Arts Council of Great Britain

The Arts Council of Great Britain was a non-departmental public body dedicated to the promotion of the fine arts in Great Britain. It was divided in 1994 to form the Arts Council of England (now Arts Council England), the Scottish Arts Council, and the Arts Council of Wales. At the same time the National Lottery was established and these three arts councils, plus the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, became distribution bodies.


The Ballet Rambert Visiting An Aircraft Factory in Britain TR969
Dancers from the Ballet Rambert, under the auspices of CEMA perform Peter and The Wolf at an aircraft factory in the Midlands during World War II

In 1940, during the Second World War, the 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, 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 was granted on 9 August 1946,[1] followed by another in 1967. The latter provided for functions in Scotland and Wales 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 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 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 in April 1946 Government funding was reduced but the Arts Council received wide recognition for its contribution to the Festival of Britain thanks to the new Chairman Kenneth Clark. Artworks commissioned by the Council for the Festival were retained to form the basis of the Arts Council Collection. The Arts Council commissioned 12 sculptors and 60 painters, who made large paintings, 114 by 152 centimetres (45 by 60 in) or more, to be displayed at the festival. Ultimately the works were to be given to new hospitals, libraries, schools, and health centres that emerged after the war. There were five cash prizes awarded: Robert Adams's Apocalyptic Figure, Elinor Bellingham-Smith's The Island, Lucian Freud's Interior near Paddington, William Gear's Autumn Landscape, and Robert MacBryde's Figure and Still Life.[2]

Under the Harold Wilson Government of 1964-70 the Arts Council enjoyed a Golden Age 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 on London's South Bank in 1968 as a home for its major exhibitions and the base for the Arts Council Collection. 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.

During the 1970s and 1980s the Arts Council came under attack for being elitist and politically biased, in particular from the prominent Conservative Party minister Norman Tebbit. 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. The Secretary-General from 1975–83, Roy Shaw, the last secretary-General to be knighted, faced the difficult task of reconciling the needs of arts organisations with the restricted funding. William Rees-Mogg 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 and Arts Council of Wales. At the same time the National Lottery was established and the Arts Council of England became one of the distribution bodies.

Chairmen of the Arts Council

Chairman Served
The Lord Keynes 1946
Sir Ernest Pooley 1946–1953
Sir Kenneth Clark 1953–1960
The Lord Cottesloe 1960–1965
The Lord Goodman 1965–1972
Patrick Gibson 1972–1977
Sir Kenneth Robinson 1977–1982
Sir William Rees-Mogg 1982–1989
Peter Palumbo 1989–1993
The Earl of Gowrie 1993–1997


  1. ^ Who's Who in Music and Musicians' International Directory. Burke's Peerage Edition, London 1962
  2. ^ Becky Conekin (28 June 2003). The Autobiography of a Nation: The 1951 Exhibition of Britain, Representing Britain in the Post-War World. Manchester University Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-7190-6060-1.

Further reading

  • Hewison, Robert (1995), Culture and Consensus: England, Art and Politics Since 1940, Methuen
  • Sinclair, Andrew (1995), Arts and Cultures, The History of the 50 Years of the Arts Council of Great Britain, Sinclair-Stevenson, ISBN 1-85619-342-X

External links

Anthony Everitt

Anthony Everitt (born 31 January 1940) is a British academic. He publishes regularly in The Guardian and The Financial Times. He worked in literature and visual arts. He was Secretary-General of the Arts Council of Great Britain. He is a visiting professor in the performing and visual arts at Nottingham Trent University. Everitt is a companion of the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts and an Honorary Fellow of the Dartington College of Arts.

Everitt has written successful books about Roman history, amongst which biographies of Augustus, Hadrian and Cicero and a book on The Rise of Rome. He lives in Wivenhoe near Colchester.Everitt studied English literature at the University of Cambridge.

Arts Council (Ireland)

The Arts Council (sometimes called the Arts Council of Ireland; legally Irish: An Chomhairle Ealaíon) is the arts council of Ireland. It was established in 1951 by the Government of Ireland, to encourage interest in Irish art (including visual art, music, performance, and literature) and to channel funding from the state to Irish artists and arts organisations. This includes encouragement of traditional Irish arts, support for contemporary Irish arts, and finance for international arts events in Ireland. The council was modeled on the Arts Council of Great Britain, founded in 1946, and works closely with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, formed by the British government in Northern Ireland in 1962 to fulfil a similar role.

