November 2, 2017

1941. British Entertainers Boost Morale on the Home Front

Arts Council Raises Spirits for a Nation at War
"Vera Lynn sings to workers during a lunchtime concert at a munitions factory, 1941" (source)
United Press article from 1941:
War Fails to Black Out British Arts and Music
United Press Staff Correspondent

LONDON (UP) — Britain is fighting this war not only with planes, cannon and munitions, but also with violin bows, camel hair brushes and play scripts.

A total of $400,000 already has been granted for promotion of the battle on the entertainment front. Last year $200,000 was expended and a like sum is included in the 1941 plans for advancement of music under the arts.

Under the direction of the Council for the Encouragement of Arts and Music, the program aims to "maintain the best in civilization." The council already has been responsible for hundreds of concerts, plays and exhibitions throughout Britain. The plan was started last year through a $50,000 donation from the Pilgrim Trust Fund. Government authorities agreed to match this sum dollar for dollar, doubling the amount. A similar fund was raised in this manner last year.

Entertain in Shelters

As a result, isolated factories, munitions industries, settlements of evacuees, and shelter dwellers have been entertained by units of performers sponsored by the council.

These units, working in regional defense areas, are credited with achievements which officials said "not only has a psychological value but a therapeutic value as well." They are assigned to banish loneliness, depression and exhaustion among both the fighting forces and the civilian army fighting the Battle of Britain.

Some of the nation's finest singers and instrumentalists are cooperating in the program and donating their services.

Although the performers seldom see the results of their work or know their value of the war effort, the council cited one sensational effect produced upon an old man who was struck dumb by nervous shock suffered during an air raid. The man recovered full use of his voice when he was persuaded to sing in a choir organized by one of the units. One Cockney who dubiously watched a shelter concert in a large London subway finally admitted "all that noise does seem to keep the roof up somehow."

During the winter months as many as 400 concerts monthly had been sponsored throughout the country by the council in churches, village halls, mining towns and factories.

The council is a godsend to professional musicians thrown out of work by the war. Often it has been the sole support of actors and painters whose talents are unmarketable under wartime conditions. The program also is designed to encourage amateurs from whom will spring the new generations of artists to preserve the continuity of British artistic culture.

Amateurs Get Chance

Both professional and amateur drama, musical comedy and pantomime have been sponsored throughout the country by the council. During the first six months of this program alone more than 400 amateur productions were staged. This work largely was done through organization of amateur drama clubs and societies.

An "Art for the People" series of exhibitions is being conducted in the country's leading cities. These exhibits arrange for display of originals, reproductions, industrial and domestic designs as well as autographic art. More than 270,000 persons attended these free exhibitions last year.

The council said it hoped for even larger programs this year by encouraging private contributions which would be matched by government funds and by arranging closer cooperation with educators, civil defense authorities and other government bureaus.