It is commonplace to suggest that ‘the arts’ as traditionally conceived have become marginalised and increasingly irrelevant in the industrialised culture of the modern age with its proliferation of mass-mediated forms, messages and everyday experiences. In a book published in 1986, in hopeful and ultimately disappointed anticipation of a British general election victory for the Labour Party in 1987, Geoff Mulgan and Ken Worpole stated this now conventional wisdom in the form of a rhetorical question, the answer to which they gave instantly:
Who is doing most to shape British culture in the late 1980s? Next Shops, Virgin, W.H.Smith’s, the Notting Hill Carnival and Virago, or the Wigmore Hall, Arts Council, National Theatre, Tate Gallery and Royal Opera House? Most people know the answer, and live it every day in the clothes they wear, the newspapers they read, the music they listen to and the television they watch. The emergence (and disappearance) of new pursuits, technologies, techniques and styles - whether windsurfing, jogging, aerobics, Zen, compact discs, angling, wine-making, CB radio, rambling, hip-hop, home computing, pho tography or keeping diaries - represent changes that bear little relation to traditional notions of art and culture, and the subsidised institutions that embody them.