In his speech at Tate Modern, with which we opened Chapter 2, Tony Blair claimed that the previous ten years, since Labour came to power, had seen ‘a renaissance of British culture’ and that one contributor to a Downing Street seminar had said that the period would come to be remembered as a ‘golden age’.1 What happens in the arts and culture in a nation is only ever partially a matter of government action, and we have no intention of systematically assessing the overall cultural vitality of the UK during the period under discussion. That is a worthwhile project, but our main brief is cultural policy, and we have two main aims in this chapter. The first is to examine the degree to which Labour’s cultural policies added to or hindered the thriving of the arts. The second is to assess what, if anything, they did to shift fundamental inequalities regarding access to the arts and culture.
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