Letter: Bloomsbury arts not elitist

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The Independent Online
From Mr Richard Shone

Sir: Polly Toynbee writes that politicians who are outraged by funding "elitist" arts from the lottery are out of touch with the times ("Politicians are the true philistines", 18 October). She goes on to castigate Bloomsbury as having been, between the wars, a leading contributor to the schism in Britain between culture and the population at large. It is Ms Toynbee who is out of touch in peddling a viewpoint that has long been discredited.

Surely the Arts Council, since its foundation in the Forties, has brought the arts over the past 50 years within reach of a previously unimaginable number of people across the whole nation? The idea for the Arts Council, as everyone must know by now, was Lord Keynes's and sprang from the very heart of Bloomsbury.

Earlier, in the Twenties, Keynes, Roger Fry and Duncan Grant were closely involved in the London Artists' Association in order to bring contemporary art, through London and regional exhibitions, to the eyes and homes of people who might have thought "modern" pictures beyond their taste and purse.

When Leonard Woolf ran the Hogarth Press, he introduced several series of softbacked, cheaply priced books specifically to reach readers of modest means. The views put forward in Virginia Woolf's polemical writings on women and education and those propounded in several essays by Fry and EM Forster deploring the snobbish, restrictive views of the so-called "cultured classes" appear to me almost exactly contrary to Ms Toynbee's allegations.

Yours faithfully,

Richard Shone

London, SW1

20 October

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