The Revolution That Never Could Be
'THE FACT that culture has become, in some sense, a department of politics', T. S. Eliot stated, 'should not obscure in our memory the fact that at other periods politics has been an activity pursued within a culture, and between representatives of different cultures.' Eliot's reminder was apt. When the Prime Minister Harold Wilson made Jennie Lee the first Minister for the Arts in 1964, political action was thought to be able to bridge the gap between the differing cultures of Britain. In her first White Paper, 'A Policy for the Arts -- the First Steps', Jennie Lee was confident that the various cultures might become one, if properly guided. There was no question of state patronage directing taste or restricting the liberty of the experimental artist or imposing controls.
But abuses can be spotted and tackled, high standards encouraged, and opportunities given for wider enjoyment. It is partly a question of bridging the gap between what have come to be called the "higher" forms of entertainment and the traditional sources -- the brass band, the amateur concert party, the entertainer, the music hall and pop group -- and to challenge the fact that a gap exists. In the world of jazz the process has already happened; highbrow and lowbrow have met.'
Later in the debate in the House of Commons on the White Paper, Jennie Lee expanded on her commitment. The arts and associated amenities must occupy a central place in every region. An immense amount could be done to improve the quality of contemporary life.