Arts Council of Great Britain

Arts Council of Great Britain

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The Arts Council of Great Britain was a non-departmental public body
Non-departmental public body
In the United Kingdom, a non-departmental public body —often referred to as a quango—is a classification applied by the Cabinet Office, Treasury, Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Executive to certain types of public bodies...

 dedicated to the promotion of the fine arts in Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

. The Arts Council of Great Britain was divided in 1994 to form the Arts Council of England (now Arts Council England
Arts Council England
Arts Council England was formed in 1994 when the Arts Council of Great Britain was divided into three separate bodies for England, Scotland and Wales. It is a non-departmental public body of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport...

), the Scottish Arts Council
Scottish Arts Council
The Scottish Arts Council is a Scottish public body that distributes funding from the Scottish Government, and is the leading national organisation for the funding, development and promotion of the arts in Scotland...

, and the Arts Council of Wales
Arts Council of Wales
The Arts Council of Wales is a Welsh Government sponsored body, responsible for funding and developing the arts in Wales.Established by Royal Charter in 1946, as the Welsh Arts Council , when it merged with the three Welsh regional arts associations...

. At the same time the National Lottery
National Lottery (United Kingdom)
The National Lottery is the state-franchised national lottery in the United Kingdom and the Isle of Man.It is operated by Camelot Group, to whom the licence was granted in 1994, 2001 and again in 2007. The lottery is regulated by the National Lottery Commission, and was established by the then...

 was established and these three arts councils, plus the Arts Council of Northern Ireland
Arts Council of Northern Ireland
The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is the lead development agency for the arts in Northern Ireland....

, became distribution bodies.

History


In 1940, during the Second World War, a Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA), was appointed to help promote and maintain British culture. Chaired by Lord De La Warr
Herbrand Sackville, 9th Earl De La Warr
Herbrand Edward Dundonald Brassey Sackville, 9th Earl De La Warr, GBE, PC, DL, JP , styled Lord Buckhurst until 1915 , was a British politician. He was the first hereditary peer to join the Labour Party and became a government minister at the age of 23...

, President of the Board of Education, the Council was government-funded and after the war was renamed the Arts Council of Great Britain.

A Royal Charter
Royal Charter
A royal charter is a formal document issued by a monarch as letters patent, granting a right or power to an individual or a body corporate. They were, and are still, used to establish significant organizations such as cities or universities. Charters should be distinguished from warrants and...

 was granted on 9 August 1946, followed by another in 1967. The latter provided for functions in Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 and Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

 to be conducted by two almost autonomous committees known as the Scottish and Welsh Arts Councils – the basis for today’s Scottish Arts Council and Arts Council of Wales.

The Council's first Chairman was John Maynard Keynes
John Maynard Keynes
John Maynard Keynes, Baron Keynes of Tilton, CB FBA , was a British economist whose ideas have profoundly affected the theory and practice of modern macroeconomics, as well as the economic policies of governments...

 who used his influence in Government to secure a high level of funding despite Britain's poor finances following the war. The majority of this funding was directed to organisations with which Keynes had close ties such as the Royal Opera House
Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House is an opera house and major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, central London. The large building is often referred to as simply "Covent Garden", after a previous use of the site of the opera house's original construction in 1732. It is the home of The Royal Opera, The...

 and was restricted to Central London. Keynes used his political influence to ensure that the Arts Council reported directly to the Treasury rather than an Arts Minister or the Education Department as had been the case with CEMA, establishing the principle of an 'arms length' relationship between UK Arts policy and the government of the day. After Keynes' death Government funding was reduced but the Arts Council received wide recognition for its contribution to the Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
The Festival of Britain was a national exhibition in Britain in the summer of 1951. It was organised by the government to give Britons a feeling of recovery in the aftermath of war and to promote good quality design in the rebuilding of British towns and cities. The Festival's centrepiece was in...

 thanks to the new Chairman Kenneth Clark
Kenneth Clark
Kenneth McKenzie Clark, Baron Clark, OM, CH, KCB, FBA was a British author, museum director, broadcaster, and one of the best-known art historians of his generation...

. Artworks commissioned by the Council for the Festival were retained to form the basis of the Arts Council Collection
Arts Council Collection
The Arts Council Collection is the largest loan collection of modern and contemporary British art in the world. With presently over 7500 works of art spanning more than sixty years, the Collection can be seen in exhibitions and displays at home and abroad, as well as through long-term loans to...

.

Under the Harold Wilson
Harold Wilson
James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, KG, OBE, FRS, FSS, PC was a British Labour Member of Parliament, Leader of the Labour Party. He was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s, winning four general elections, including a minority government after the...

 Government of 1964-70 the Arts Council enjoyed a Golden Age
Golden Age
The term Golden Age comes from Greek mythology and legend and refers to the first in a sequence of four or five Ages of Man, in which the Golden Age is first, followed in sequence, by the Silver, Bronze, and Iron Ages, and then the present, a period of decline...

 thanks to the close relationship between Chairman Arnold Goodman and the Arts Minister Jennie Lee. This period saw the Council establish a network of arts organisations across the country as regular client organisations and a programme of touring exhibitions and performances. To support the Council’s responsibilities in relation to the visual arts, it opened the Hayward Gallery
Hayward Gallery
The Hayward Gallery is an art gallery within the Southbank Centre, part of an area of major arts venues on the South Bank of the River Thames, in central London, England. It is sited adjacent to the other Southbank Centre buildings and also the Royal National Theatre and British Film Institute...

 on London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

's South Bank
South Bank
South Bank is an area of London, England located immediately adjacent to the south side of the River Thames. It forms a long and narrow section of riverside development that is within the London Borough of Lambeth to the border with the London Borough of Southwark and was formerly simply known as...

 in 1968 as a home for its major exhibitions and the base for the Arts Council Collection
Arts Council Collection
The Arts Council Collection is the largest loan collection of modern and contemporary British art in the world. With presently over 7500 works of art spanning more than sixty years, the Collection can be seen in exhibitions and displays at home and abroad, as well as through long-term loans to...

