The 1930s has gone down in historical folklore as, in the words of Auden, a ‘low, dishonest decade’. It is seen as overshadowed by the coming war and paralysed by fear. In fact it was in many respects the most creative decade of the twentieth century. The industrial revival was marked not just by organisational achievements like the first national electricity grid, but by technological innovations that gave Britain a working radar network and the world’s best aeroplane engines and designs. Without them we could not have survived the disasters of 1940. There was splendid and furious activity right across the spectrum of the arts and literature, and one of the most notable aspects of the time was the strong and highly intelligent support for gifted artists provided by such commercial institutions as Shell and Wedgwood, public bodies like the BBC (especially the Radio Times) and London Transport, and new firms like Penguin Books.
As a child in the Potteries I was aware of these stirrings. My elders talked of Susie Cooper and her beautiful dishes, L S Lowry’s weird canvases and the new and fantastically rich coloured glazes produced by Doulton. It was a great age of enlightened patronage: the Jubilee