Arts League of Service
Founded in a spirit of idealism after the First World War, the Arts League of Service set itself the task of 'placing within the reach of everyone higher forms of entertainment, and opportunities for the enjoyment of any art or craft.' 1 Its motto was: 'To bring the Arts into Everyday Life'. 2 The League's driving force and spokesperson was Ana Berry, who set out its aims at meetings on 28 April and 23 May 1919, the latter held at the studio of Margaret Morris. 3 Lord Henry Cavendish-Bentinck MP became its President, with Miss Berry and Eleanor Elder as Honorary Organising Secretaries. The name was an allusion to the League of Nations, and was chosen to reflect the mood of post-war optimism and purposefulness in which the organisation was conceived. Its office was at 1 Robert Street, Adelphi.
Among its early activities in the autumn of 1919 were a series of lectures (on Painting, by Wyndham Lewis; Poetry, by T. S. Eliot; Dance, by Margaret Morris; and Music, by Eugene Goossens) and an exhibition of Practical Art at the Twenty-One Gallery. 4 Subsequent exhibitions, with an emphasis on the innovative and non-traditional, included a group show of fine and decorative art by Duncan Grant, Cedric Morris, John and Paul Nash and others, and a display of posters by E. McKnight Kauffer. 5 The League put together portfolios of drawings and prints by contemporary artists, which were sent to potential buyers and circulated to schools. 6 This side of its activities was overseen by Miss Berry. Meanwhile, under Eleanor Elder, a troupe of travelling players was set up to perform in village halls throughout the country, with costumes designed by associates of the League such as McKnight Kauffer. 7 Another of its early goals was to build a block of artists' studio-flats in London.
The League survived Miss Berry's return to her native South America, but seems to have fizzled out around the outbreak of the Second World War.
1: The Times, 2 May 1919, p. 7.
2: Eleanor Elder, Travelling Players: The Story of the Arts League of Service, London: Frederick Muller, 1939, p. 7.
3: Eleanor Elder, Travelling Players: The Story of the Arts League of Service, London: Frederick Muller, 1939, pp. 4–7.
4: Athenaeum, 10 October 1919, p. 990; 12 December 1919, p. 1344.
5: The Times, 13 December 1924, p. 10; 19 May 1925, p. 22.
6: The Times, 8 July 1925, p. 12.
7: Eleanor Elder, Travelling Players:The Story of the Arts League of Service, London: Frederick Muller, 1939.