The Cultural State

John Wilson begins a new series charting the relationship between British government and the nation's cultural life since the 1940s.

How is it that an idea cooked up during the Second World War - to use public money to promote the arts as part of the war effort - has been turned into the flourishing cultural regeneration projects that fill our major cities today? John Wilson investigates the rise of this """"Cultural State"""" over the last sixty years.


01Death To Hollywood20040906Churchill's government wanted to remind the British people what exactly they were fighting for in the early 1940s - so they sent classical music, ballet, theatre and artworks to arms factories across the land.

And the man in charge of this cultural mobilisation was Britain's leading economist: John Maynard Keynes.

02Idealists In Vans20040913Film director Mike Leigh, actor Bill Nighy and playwrights Sir David Hare and Willy Russell were among a generation of young artists in the 60's and 70's who started life on the road.

Thanks to a spirit of risk-taking in the funding of the arts, they took theatre to new audiences in pubs, launderettes and even Highland hamlets - with an often anarchic message.

Today, government insists that arts organisations broaden their appeal in order to justify financial support.

But at what cost to artistic integrity?

03Ministers Of Taste?20040920In the 1960s, Britain's first ever Arts Minister Jennie Lee wanted to democratise high culture and make it available to all levels of society, ""You cannot build a civilisation on beer and bingo"" she said.

But have attitudes really changed towards what critics still call the 'elitist' world of the publicly funded arts?

John Wilson hears the arguments from both sides of the cultural divide.

04Money To Awful People20040927John Wilson presents a series examining the relationship between British government and the nation's cultural life since the 1940s.

John Wilson speaks to the key figures of the bitter disputes between government and the arts world during the 1980s, including Arts Minister Lord Grey Gowrie, National Theatre director Sir Peter Hall and cabinet minister Lord Tebbit.

They recall the conflicts, as the arts institutions began to feel the pinch of Mrs Thatcher's tight rein on public spending, culminating in a notorious incident when Sir Peter mounted a coffee table at the National to announce that 'the day of reckoning' had arrived for the Arts in Britain.

05 LASTCreative Accounting20041004In the 1990s British politicians discovered the economic potential of the arts.

John Wilson talks to film makers David Puttnam and Alan Parker about how the notion of 'culture' was pulled to the forefront of profit and expansion: above all, in the so-called 'creative industries' which dominated urban regeneration projects.

Was this proof that government had finally made the nation's cultural life one of its priorities?