Proposed Guidelines to protect both Music Teachers and Students – a starting point for discussion

Yesterday saw the horrendous news of the conviction of and 11-year jail sentence for Philip Pickett on charges of rape and sexual assault of students while he was teaching at the Guildhall School. Here is the original list of charges against Pickett from last year; I do not wish to say much more specific to this case, not least because of the possibility of further trials; suffice to say that I believe a good deal more will be made public about both actions and the complicity of others.

If anything good is to come from this case, I hope it may help to put pressure for a proper international debate about the nature of music education and the possibilities for abuse and exploitation therein. I blogged in some detail about this last December, in response to an excellent article by Damian Thompson in the Spectator. Yesterday I published an article on the film Whiplash in terms of its representation of bullying and abuse in teaching, on The Conversation , and a wider article in The Telegraph about abuse and elite music teaching, in particular raising the controversial question of whether self-regulation is ever likely, and whether that a system which places enormous powers of patronage in a few people’s hands needs a greater degree of external accountability (which would mean political/governmental intervention). Naturally, I would expect there to be and would welcome a range of different opinions on these subjects, but feel strongly that the debate needs to be had amongst music educators worldwide, and more widely in the profession.

With this in mind, I wanted to post here a set of draft guidelines for instrumental and vocal teachers and students at a tertiary level (generally 18 or over) in terms of their dealings with one another, as a starting point for discussion. I drafted these around 18 months ago (which included other guidelines on such things as when it is/is not appropriate to cancel a lesson, not so relevant here), and whilst they have not yet been taken up, I hope very much at some point they or something like them will be.

I would welcome all thoughts on the below, including new suggestions, disagreements, and so on. I accept some will disagree with my views on physical touching (I suggest this is OK so long as one asks permission) and whether student-teacher relationships or sexual encounters are ever permissible (I argue that where they happen, or one or other party demonstrates agency with the intention of inducing such a thing, then both parties should act like adults and report things, their formal teacher-student relationship brought to an end without other negative consequences, then they are free to continue like any other two adults). But I think we should be talking about these things, in order to arrive at a humane system which protects both students and teachers.


Guidelines for Teachers

• In general, treat your student with respect as a human being, independently of your reflections on the quality and extent of their achievements as a performer. This should be borne in mind at all times.

• Remember that you are there to help the student, rather than their being there in order to enhance your own reputation.

• It is your choice how you wish your student to address you, whether by first name or title and surname. It is advised to clarify this to the student at the beginning of a lesson.

• Where there are serious problems concerning a student and their progress, you should try and discuss these with the relevant member of staff as soon as possible.

• It is accepted that teachers will naturally need to voice criticisms of a student’s playing or singing, sometimes severe criticisms. This should always be framed in such a way as to make clear that the criticisms relate solely to the student’s achievements (or lack of) specifically in terms of their work as a performer, not to their wider qualities as a person. Criticisms should be balanced with encouragement in the form of positive steps forward in order to improve.

• Use language which makes the above clear: for example, instead of saying ‘You are a very poor player’, say ‘You really do need to do considerable work in order to improve’, followed by suggestions of what form that work might take, or (if necessary) ‘It will be very difficult in the time available to you here to attain the level necessary in order to gain a high mark in your recital’. Similarly, avoid other generalities such as ‘You have no technique’ or ‘You are profoundly unmusical’, in favour of the likes of ‘I have to tell you that a good deal of work is necessary if you wish to achieve a higher technical level’, or in the second case, focusing on specific things the student needs to consider in order to be able to produce a more musically satisfying performance.

• You should always avoid any type of deliberately demeaning or belittling language of a personal nature towards a student, especially that designed to undermine their confidence. This can include undue and harsh sarcasm, deliberate aloofness and coldness, ignoring a student, negative comparisons with others, insensitive jokes, setting unrealistic demands, malicious rumour-mongering, threats, sexual or racial harassment, or anything which might be construed as ‘bitchy’. It is no justification for this to argue that such talk and attitudes are commonplace in the professional musical world.

• A student’s personal life is their own business, and discussions of this should generally only be undertaken when personal issues have a direct impact upon their performing. If a singer or other musician’s lifestyle – in terms of problems to do with sleep, maintaining good health, and so on – is impinging upon their singing, then it is legitimate to raise this issue. If a student raises the issue of difficulties arising from family, health or relationship issues, and wishes to talk about it, this is fine, but you should not feel under any obligation in this respect. In general, such matters are better discussed with the appropriate member of staff, who has pastoral responsibility, and who can communicate directly with you about them.

