Working class champion of arts for all dies at 93

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A WORKING class Sheffield lad who became a passionate defender of arts for all has died at the age of 93.

Sir Roy Shaw was head of the Arts Council from 1975 to 1983 and believed governments had a moral duty to support arts organisations.

A pupil at Firth Park Grammar School, Sir Roy recalled that as a boy he was raised in a home almost totally devoid of any cultural influence, apart from music hall.

He said he had discovered literature through public libraries and adult education, and later studied at Manchester University.

In 1947 he was appointed a lecturer at Leeds University and in 1959 warden of Leeds University Adult Education Centre in Bradford.

Sir Roy began to organise art exhibitions, concerts and visits by theatre and opera groups.

He also turned his mind to policies for the arts and became an unpaid adviser to Jenny Lee, who, under Harold Wilson, was Britain’s first Arts Minister.

Sir Roy became an unpaid member of the Arts Council in 1972 and three years was appointed Secretary General - regarded as as a ‘provincial academic’ who had risen to an Establishment position.

He was in charge at a time when rising costs and reductions in grants put the Arts Council under severe pressure.

Sir Roy always angrily denied that he was left-wing and obsessed with adult education, but did believe in active subsidies for the arts as opposed to sponsorship by big business.

In later years he was a professor at the Centre for Arts at City University London.