Artists gathered at Prague’s National Theatre on Sunday to stage a seven-hour concert in protest against the way the arts are funded in the Czech capital. The concert kicks off a series of cultural events called ‘Dny neklidu’ (‘Days of Unrest’), which will include dance, theatre, music and visual art. Organisers of the ‘Days of Unrest’ are unhappy with the way that Prague Town Hall administers its budget for culture, in particular its new system of grants for theatres. Over 20,000 people have signed a petition urging the council to change the current funding system. The councilor responsible for the funding of the arts, Milan Richter, has said that he will look into changing the current system.
Prague’s National Theatre is one of the most important cultural institutions in the Czech Republic. Located by the River Vltava at the end of Narodni trida, the 19th century Neo-Renaissance building, with its distinctive gilded cupola, is also one of the city’s most recognisable landmarks. But today it is landmark in need of a facelift. Some work has already begun on the roof, while the main reconstruction work on its facades will get underway in around a year and a half’s time.
A trip to the theatre in the Czech Republic has long been within the reach
of ordinary people, and in Prague alone, there are scores of theatres to
account for all tastes. Theatre is not just the conversation topic of the
intellectual elite, but something you will hear discussed by many Czechs
down the pub. Why? It could be to do with ticket prices being affordable
most. And why can most people afford to buy a theatre ticket? Perhaps
because there is a strong tradition of the state funding the theatre.
Though all this could be about to
Several dozen people gathered at Prague's Malostranske namesti, or Lesser Town Square on Wednesday to call onto the government to allocate more money to the cultural sector. The Czech Parliament is currently discussing the state budget for next year. The current proposal earmarks less than 0.5 percent of the budget to the Culture Ministry; the EU average is one percent of the state budget. The amount allocated to culture in the Czech Republic has been decreasing gradually since 1998. This year, is the first time that it has reached below the 0.5 percent mark.