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Beyond the ‘Campaign for a Popular Culture’: community art, activism and cultural democracy in 1980s London

Beyond the ‘Campaign for a Popular Culture’: community art, activism and cultural democracy in 1980s London
Beyond the ‘Campaign for a Popular Culture’: community art, activism and cultural democracy in 1980s London
This thesis offers a new cultural history of State sponsored cultural production in London under the Labour led Greater London Council during the 1980s, bringing the GLC’s cultural policy interventions to the attention of historians of art and culture. The Greater London Council’s Arts and Recreation Committee, and in particular its new ‘Community Arts’ and ‘Ethnic Arts’ Sub-Committees, sought to challenge the Arts Council’s dominant model of cultural sponsorship which aimed to broaden public access to ‘the arts’. The GLC attempted instead to foster a participative ‘cultural democracy’ in London, often centred upon particular political themes and identities. Alongside existing accounts which focus exclusively upon the GLC’s cultural policy discourse, this new cultural history attends to the other side of the sponsorship equation, namely, what cultural forms were prioritised by the various committees, how such policies were perceived by the recipient cultural producers, what cultural texts were produced as a result of GLC sponsorship and how these cultural forms were received more broadly. It explores how the GLC impacted upon cultural production in London, looking to the interrelationship between particular GLC sponsored cultural outputs, whether artworks, murals, posters or films, and wider political and social themes pertinent to that historical moment. In particular, this thesis interrogates cultural forms funded under the auspices of two city-wide campaigns, ‘GLC Peace Year’ (1983) and ‘London Against Racism’ (1984), in order to consider the relationship between GLC cultural sponsorship, cultural production, new social movement activism and democratic participation. Cultural forms of nuclear criticism were funded during ‘Peace Year’ to raise awareness about the GLC’s Nuclear-Free Zone, contradicting central government’s nuclear stance in 1983. These included artist-commissioned poster campaigns and banners, peace murals, pop concerts, community theatre, photography exhibitions and documentary films, including some related to peace activism by women. This case study traces Peace Year’s cultural output to consider the effects of this appeal to London’s nuclear anxieties. The second case study offers a re-reading of the GLC’s new ‘Ethnic Arts’ Sub-Committee’ and its attempts to instigate an anti-racist cultural policy, as part of a broader campaign that sought to address the issue of discrimination in London and across all areas of Council work. It begins by recording a number of the GLC’s initiatives in this area, including its sponsorship of various forms of black cultural production and in particular, the controversial ‘Anti-Racist Mural Project’. Through an examination of contemporaneous and subsequent critical accounts of the GLC’s experiments alongside Council minutes and papers, this account adds nuance to existing narratives by identifying the climate of coexisting and competing discourses at the GLC relating to the state sponsorship of culture and diversity. Ultimately, ‘Beyond The ‘Campaign For A Popular Culture’: Community Art, Activism And Cultural Democracy In 1980s London’ presents a history of the practices and policies of the GLC that is pointedly cultural in focus and attempts to open this field of study to researchers interested in visual culture, art history, community art, identity politics, activism and urban history, alongside those with an interest in cultural policy making at a local government level.
University of Southampton
Atashroo, Hazel A.
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Atashroo, Hazel A.
829e8b1d-9b3f-4f2b-b84a-d88e83556ba9
Manghani, Sunil
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HARRIS, JONATHAN P
60db06bb-d7cb-4a67-8ef1-ee6645ecbeb7
Davis, August
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Atashroo, Hazel A. (2017) Beyond the ‘Campaign for a Popular Culture’: community art, activism and cultural democracy in 1980s London University of Southampton Doctoral Thesis , 273pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

This thesis offers a new cultural history of State sponsored cultural production in London under the Labour led Greater London Council during the 1980s, bringing the GLC’s cultural policy interventions to the attention of historians of art and culture. The Greater London Council’s Arts and Recreation Committee, and in particular its new ‘Community Arts’ and ‘Ethnic Arts’ Sub-Committees, sought to challenge the Arts Council’s dominant model of cultural sponsorship which aimed to broaden public access to ‘the arts’. The GLC attempted instead to foster a participative ‘cultural democracy’ in London, often centred upon particular political themes and identities. Alongside existing accounts which focus exclusively upon the GLC’s cultural policy discourse, this new cultural history attends to the other side of the sponsorship equation, namely, what cultural forms were prioritised by the various committees, how such policies were perceived by the recipient cultural producers, what cultural texts were produced as a result of GLC sponsorship and how these cultural forms were received more broadly. It explores how the GLC impacted upon cultural production in London, looking to the interrelationship between particular GLC sponsored cultural outputs, whether artworks, murals, posters or films, and wider political and social themes pertinent to that historical moment. In particular, this thesis interrogates cultural forms funded under the auspices of two city-wide campaigns, ‘GLC Peace Year’ (1983) and ‘London Against Racism’ (1984), in order to consider the relationship between GLC cultural sponsorship, cultural production, new social movement activism and democratic participation. Cultural forms of nuclear criticism were funded during ‘Peace Year’ to raise awareness about the GLC’s Nuclear-Free Zone, contradicting central government’s nuclear stance in 1983. These included artist-commissioned poster campaigns and banners, peace murals, pop concerts, community theatre, photography exhibitions and documentary films, including some related to peace activism by women. This case study traces Peace Year’s cultural output to consider the effects of this appeal to London’s nuclear anxieties. The second case study offers a re-reading of the GLC’s new ‘Ethnic Arts’ Sub-Committee’ and its attempts to instigate an anti-racist cultural policy, as part of a broader campaign that sought to address the issue of discrimination in London and across all areas of Council work. It begins by recording a number of the GLC’s initiatives in this area, including its sponsorship of various forms of black cultural production and in particular, the controversial ‘Anti-Racist Mural Project’. Through an examination of contemporaneous and subsequent critical accounts of the GLC’s experiments alongside Council minutes and papers, this account adds nuance to existing narratives by identifying the climate of coexisting and competing discourses at the GLC relating to the state sponsorship of culture and diversity. Ultimately, ‘Beyond The ‘Campaign For A Popular Culture’: Community Art, Activism And Cultural Democracy In 1980s London’ presents a history of the practices and policies of the GLC that is pointedly cultural in focus and attempts to open this field of study to researchers interested in visual culture, art history, community art, identity politics, activism and urban history, alongside those with an interest in cultural policy making at a local government level.

Text 17. Final submission of thesis - Version of Record
Available under License University of Southampton Thesis Licence.
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Published date: June 2017

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 414571
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/414571
PURE UUID: 0b9ca252-d52a-4626-922f-78826af58607

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Date deposited: 04 Oct 2017 16:30
Last modified: 04 Oct 2017 16:30

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Contributors

Author: Hazel A. Atashroo
Thesis advisor: Sunil Manghani
Thesis advisor: JONATHAN P HARRIS
Thesis advisor: August Davis

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