. Since 1987, the gallery has been independently managed by the South Bank Centre. In 2003 sculpture in the Collection was moved to a base in Yorkshire
Yorkshire
Yorkshire is a historic county of northern England and the largest in the United Kingdom. Because of its great size in comparison to other English counties, functions have been increasingly undertaken over time by its subdivisions, which have also been subject to periodic reform...

.

During the 1970s and 1980s the Arts Council came under attack for being elitist and politically biased, in particular from the prominent Conservative Party
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 minister Norman Tebbit
Norman Tebbit
Norman Beresford Tebbit, Baron Tebbit, CH, PC , is a British politician. A member of the Conservative Party, he served in the Cabinet from 1981 to 1987 as Secretary of State for Employment...

. The Government grant to the Council was capped effecting a real terms reduction in funding though it was argued that any shortfall would be made up by increased sponsorship from the private sector. William Rees-Mogg
William Rees-Mogg
William Rees-Mogg, Baron Rees-Mogg is an English journalist and life peer.-Education:Rees-Mogg was educated at Clifton College Preparatory School in Bristol and Charterhouse School in Godalming, followed by Balliol College, Oxford...

 was a political appointment as Chairman and proposed slimming down the Council's responsibilities. This led to a series of clashes with prominent figures from the Arts such as Peter Hall who resigned from the Council in protest. In 1987 the restructure inspired by Rees-Mogg cut by half the number of organisations receiving Arts Council funding. During the same period the Arts Council began encouraging a greater level of corporate sponsorship for the arts.

The Arts Council of Great Britain was divided in 1994 to form the Arts Council of England, Scottish Arts Council
Scottish Arts Council
The Scottish Arts Council is a Scottish public body that distributes funding from the Scottish Government, and is the leading national organisation for the funding, development and promotion of the arts in Scotland...

 and Arts Council of Wales
Arts Council of Wales
The Arts Council of Wales is a Welsh Government sponsored body, responsible for funding and developing the arts in Wales.Established by Royal Charter in 1946, as the Welsh Arts Council , when it merged with the three Welsh regional arts associations...

. At the same time the National Lottery
National Lottery (United Kingdom)
The National Lottery is the state-franchised national lottery in the United Kingdom and the Isle of Man.It is operated by Camelot Group, to whom the licence was granted in 1994, 2001 and again in 2007. The lottery is regulated by the National Lottery Commission, and was established by the then...

 was established and the Arts Council of England became one of the distribution bodies.

Chairmen of the Arts Council

Chairman Served
Lord Keynes
John Maynard Keynes
John Maynard Keynes, Baron Keynes of Tilton, CB FBA , was a British economist whose ideas have profoundly affected the theory and practice of modern macroeconomics, as well as the economic policies of governments...

1946
Lord Pooley 1946–1953
Lord Clark
Kenneth Clark
Kenneth McKenzie Clark, Baron Clark, OM, CH, KCB, FBA was a British author, museum director, broadcaster, and one of the best-known art historians of his generation...

1953–1960
Lord Cottesloe
John Fremantle, 4th Baron Cottesloe
John Walgrave Halford Fremantle, 4th Baron Cottesloe, 5th Baron Fremantle, GBE, TD was Chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain and the South Bank Theatre Board....

1960–1965
Lord Goodman 1965–1972
Lord Gibson
Richard Gibson, Baron Gibson
Richard Patrick Tallentyre Gibson, Baron Gibson was a British businessman in the publishing industry, and later arts administrator....

1972–1977
Sir Kenneth Robinson
Kenneth Robinson
Sir Kenneth Robinson PC was a British Labour politician who served as Minister of Health in Harold Wilson's first government, from 1964 to 1968, when the position was merged into the new title of Secretary of State for Social Services.-Early life:The son of Dr Clarence Robinson and a nurse, Ethel...

1977–1982
Lord Rees-Mogg
William Rees-Mogg
William Rees-Mogg, Baron Rees-Mogg is an English journalist and life peer.-Education:Rees-Mogg was educated at Clifton College Preparatory School in Bristol and Charterhouse School in Godalming, followed by Balliol College, Oxford...

1982–1989
Lord Palumbo 1989–1993
The Earl of Gowrie
Alexander Ruthven, 2nd Earl of Gowrie
Alexander Patrick Greysteil Ruthven, 2nd Earl of Gowrie PC, FRSL , usually known as Grey Gowrie, was a Conservative Party politician for some years, including a period in the British Cabinet, and was later Chairman of Sotheby's and of the Arts Council of England. He has also published poetry...

1993–1997

Further reading


Andrew Sinclair (1995) Arts and Cultures, The History of the 50 Years of the Arts Council of Great Britain, Sinclair-Stevenson ISBN 1 85619 342X