By Clive Gray (auth.)
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The day-to-day activities of the ACGB, and the policies and decisions that it made, were to be its own responsibility, rather than the government’s, even if the parameters within which it operated were state-deﬁned. This ‘arm’s-length’ principle for the arts was ﬁrst enunciated in the 1970s (Redcliffe-Maud, 1976) but was actually a longstanding feature of the quango form of administration, allowing Ministers to avoid direct intervention in policy areas whilst still ensuring that public involvement took place in the administration, management and provision of politically desired policies (Hood, 1978).
As a consequence of these different requirements a succession of sites of conﬂict will be created. These sites will affect relationships between the public and private sectors of the economy, as well as relationships within each of these spheres of activity. This conﬂict will last until a new match of structures and processes takes place. As there is no blueprint of what this new match will be it is likely that there will be a long period of turmoil before a settlement will be reached. The form of this new settlement will require changes in both the social and economic structures of accumulation, necessitating the creation of new structures and processes in both spheres, with such changes encompassing a range from structural transformation to ‘conjunctural’ reforms (Hay, 1999, p.
129). The use of a quango to make national policy for the arts was of a piece with this: the ACGB was separated from the normal political channels and could, therefore, be safely left alone – particularly as the arts were not a major policy priority for central government. The arts in local government were in similar circumstances, being a relatively small element of expenditure and located organisationally within Departments with much wider remits than the arts alone. In the case of local government a concern with Managing the Arts: 1945–79 45 national prestige was replaced with one of local prestige but the arts themselves were still seen as being somehow separate from the mainstream of political activity.
The Politics of the Arts in Britain by Clive Gray (auth.)