This International Women’s Day, we pay tribute to Lady Maud Warrender, a key figure in the history of Help Musicians UK.
Though she is little known today, she was one of the most influential progressive arts philanthropists of the early 20th century and exerted tremendous influence in the world of music. A founding member of the charity, which in her day was known as the Musicians Benevolent Fund, her legacy still resonates in its work today.
Born into an aristocratic family, Lady Maud was a talented singer and was known for her fine contralto voice. However, her elevated social position meant that she was unable to pursue a career as a singer. Her considerable talents and energies were instead channelled into supporting and nurturing the talent of other musicians as a patron. She supported many musicians, particularly women musicians, and she used her home in Holland Park as a private concert venue, providing invaluable opportunities for musicians to perform in front of an audience and gain wider attention.
Lady Maud gave charity recitals in almost every British city, as well as in Europe and India, and aimed to make concert-going accessible to all, and to bring the arts out of central London and into other parts of the country. Having travelled widely, she was well aware that opportunities to attend concerts outside the capital were limited and was frustrated by the very short seasons of opera held in London at the time. She recognised the importance of tickets being available at subsidised prices, and campaigned strongly, using her considerable energy and influence to argue the case for a government-funded, year-round, accessible arts programme, with musicians paid at decent rates. The newly-formed Arts Council began to fund its first ventures in 1945, the year of her death, and Lady Maud played a vital role in demonstrating the demand for state-funded, subsidised music across the UK.
While Lady Maud was a member of many important musical and charitable organisations, her long association with the Musicians Benevolent Fund was perhaps the most significant and lasted until the end of her life. She was a founder member of the charity and a close personal friend of Sir Edward Elgar, the first President. She was personally committed to helping musicians in times of distress, writing in her autobiography, “The work is extraordinarily interesting. When it is possible to give them hope and lift their burdens, it gives the happiness that always comes in the helping of others.”
Nearly a century after Lady Maud helped to establish the charity, her influence and inspiration can still be felt in its work. Today, Help Musicians UK remains committed to widening access to the support it offers in order to reach as many musicians as possible across the country. Although many aspects of a musician’s life have changed beyond recognition since Lady Maud’s day, her vision of a world in which musicians can thrive remains at the heart of the charity’s work, and her legacy continues to this day.
Photo credit: V&A Museum, LondonBack