Why does the Ministry of Culture avoid any dialogue and public debate on the reform being currently implemented while at the same time it provides unclear and often utterly false information about the reform, provide that the latter is funded precisely by the funds of Bulgarian taxpayers?

For the present situation is completely unacceptable for us,

We emphatically insist:

1) That working groups be immediately formed to prepare the strategy, draft the new Performing Arts Act and engage in other activities concerning the sector of performing arts. That the composition of the working groups be publicly announced as well as the results of their work.

2) That the independent sector take part in all working groups on the preparation of the strategy and the new Performing Arts Act and in other activities concerning the sector of performing arts.

3) That the future Performing Arts Act be grounded on the categorization of the different types of participation in the field of performing arts as a separate category should be made for the independent sector entitling it to 10 % of the total structural budget for music, dance and performing arts and to regulated separate access to the project sessions. This should also be clearly outlined in the proposed 2011 budget of the Ministry of Culture.

4) That the status of the freelance artist in the social security and healthcare systems be reconsidered and that his/her social security, health and pension insurance be set in conformity with his/her activity and employment.

5) That an effective financial calendar be created in order to ensure and regulate the project subsidies within a calendar year. Thus, by means of regular project, long-term and structural financial support for independent productions and artistic groups there will be set up some real conditions for planning and development of the sector as well as for the improvement of the quality of its production.

6) On a policy for development of spaces for independent theatre, dance and alternative forms in the capital city and across the country such as rehearsal halls and stages for production presentations as well as an opportunity to rent basic equipment and facilities at preference prices.

7) On a clear strategy and efficient programme in the field of decentralization and triggering of cultural dialogue in the field of theatre and performing arts at  regional, national and international levels by creation of programmes for dissemination of theatre production in the country and abroad as well as programmes for stimulation of the creation of international projects and exchange of theatre productions.

8)  That a programme for structural funding of non-governmental organizations active in the field of performing arts in the country, which have established their professionalism and the quality of their artistic production.

9) That functioning alternative sources of funding of the independent stage be ensured as in Europe.  This is explicitly necessitated by the cut-backs of public expenditure for culture, a manifestation of the state’s current restrictive financial policy. Thus, we demand an effective Patronage Act. In that sense, on the grounds of the decision of the Ministry of Culture dating from September 2009 on the formation of a working group on the art lottery we urge that it start to operate.

10) That article 26 of the Copyright and Related Rights Act be preserved as a direct alternative source of funding for the Culture Fund and that personal liability be sought for the non-observance thereof through the years.

11) That the Bulgarian independent scene be supported as a strategic investment in the Bulgarian society and education, in Bulgaria’s European image and as an adequate tool for development of contemporary cultural tourism on the territory of Bulgaria and the European Union.

Enclosed please find the report and the resolution of the German Theatre and Orchestra Association (Deutscher Bühnenverein) that was sent to the Bulgarian Government and the German press two weeks ago. So far, there has been no response or media coverage on the Bulgarian part.

We insist that the evil centralized policy of lack of transparency and irresponsible attitude of the state towards the non-governmental sector which is undoubtedly the most innovative, flexible and enterprising segment of Bulgarian culture and arts.

If this declaration is the consecutive one left unanswered and if no real actions follow, we will be forced to call on the Minister of Culture Vezhdi Rashidov and the Deputy Minister Mitko Todorov to resign as well as to take further action to approach the European institutions in relation to the implementation of a policy that is contrary to all European principles determining culture’s significance and key role in the EU members states.

Respectfully yours,

Ida Daniel

Chair of the Managing Board

Independent Theatre Association

Simona Popova

Chair

Association of Free Theatre Initiative

Diana Andreeva

Chair

Observatory for Cultural Economy

Boyko Iliev

Chair

Association of the Producers of Private Theatres

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