Charlotte Higgins in her article, “After the war the arts came back stronger” had a self-prophesying ring about it (Please see article here). Ms Higgins erroneously says that the war was the last time cultural organisations ground to a halt. The Arts Council developed from the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA) that was set up during World War 2. In June 1945 CEMA became the Arts Council of Great Britain. Maynard Keynes, in a palpable conflict of interests, became the first Chair of the Arts Council and also the Chair of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden.
In 1945/46 the English Folk Song and Dance Society (EFSDS) received £500 and the Royal Opera House £30,000. In today’s money this would equate to £22,098 for the EFSDS and £1,265,888 for the Royal Opera House. The grant for the Royal Opera House in 2017/18 was £24,772,000, a nineteen-fold increase on 1946 and the English Folk Song and Dance Society was £432,046, representing a nineteen-fold increase. The level of funding for each organisation has remained the same.
For other forms of music such as jazz, folk and brass bands to get a place in the sun their needs to be a paradigm shift and reformation in the funding of the arts in England. The Arts Council’s latest strategy, Let’s Create, is a document full of pious hope and shallow intellectual tropes is the intellectual equivalent of chewing rubber spaghetti – a document written by arts bureaucrats for arts bureaucrats. There are no art form policies. In fact, all arts forms have been boiled down to just two elements: culture and creative practitioners. To recover from the pandemic, a Marshall Aid Plan for the arts in England is essential, coupled with a realistic strategy and tactics that ensures equitable funding for under-represented music and art forms. Once that is in place, an organisation is required that can deliver it. This may not be the Arts Council, which for the past 75 years appear to have been preoccupied with their flagship organisations to the detriment of all the other arts, art forms and creators.