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Title: A Golden Age? : an interdisciplinary investigation into the funding rationale, access policies and the pursuit of artistic excellence by Arts Council England under the New Labour Government, 1996/97-2007/08
Author: Mcloughlin, Joseph
ISNI:       0000 0004 8500 0906
Awarding Body: Royal Holloway, University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 2018
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Speaking at the Tate Modern in March 2007, Prime Minister Tony Blair suggested that the last ten years represented a 'Golden Age' for the arts in Britain. This phrase has been singled out by a number of writers since and used by some as a prompt for critical reflection. Writing in Cultural Capital: The Rise and Fall of Creative Britain, Robert Hewison opined that 'golden ages are rarely what they seem' before drawing out and evaluating some of the complexities submerged by this idealistic phrase. This comment from Hewison offers a concise but resonant description of the provocation that drives this thesis. Simply, that despite the opening of myriad income streams, record investment, the saving of regional theatre, the apparent growth in attendance rates and a series of headline cultural successes (including the opening of the Tate Modern in which Blair was speaking) not everything in the British cultural sector was golden after a decade of New Labour governance. Focusing particularly on the work of Arts Council England, 'the national body for the arts', there were a number of complications that challenged such a positive reading. These included, but were not limited to, the common perception that the funding rationale of Art Council England had been overwhelmed by a hard-line neoliberal logic, questions over the efficacy of Arts Council England's attempts to make the arts accessible to priority groups (including black and minority ethnic, disabled and the socially excluded) but also more people generally, and the worry over an excessively instrumental policy bent that had potentially seen the dismissal of excellence as an organisational concern by 2007. Acknowledging these complications, this thesis will explore this decade, 1996/07-2007/08, in more detail. The aims of this exploration are twofold. In relation to the established thinking on the subject, as articulated by authors in disciplines as varied as cultural history, cultural policy and public management, cultural economics and theatre and performance studies, this thesis will provide new assessments of the relationship between Arts Council policies and their impact in practice. Specifically, the forthcoming chapters will examine the funding rationale of the organisation and explore why and with what aim money was given. They will interrogate the efficacy of Arts Council policies to improve access and scrutinise in detail what were identified in a range of research materials as barriers to access and how these might be overcome. They will consider what position the concern for aesthetic quality held in the policy formulation process and suggest that, regardless of the emphasis given to its significance, it will always be framed by certain instrumental interests. The scrutiny of these issues will generate new and more accurate characterisations of the various policy approaches of Arts Council England and their impacts in practice during this period. This thesis will thus enhance understandings of the organisation and thereby moves the critical conversation on the subject forward in new and sometimes different directions. Using some of the ideas developed in this work as a foundation, the second aim of the thesis is to provide some prompts for the formulation of more assured and effective policy in the future. In doing so, this work will serve a broader purpose with the ideas on offer not only showcasing theoretical developments within the academic field but also having the potential to contribute to practical change in the wider arts sector. To be clear, whilst it is an overstatement to say that by 2007/08 Arts Council policy was broken and needed fixing, I think that it is fair to say that the development of studied, theoretically rigorous alternative approaches that have been scrutinised and tested through primary research and the construction of prototype case studies has the potential for positive practical impact and this should not be ignored.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Arts Council England ; New Labour ; ECONOMICS ; ACCESS ; Excellence