TCBH Duncan Tanner Essay Prize Winner 2010: The Week's Good Cause: Mass Culture and Cultures of Philanthropy at the Inter-war BBC
Twentieth Century British History, 22, (3), . (doi:10.1093/tcbh/hwr014).
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This article examines the intersections between philanthropy and mass culture at the inter-war BBC through an analysis of the Week's Good Cause charity appeals. Building on Dan LeMahieu's work on the media in the inter-war period, it explores how this new mode of cultural interventionism was used to disseminate and re-articulate older messages about charity and the new duties of citizens. The Good Cause appeals mapped an expansive notion of positive citizenship which encompassed both the private and social domains of listeners’ lives and bureaucratized and popular understandings of charity. Encoding a reworked idea of ‘deservingness’, the appeals were part of a wider BBC narrative about British civil society between the wars, which reanimated a vital and enduring Victorian heritage, even whilst at times presenting ‘progress’ upon it. Through drawing on new psychological thinking about the commercial subject, and on the popular appeal of a burgeoning celebrity culture, the article argues that the Good Cause appeals pioneered a form of philanthropic fundraising between the wars (taken up in other inter-war BBC output) based upon drama, human interest, and ‘listener identification’. It concludes by using the Good Cause appeals to critique any supposed opposition between civic and cultural paradigms, arguing that in the inter-war years the appeals projected an integrated message about charity and citizenship which crossed over cultural, commercial, and political boundaries.
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