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13 Jun 13

Serbia Accused of Starving Arts to Death

As Belgrade slashes funding for prestigious festivals and exhibitions, culture workers have called a rally in the capital, accusing the state of 'killing off' culture.

BIRN Belgrade

Serbian associations of dramatic, musical, visual and literary artists have scheduled a rally entitled "Protest Against Killing Culture" for June 22 on the main Republic Square in Belgrade.

The aim is to express artists' deep dissatisfaction over what they call "years of the state's massacre of culture and art in general", and the government's general cultural policy.

"Are we going to let all theatres close, just as we let cinemas disappear?" the artists asked in a collective statement.

The protest comes after the Culture Ministry left the well-known Nisville Jazz Festival in Nis without a dinar of financial support.

In a statement, the ministry defended the cut-off, saying: "In the past couple of years, Nisville festival had a vague programme concept and it requires a better quality selection of artists."

The four-day annual summer event hosts about 400 performers from 30 countries. Last year, it drew about 20,000 people to its venue in the fortress in Nis. In 2011, the festival obtained about 40,000 euro from the state and last year it received 20,000 euro.  

Funding has also been cut to other important cultural manifestations  in the country, including the October Salon, an annual art exhibition, the theatre festival BITEF, the Palic Film Festival, and the International Children’s Theatre Festival.

In its protest, the artists call on the state to increase the budget for culture, change its priorities in cultural policy, and its general attitude towards culture.

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