Who pays the piper, or rather, the writer? This was a question that not only bothered authors but also governments after the Second World War, when the British government made historic strides to support literature financially, rather than simply play Big Brother. What happened was something unthinkable to today’s authors – state investment in writing with, apparently, few strings attached. But we’re still largely in the dark about what this meant in practice, who it included or excluded, and what those strings turned out to be. Against fresh debates about structured support for the arts and humanities, this talk explores what our leading national cultural institutions tell us about Britain’s literary publics. Dr Asha Rogers asks whether a historical perspective on state literary support– which evolved from particularly innovative acts of writing, to the category of “black British literature”, and literary activism in the wake of the Rushdie Affair – strengthen the case to “bring the state back in” today, when evidence suggests that leaving culture to the market only replicates structural inequalities?