Labour History Review

Bringing Art to 'the Man in the Back Street': Regional and Historical Perspectives of Labour and the Evolution of Cultural Policy in Europe 1945–1975

Labour History Review (2010), 75, (1), 30–43.


This article explores the transition from voluntaristic to state-led cultural provision after 1945 with the emergence in Britain of the Arts Council and its regional representatives. The chief ambition is to examine the concern over the cultural deficit of the industrial working class expressed by leading figures in the new arena of cultural policy such as Mary Glasgow and Lord Keynes. Drawing upon research from the North East Association for the Arts (established in 1961), which maintained links with the North East's political and economic establishment, this paper explores the experience of such metropolitan cultural imperatives in the Labour stronghold of the North East. It also seeks to examine how far the civic concern to improve popular sensibilities after 1945 was peculiar to British cultural policy. It asks whether there were similar movements to realize the improvement of working-class culture in comparable European regions, and considers the possibilities for a comparative or transnational approach to the history of European cultural policy during the twentieth century.

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Author details

Vall, Natasha