Between the metro stops of Les Corts and Drassanes there is a short route but a wide distance in life expectancy: four years less in the district of Ciutat Vella. In fact, there are many more striking statistics on health inequality. And at work. And in the income. But there is a lack of data on inequality in culture, a decisive area for social ascent in a society presided over by creativity, innovation and accelerated change. The “cultural backpack” is very important. So the head of Culture of the City of Barcelona, Joan Subirats, wanted to have them. The results of a large survey of cultural participation to 1,655 Barcelona? Well, the city’s postal district matters a lot too. If in the high neighborhoods 61.5% frequently read a book, in the media it is 58.3% and in the low ones 39.6%. If it’s about going to the movies, the same sequence drops from 25% to 17.6% and 12.7%. And when visiting museums, 20% often do so in the highest income neighborhoods, 19.8% in middle-income and only 8.7% in low-income ones.
Only 15.9% of people from Barcelona go to museums, concerts 7.9%, theater 7% and dance 2.4%
That means that if 62.4% of citizens frequently attend a conventional cultural activity, 37.6% do not usually go to anything, of them 28.1% in the upper neighborhoods, 31.6% in the media and 50.3% in those with less income. Of course, there are cultural activities less frequented than others, regardless of income: only 15.9% of Barcelona’s go to museums, 7.9% concerts, 7% theater, and 2.4% dance .
The results are not surprising, no doubt, but the survey has gone much further. Because it examines the culture understood in a broad sense: not only reading books or going to the cinema or the theater, but also the activities that the residents of the city consider to be Culture, whether they are walking in the city, playing sports, going to clubs or attending to religious activities. And in addition to avoiding hierarchies, it focuses culture not only in a passive sense, but also in its citizen practice. And there are surprises: in practice – writing, photography, playing instruments, painting, dancing, doing theater – the middle-class neighborhoods are the leaders. 44.5% of its citizens frequently practice any of these activities, for 38.3% in the most affluent neighborhoods and 33.8 in those with lower income. For Subirats, the explanation is that it is precisely the middle-income neighborhoods that see more possibilities of social ascent – those of high income are already up and those of low are more concerned with their daily survival – and see in culture and practice cultural a good engine, a central engine, to achieve it and face the uncertainties of the future.
Even in the most popular culture – walking, sports, bars and restaurants – there is notable inequality between the higher and lower income neighborhoods
And even when the survey asks about the activities that citizens understand as culture, even if it is not about arts, income is again a decisive factor when practicing them. If 75.7% of Barcelonans in high-income areas frequently walk around the city, only 58.4% of those in lower-income areas do so. If it is a question of going frequently to bars and restaurants, the figures are 54.1% (high neighborhoods), 46.5% (average income) and 34.7% in the low income ones. If it is a question of practicing sports or group play, again it is 47.4% in the rich neighborhoods, 47.2% in the media and only 31.1% in the poorest. In this area, the middle neighborhoods prevail in practicing craft activities and explaining stories or stories. And it ties with the lower income neighborhoods in participation in traditional or popular collective events: 16.5% do so frequently, compared to only 11.8% in the most affluent areas. If in the culture understood in a restricted way 37.6% of the citizens do not usually practice any activity, in the broadest understanding only 8% do nothing.
Maternal cultural practice is very important to predict children’s cultural practice
Of course, there are more key factors than neighborhood income to explain the data. Maternal cultural practice is very important to predict the cultural practice of children: for example, 15.6% of the offspring of mothers with intense cultural practice attend three or more cultural activities, but only 9.8% of children that their mothers don’t have a great cultural practice. And the level of studies also triggers the practice, and also the geographical origin: those who attend cultural activities are the citizens of the rest of the EU who live in Barcelona, followed by those born in Spain and, at a great distance, from Born in the rest of the world.
And if that is the portrait of the facts, something else, they explain, are the values of citizens with respect to culture: against what one would expect, in all neighborhoods the valuation of culture is similar, and even in neighborhoods Lower income is considered more fundamental than in others that there are artistic teachings in schools and institutes because they are aware of its importance in the future. That explains that in the last aspect of the survey, the cultural needs according to the income of the neighborhoods, it is precisely those of lower incomes that show more need to participate in cultural activities. Likewise, it is citizens born outside the EU who manifest more need for practice – rather than cultural assistance. A significant fact is that it is the low-income neighborhoods that declare that they would be more affected by the closure of the library or the civic center in their area.
Nicolás Barbieri, responsible for the survey together with the technical secretariat of the Institute of Culture of Barcelona, explains that they have approached culture in the widest possible sense because “it was not about defining what we understand by culture but that the survey has wanted expand the idea of cultural participation, which is based on a diversity of practices ”. For Joan Subirats, “it is about how people perceive the cultural phenomenon and define it, something that in many cases has to do with the construction of their own identity, of social ties, of community relations, of feeling part of a community. And that has a cultural dimension that is not just seeing if I attend the theater. Because even sports practices socialize, connect and allow different jumps later. ”
Subirats: “There would be less school failure if there were more practical artists in the schools because they make the students feel more protagonists of the educational fact”
Finally, how to transfer that data to political priorities? For Subirats, “this survey reinforces my idea that working together culture and education is key, and the other great element is to take much more advantage of what a company would call the installed capacity in the territory, 50 civic centers, 40 libraries, 32 house of neighborhood, 17 popular athenaeums, ten Cases de la Festa, 400 educational centers. How can we better articulate what we have in the territory so that it works in a way that is not bumper cars, each in its own way, but in an articulated direction. It happens in some territories and it shows a lot. When the Bon Pastor Library works with schools it becomes a very important reference center. ”
And he points out that “the relationship with the territory and the artistic and cultural involvement from an early age in the educational field are two key elements that we are working on.” “We have to work more in the territorial dimension and in the sense of protagonism of the people. The survey detects that when people feel the protagonist of the activity that does that, they generate a greater participation. We must be able to offer not only culture but participation in culture, both. There would be less school failure and less abandonment if there were more artists and cultural practices in schools because they make the students feel more protagonists of the educational fact. Everything we do to expand the capacity for articulation and integration in cultural practices is very important, ”he concludes.