The LAKS Baden-Württemberg (association for cultural initiatives and sociocultural centres in Baden-Württemberg) was founded in 1982 in Tübingen. Its initial aim was to “support the collaboration between all associations which engage in alternative, social and cultural activities, to encourage new initiatives, to inform the public on their work and to represent the interests of sociocultural centres in front of public authorities in Baden-Württemberg”. (Foundation platform, 25.09.1982)
Continuity and stability are the two important parameters, which have allowed 75 sociocultural centres and cultural initiatives in the meantime to join this network. They have been shaping our state for 30 years. Political commitment, willingness to experiment and creativity are other key facets of the LAKS network. The journey to make the “culture from below” socially acceptable was long and hard but a first courageous step was made to oppose the traditional culture stakeholders and led to getting a yearly support from the state of more than 3 million euros.
So, how did it all start?
The LAKS forerunner was called ABC (Association of Baden-Württemberg Clubs) and was politically and culturally oriented. The ABC was composed amongst others from centres which would later be LAKS members: the “Club Alpha 60” in Schwäbisch Hall, the “Club Manufaktur” in Schorndorf, the “Club Voltaire” in Tübingen, the “Club Kuckucksei” in Nürtingen, the “W 71” in Weikersheim, the “Laboratorium” in Stuttgart, the “Gems” in Riesalingen, the “Werkstatt 68” in Karlsruhe and the “Penn-Club mit dem Goldenen Anker” in Pforzheim (later called Kulturhaus Osterfeld).
In the 1960s, beginning of the 1970s, the aspiration for a widespread socioculture emerged in West Germany with the need to oppose the established cultural stakeholders with a new, politically engaged “culture for all” concept (Hilmar Hoffmann). Hermann Glaser (Head of the Department of Schools and Culture in Nuremberg from 1964 to 1990) and Karl Heinz Stahl first introduced the German term “socioculture” in their essay “The recovery of aesthetics. Perspectives and models of a new socioculture” (Munich 1974). Their objectives were merely to democratise culture, to understand it as a whole, to achieve an equality of opportunities and to make codetermination possible. The aim of socioculture is to bring back together culture, the reality of our society and daily life in a harmonious relationship. The sociocultural concept played a key importance in the opening of cultural policies in terms of a larger definition of culture.
In 1985, two LAKS members – the “Goldene Anker” and the “Club Voltaire” – were awarded with the cultural prize KuPoGe (cultural and political society). The LAKS gained further recognition in 1987 as it organised the “Sociocultural conference” in Tübingen with Jürgen Mölleman, former federal minister, some representatives of the KuPoGe and of the German Association of Cities (DST). They achieved at the time an important step in the initial confrontation with the officials from cultural policy and administration, which led to cooperation.
Since 1987, the state of Baden-Württemberg has financially supported sociocultural centres. This financial support has first been used to fund equipment and later on, reparation, renovation and cultural projects. In 1996, it eventually took the current shape of the so-called institutional grant. From the beginning of this financial commitment, the LAKS is commissioned yearly by the state to draft a grant recommendation, which is followed to 99%. The LAKS Board of Spokespersons (or executive board) has achieved this particularly time-consuming lobbying on a voluntary basis until a full-time manager was appointed in 2008. In 2014 the LAKS moved its office in Karlsruhe in the “Kreativ Park Alter Schlachthof” – which is a congregation of creative bodies and associations – and has currently two employees (the manager and her assistant).
The role of sociocultural centres is nowadays present in the publications of the Baden-Württemberg's cultural leaders. Every ten years the state publishes a book, which defines its vision of culture. The importance of “socioculture” is highlighted in both its publications of 1990 (“Art conception”) and 2010 (“Culture in 2020”).
One particular LAKS highlight is the Theo-Pinkus Cultural Award, which was created in 1992. The LAKS Baden-Württemberg distinguishes special sociocultural performances. Those who are awarded are not the artists but the many cultural workers behind the stage. This prize is generally awarded every two years.
The number of centres who joined the LAKS kept on increasing so that we now gather 75 sociocultural centres in 2021. They are represented in every regional councils, they can be found in cities or in the countryside, both employees and volunteers manage them and they couldn't achieve their cultural work without the support of active volunteers. In 2015 there were 209 employees with a work contract and 641 other employees, who are for the most freelancers, among others are people doing voluntary service (“FSJ Kultur”, “Bundesfreiwilligendienst”) and as well 2.346 active volunteers. They all played an important role for “socioculture” in Baden-Württemberg and they made it possible for over 1 million culture lovers to visit sociocultural centres.
The LAKS is a membership corporation connected to the Federal Association of Sociocultural Centres and form together a state association.