Arts Council England

Arts Council England is a non-departmental public body of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. It was formed in 1994 when the Arts Council of Great Britain was divided into three separate bodies for England, Scotland and Wales. The arts funding system in England underwent considerable reorganisation in 2002 when all of the regional arts boards were subsumed into Arts Council England and became regional offices of the national organisation.

Arts Council England is a government-funded body dedicated to promoting the performing, visual and literary arts in England. Since 1994, Arts Council England has been responsible for distributing lottery funding. This investment has helped to transform the building stock of arts organisations and to create lots of additional high quality arts activity.

Since October 2011, Arts Council England has been responsible for supporting and developing museums, a function it inherited from the now defunct Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.

Charles Osborne (music writer)

Charles Thomas Osborne (24 November 1927 – 23 September 2017) was an Australian journalist, theatre and opera critic, poet and novelist. He was the assistant editor of The London Magazine from 1958 until 1966, literature director of the Arts Council of Great Britain from 1971 until 1986, and chief theatre critic of Daily Telegraph (London) from 1986 to 1991.

He is the only author the Agatha Christie Estate has ever allowed to produce adapted works in her name.

Contrapuntal Forms (Hepworth)

Contrapuntal Forms (BH 165) is a stone sculpture by Barbara Hepworth, one of her first public commissions, made in 1950–51 for the Festival of Britain and installed outside the Dome of Discovery on South Bank, London. It was one of two Hepworth commissions for the festival: the other was an abstract rotating sculpture, Turning Forms (BH 166).The work stands 120" (3.04m) high and is carved from blue limestone from County Galway, Ireland. It depicts two semi-abstracted standing figures. The sculpture was commissioned by the Arts Council of Great Britain who presented it to the new town of Harlow in Essex in 1953. It was the first artwork acquired (though not the first commissioned) by the Harlow Arts Trust, and it is still sited at Glebelands in Harlow.The sculpture was awarded Grade II listed building status in April 1998.

Ernest Pooley

Sir Ernest Henry Pooley, 1st Baronet GCVO (20 November 1876 – 13 February 1966), was a British barrister and arts administrator.

Pooley was born on 20 November 1876 in Paddington, London. He was educated at Winchester College and Pembroke College, Cambridge and called to the bar in 1901.

In 1908 he became clerk to the Drapers Company for which he was knighted in 1932 and made a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO) in 1943. From 1946 to 1953 he was Chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain. He was created a baronet, of Westbrook House in the Parish of Tillington in the County of Sussex, in January 1953. He was further honoured when he was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) in 1956. He published The Guilds Of The City Of London in 1947. Pooley died in February 1966, aged 89, when the baronetcy became extinct.

In the First World War Pooley served in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve and the Royal Garrison Artillery, fighting in both France and Gallipoli.

Graeae Theatre Company

Graeae Theatre Company is a British organisation composed of artists and managers with physical and sensory disabilities. It was founded in 1980 by Nabil Shaban and Richard Tomlinson and named after the Graeae of Greek mythology. In 1981 the Company was offered the use of an office, rehearsal space and facilities for 18 months by the West End Centre, an Arts Centre in Aldershot in Hampshire. During that year, the Company became eligible to receive full funding from the Arts Council of Great Britain.In 1984 the Graeae Theatre Company won a Special Award in the Evening Standard Awards.

Today Graeae (pronounced "grey-eye") performs on national and sometimes international tours. Its current artistic director is Jenny Sealey MBE.

Hoarded Dreams

Hoarded Dreams is a live album by bassist/composer Graham Collier featuring a composition commissioned for the Bracknell Jazz Festival by the Arts Council of Great Britain in 1983 and released on the Cuneiform label in 2007.

Ian Jeffrey

Ian Jeffrey is an English art historian, writer and curator.Jeffrey is the author of a series of illustrated books on the history of photography. He is a recipient of the Royal Photographic Society's J. Dudley Johnston Award.

