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Dennis Abbott writes to Daily Telegraph about EU Culture Programme

July 27th, 2010

Your report on recent beneficiaries of EU funding (26 July 2010) was misleading in a number of important respects. The article refers to “a secretive fund of £400million to pay for projects that include promoting a ‘smelly-foot’ dance and producing postcards about the causes of ‘social exclusion’.”

The examples cited in the article were not confidential. The projects, supported through the EU Culture and Europe for Citizens’ programmes, were subject to an open and rigorous selection procedure by independent experts following calls for proposals. 

The EU Culture Programme has a budget of 400 million euros – not quite the same as the £400 million figure mentioned. This sum, agreed by national governments (including the UK), covers a seven-year period and is shared between 35 European countries.

The article highlights a £145,000 grant to print 736 postcards “at a cost nearly £200 per card”. However it omits to mention that this grant, from the Europe for Citizens’ programme, also covers the organisation of workshops in six countries, as well as an exhibition, book and website, aimed at identifying new ways to address social exclusion. So the £200 per card claim is completely false.

The London-based Flying Gorillas troupe, whose act includes the “brilliant smelly foot dance”, performs for young children in the UK, Italy and Romania. It specialises in unconventional performance techniques because the children speak different languages. Their publicity for the smelly foot dance is supposed to be humorous, bearing in mind the age of their audience. The grant also enables the group to provide professional training and work experience for young people aged 16-24.

The EU is committed to supporting the cultural and creative sector, which contributes billions of pounds to the European economy (2.6% of European GDP, according to our data) and provides jobs for millions of people. Without the EU’s support, some of those jobs could disappear.

Dennis Abbott

Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth
European Commission

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