Patronizing the National Stage: Subsidies and Control in Wartime Britain

Part of the Palgrave Studies in Theatre and Performance History book series (PSTPH)


The introduction of subsidies to the performing arts in Britain happened almost overnight in early 1940. This was not a minor detail in government policy but a major change in the perception of arts in war-time. It was also the inception of cultural policy in Britain—a term which did not exist before. The Arts Council of Great Britain was a direct outcome of this development as was the culture portfolio within the UK government. Given that official policy until 1940 had been largely characterised by Lord Melbourne’s famous 1835 dictum of “God help the minister that meddles with art” this was a revolutionary change. This chapter will concentrate on the foundation of CEMA, the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts, and precursor to the Arts Council, not only because this aspect has been largely overlooked by research so far, but also because the introduction of cultural politics in the early 1940s signifies a significant shift, which has repercussions until today.


British cultural policy CEMA ENSA State theatre funding Arts council 

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of GlasgowGlasgowUK

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