John Fremantle, 4th Baron Cottesloe

John Walgrave Halford Fremantle, 4th Baron Cottesloe, 5th Baron Fremantle, GBE, TD (2 March 1900 – 1994) was a British aristocrat and public official. He served as the Chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain and the South Bank Theatre Board.

London Musicians Collective

The London Musicians Collective (LMC) is a cultural charity based in London, England devoted to the support and promotion of contemporary, experimental and improvised music. It was not, as is sometimes assumed, a band.

From its foundation in 1975 until its reorganization in 2009, the LMC organized concerts, festivals, tours, workshops and publications in support of experimental music.

The LMC grew from Musics and had overlapping membership. It had some of the same approach to division of labour as the magazine. While the latter chose financial independence, the LMC at its first meeting rejected this policy by 37 votes to 1. The LMC then applied to the Arts Council of Great Britain for funding.

Two LPs were produced, numbered LMC1 and LMC2, but they were independent productions not directly initiated by the main collective.

In 2002, the LMC was awarded a community radio licence to broadcast a new radio station, Resonance FM, in central London. It also produced a magazine, Resonance, and a range of CDs.

The LMC is funded by donations, membership fees and grants. It is supported by Arts Council England and The PRS Foundation for New Music.

London Pride (sculpture)

London Pride is a sculpture by the British artist Frank Dobson located on Queen's Walk on London's South Bank. The sculpture was given Grade II listed status in January 2016. The sculpture depicts two nude women, it sits on a slate platform, with an inscription carved by David Kindersley in front of the piece that reads:

'LONDON PRIDE / FRANK DOBSON CBE RA / 1886–1963 / Commissioned for / THE FESTIVAL OF BRITAIN 1951 / GIVEN BY MARY DOBSON 1987 / AND PLACED ON THE SOUTH BANK / Assisted generously by Lynton Property & Revisionary Plc and / The Henry Moore Foundation / ARTS COUNCIL OF GREAT BRITAIN'.

Peter Palumbo, Baron Palumbo

Peter Garth Palumbo, Lord Palumbo (born 20 July 1935) is a property developer, art collector, former chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain, architecture connoisseur and Conservative life peer.

Plymouth Arts Centre

Plymouth Arts Centre is a centre for contemporary art, independent cinema and creative learning based in the Barbican area of Plymouth, UK. It was first opened in 1947 with funding from the newly formed Arts Council of Great Britain. It is located in a Grade II listed town house in Looe Street, and includes space for exhibitions, a cinema, artist studios, a café and a bar. Beryl Cook had her first exhibition here, and many other artists held exhibitions here early in their careers.

Regional arts board

The Regional Arts Boards (formerly Regional Arts Associations) were English regional subdivisions of the Arts Council of Great Britain

Schiele in Prison

Schiele in Prison is a 1980 British independent film directed by Mick Gold and starring David Suchet as Gustav Klimt, Grant Cathro as Egon Schiele and Nicholas Selby as The Judge. The film dramtises the imprisonment of Schiele in Neulengbach in 1911, and looks at the authenticity of Schile's prison diary, which was published after his death.

The film was funded and produced by the Film Office of the Arts Council of Great Britain.

Scottish Arts Council

The Scottish Arts Council (Scottish Gaelic: Comhairle Ealain na h-Alba, Scots: Scots Airts Cooncil) was a Scottish public body responsible for the funding, development and promotion of the arts in Scotland. The Council primarily distributed funding from the Scottish Government as well as National Lottery funds received via the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

The Scottish Arts Council was formed in 1994 following a restructuring of the Arts Council of Great Britain, but had existed as an autonomous body since a royal charter of 1967. In 2010 it merged with Scottish Screen to form Creative Scotland.

William G. Tucker

William G. Tucker (born February 28, 1935) is a modernist British sculptor and modern art scholar.

William Rees-Mogg

William Rees-Mogg, Baron Rees-Mogg, Kt (14 July 1928 – 29 December 2012) was a 20th Century British newspaper journalist, who was the Editor of The Times from 1967 to 1981. From 1975 to 1978 he served as High Sheriff of Somerset, and was also the Chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain, and Vice-Chairman of the British Broadcasting Corporation's Board of Governors.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.