The End of High Culture
In the wake of World War II, England was caught between two cultures: the old order and a vision of what was in store for the future of British society. Class distinctions remained, but government reforms began to slowly blur the lines between the upper and middle classes.
High culture, such as classical music, opera, theatre, and fine art, had been accessible only to the upper class. But when the Conservative Party won the 1951 election, their slogan “Set the People Free,” signaled a shift from state control to individual freedom and spurred drastic changes in culture. Traditional entertainment became enjoyable, affordable, and accessible to a new audience through radio, movies, and television. Jazz and rock-a-billy music became popular in music halls, which were turned into dance halls or torn down entirely. This new music pushed out the older audiences and made way for a new, younger audience.
Beginning of Mass Culture
Entering into the 1950s, the British felt freer, more affluent, and eager to escape the rigidity of the past. They questioned and ridiculed the cultural conventions from before and during the war. Jazz, rock-n-roll, new movies, and television became known as the “mass culture” and were slowly accepted by the upper class. New technologies propelled Britain even further. In 1953, the television broadcast of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation increased TV sales, and the deregulation of television in 1954 opened England to the influence of American pop culture. Brits could now see how Americans were living in their economic boom.
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