Serbia/ 8.4 Amateur arts, cultural associations and civil initiatives  

8.4.1 Amateur arts and folk culture

There is a well-recognised tradition of amateur arts and folk culture in Serbia. Since the time of the Socialist Yugoslavia, the state has been inclined to support amateur associations. Many of these have become notorious for travelling the globe with their performances, presenting the rich and diverse tradition of folklore. At this moment, official cultural policy is also supporting amateur arts and this support is legitimised in the Law on Culture, and Act 72, devoted to amateur arts.

According to the Law, responsibility for funding, supporting and providing space for amateur associations is transferred to local public authorities. The Ministry is also supporting these actors through calls for grants and the budget allocated for this support has risen since 2009 from 3 million CSD to little less than 6 million in 2014 (the peak was in 2013 with 7 million). Each year, a large number of organisations apply (in 2014 it was 150 amateur associations) with 64 organisations receiving support (56 in 2013, 39 in 2011 and 40 in 2009) that ranged from 50 000 to 500 000 CSD. Although these funds are not enough to solely cover the development of these organisations, having in mind other calls and their budgets, the Ministry shows moderate interest in amateur arts today.

Amateur associations receive support from other sources – the Provincial Government and local municipalities. Just in Belgrade, several large amateur festivals receive support from the city, like the Festival of Belgrade Amateur Choirs or the Amateurs for Their City Festival. DADOV, an amateur theatre from Belgrade, received the status of city cultural institution of special significance and the Coalition of Amateur Arts Associations receives regular support from Belgrade city officials.

Partly as a result of official support, the number of amateur associations is large and rising. Although there is a lack of official and trustworthy statistics, many approximations show that amateur associations are an important form of cultural organisation in Serbia (Vukanović, 2012). The number of active members in these associations range from 300 000 to 500 000 in various mapping documents, with up to 3 500 recognised organisations.

However, it is also important to note that despite official and financial support from the Ministry and other governing bodies, many organisations still face numerous difficulties (Vukanović, 2012). Although the state allocates funds for numerous activities, buying expensive music instruments, costumes and other equipment is still problematic because cultural budgets in general are very limited; space for rehearsals is another issue for many, especially those that deal with music; amateur organisations are underrepresented in many areas of the county; and finally further research, mapping and collaboration amongst amateur organisations and with other sectors is much needed.

Chapter published: 18-08-2015