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10 facts for 75 years

To mark our 75th anniversary, here's a run down of 10 facts and iconic cultural moments from the past 75 years...

1. Acronyms not so @ace_national

The name Arts Council of Great Britain was chosen as the name of the new funding body because as its first Chair, the economist John Maynard Keynes, explained “I hope you will call us the Arts Council for short, and not try to turn our initials into a false, invented word. We have carefully selected initials which we hope are unpronounceable.”

2. Going underground

Art for All was one of the first touring exhibitions the Arts Council funded in the 1940s. Displaying London Transport posters and the original art they were taken from at venues across the country ranging from the V and A to the Savoy Hotel in Sandown on the Isle of Wight. Our connection with the Underground continues to this day as we support some of the commissions for Art on the Underground.

3. Festival of Britain 

Was a display of the best of British in 1951. Though now remembered as being centred on London’s South Bank, a further 22 festivals were held across England specifically to showcase culture and creativity. Among others festivals were held in Norwich, York, Brighton, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Liverpool.

4. South of the river

Gateshead has benefitted from investment in culture over the last quarter of a century, from Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North to the Baltic and SAGE. It’s one of many places across England where investment in culture has been used to regenerate areas and help level-up communities.

An image of the Angel of the North. It stands upright in a field in day time above the fields and trees.

Anthony Gormley's Angel of the North. Photo © Sally Ann Norman

5. Lest we forget

14-18 Now was a creative and cultural project that ran over five years to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. 35 million people engaged with the arts experiences created by 420 performers, artists, musicians, film makers and designers. Among the events was we’re here because we’re here which saw hundreds of volunteers rehearse in secret to portray individuals killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

6. Good for tourism

 In 1985 the then chair of the Arts Council, William Rees-Mogg, said “"The arts are to British tourism what the sun is to Spain." The value of culture and creativity to tourism has long been recognised. In 1976 a successful tour of the country by the RSC which starred Judi Dench and Ian McKellen was funded by among others the then national tourism body. Find out about our latest work in partnership with Visit England.

A black and white photograph of Ian Mckellen and Judi Dench performing onstage in Macbeth, in 1976

Judi Dench and Ian McKellen in the 1976 Royal Shakespeare Company production of Macbeth. Photo © The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

7. Going for gold 

The 1948 London Olympics was the last time that you could win an Olympic medal in architecture, literature, music, sculpture and painting. An exhibition of the art entries was held at the Victoria and Albert Museum with War Artist Alfred Thomson winning Britain’s only gold medal. The 2012 Cultural Olympiad that ran alongside London 2012 saw events being run across England.

8. They might be giants

The spectacular giants have appeared in Liverpool and other places across the country many times over the years, creating stunning street theatre for all to enjoy.

9. Funding the future

Stormzy received help from the Arts Council to fund his first American gig. Public money has also supported the early careers of many Mercury Prize nominees - we even created our own Spotify playlist of those the Arts Council has supported.

Stormzy performs onstage at Glastonbury festival. He is holding a microphone and wears a stab proof vest with the union jack painted on the front.

Stormzy performs at Glastonbury Festival 2019. Photo © Samir Hussein

10. Through the good times and the bad

From wartime, through economic downturn, and coronavirus, investment in culture and creativity has continued. The Culture Recovery Fund has so far seen £2 billion committed by the Government to the survival of the sector and ensure a foundation for culture and creativity to be part our recovery from the pandemic.


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