Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Margaret Thatcher wields the axe with £1m cuts to the arts – 40 years ago in The Stage

Front page of The Stage on June 28, 1979
by -
Click to enlarge

June 28, 1979: Following Margaret Thatcher’s election as prime minister, the new Conservative government passed its first spending review, resulting in a cut of £1 million to the arts.

Our editorial that week considered whether the new Tory administration would mean a major rethink to arts funding in the UK.

“In the wake of the dismay caused to the arts world by the new government’s first budget, an interesting debate is springing up about the nature of arts funding, brought about partly by the fact that no one seems quite certain, including the minister responsible himself, what the Conservative policy towards the arts is going to be.

“If, as we suspect, the Tories are bent on forcing us, by hook or by crook, to radically alter our whole attitude to public spending, then the examination of alternatives becomes of paramount importance. Recent developments, including a major tie-up to be announced this week between Welsh National Opera and an international oil company, lead us to believe that a number of organisations are already getting on with the job, especially those in what might be called the arts mainstream.

“What does require urgent attention is the plight of those smaller companies, mainly in the community field, whose support can probably only come from public bodies. A definition of their role would seem to be a priority; consideration of their future needs a necessity.”

If you’d like to read more stories from the history of theatre, all previous content from The Stage is available at the British Newspaper Archive in a convenient, easy-to-access format. Please visit: thestage.co.uk/archive

English councils cut culture budgets by £400m over eight years, reveals research

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.