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Minister for the Arts

(page 1 of 2)
Audio: Minister for the Arts 1
Duration: 00:03:23
Date: 1982
Jennie Lee's Ministerial red box which she used as Minister for the Arts from 1964 to 1970.
Image : Jennie Lee's Ministerial red box
Date: 1964-1970
Jennie Lee photographed on her first official visit to the Tate Gallery as Minister for the Arts, in 1964. She is pictured with Niall MacDermott (Financial Secretary to the Treasury) and Colin Anderson (Tate Trustee).
Image : Jennie Lee visiting the Tate Gallery
Date: 1964

In the general election of 1964 Labour won, and the new Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, gave Jennie - who was still mourning the death of Nye - a life line in offering her the newly created post of Minister for the Arts. It was a junior ministerial position in the Department of Education and Science, but one which would re-ignite Jennie’s career.

Jennie’s ministerial red box is held in the Archive. You can see a photograph of it on this page.

Jennie’s achievements as the Minister for Arts are many – she trebled the Arts Council grant in 6 years, established The National Theatre on London’s South Bank and widened the focus of arts money from London to Scotland, Wales and the English regions.

The second photograph on this page shows Jennie on her first official visit to the Tate Gallery as Minister for the Arts – around 1964.

During her tenure as Minister for the Arts, Jennie corresponded with several distinguished actors, writers and artists, many of whom became friends. The Archive collection includes letters from Laurence Olivier, Peggy Ashcroft, Richard Attenborough, Graham Sutherland, Henry Moore and JB Priestley among others.

In 1965 Jennie produced the first White Paper on the Arts, outlining her vision for making the Arts more accessible to everyone in all areas of the country. She wrote: “In any civilised community the arts and associated amenities, serious or comic, light or demanding, must occupy a central place. Their enjoyment should not be regarded as remote from everyday life.”

Minister for the Arts (page 1 of 2)