• When teaching a student, avoid befriending them on social media. [Personally I believe this is a principle worth observing for undergraduates, but which can be more flexible with postgraduates.]

• If you wish to make physical contact with a student in order to demonstrate some matter relating to performing, you must first ask their permission to do so. This can be done at the beginning of a series of lessons in order to facilitate so doing in general (but this must then be made clear to the student), or separately on individual occasion. If the student is unhappy with such physical contact and declines, this must be respected, and physical contact must then be avoided.

• Under absolutely no circumstances should there be any touching which can be construed as being of a sexual or unduly intimate nature.

• However, it is accepted that much music – especially for singers – relates to matters of an intimate and sometimes sexual nature, and it is legitimate to discuss this in lessons. But please always respect boundaries here, and be clear that you are talking about the music or the role, not directly about the student.

• Whilst in general conservatoire students are aged 18 or over and are technically adults, remember that they are still in a very early stage of adulthood, likely to be dealing with many pressures due to being away from home for the first time, having to negotiate possible loneliness, homesickness, coping with a degree of independence likely to be unprecedented for them, and of course a demanding course. It is best to work with the assumption that they are thus likely to be at a vulnerable stage in life, and should be treated with corresponding sensitivity.


Guidelines for Students

• You should always treat your teacher with respect and courtesy, be punctual for lessons, and acknowledge the help they are able to give you.

• Your teacher can choose how they wish you to address them, whether by first name, title and surname, or otherwise, and you should respect this. It is advised that this is clarified in the first lesson.

• Whilst you are certainly encouraged to solicit your teacher’s advice concerning the extent of your progress, or on future study, avoid asking such questions as ‘Do you think I can make it as a performer?’ or other such things which might put your teacher in a difficult position.

• If asking your teacher what they imagine would be your likely mark for a recital, on the basis of how you are performing at the time of asking the question, bear in mind that their answer will be an approximation, and is in no sense binding.

• Avoid flirtatious or overly ‘forward’ behaviour towards your teacher such as might place him or her in an awkward situation.

• Teachers may wish to make physical contact in order to demonstrate some matters relating to performance. They are required to ask your permission before so doing, either at the beginning of a series of lessons in order to establish that this is generally acceptable, or on individual occasions. If you do not wish this, you are entirely within your rights to refuse. Such physical contact should never be of a sexual or unduly intimate nature, nor should you respond to it in such a fashion.

• Never use any abusive or offensive language towards your teacher.

• When there are personal matters – for example relating to family, health or relationships – which might affect your performing, you are advised first to speak to your personal tutor, who can discuss these sensitively with your teacher.

• Your teacher often has a life and career outside of their work at your institution. Avoid gossiping about them, even amongst other students, including with respect to the nature of their other activities, as this can have the potential to be hurtful and demeaning. Any form of rumour-mongering, sexual or racial harassment, aggressive behaviour or threats towards your teacher will be treated with the utmost seriousness.

• Your teacher is not your friend on social media, and you should not request that they befriend you on there. [Personally I believe this is a principle worth observing for undergraduates, but which can be more flexible with postgraduates.]

• If you wish to record lessons for other reasons (so as to have a more permanent record for your own study purposes), you must ask your teacher first, and must also respect their wishes if they decline this request. (But see also Guidelines for both Teachers and Students below)


Guidelines for both Teachers and Students

• In the event of any serious worries about the nature of the relationship between teacher and student as made manifest verbally in lessons, either the teacher or student can request that the lessons be recorded. In this situation, the appropriate individual should be informed of this.

• In the event of any type of romantic or sexual liaison between a tutor and student – which can include any form of agency on either part with the intention of inducing such a thing, whether or not this is fulfilled – it is an essential requirement that both teacher and student report this to an appropriate individual. As a general rule it will be considered that in such a situation the relationship has assumed a degree of intimacy which is no longer compatible with a normal teaching relationship, and the student will be assigned to a different teacher, but without further consequences for either party.


Index of articles

The articles presented on this blog fall into four categories: those on music and musicology, politics, abuse-related material, and other articles. The articles on abuse are indexed separately here. Here I index the rest of my blog articles.


MUSIC AND MUSICOLOGY

Yefim Golyshev, Arnold Schoenberg, and the Origins of Twelve-Tone Music (2/9/14)

Musicological Observations 1: Björn Heile, Lauren Redhead and myself on the relationship between scholarship and new music (18/9/14)

Musicological Observations 2: Do some musicologists really like music? (12/4/15)

Musicological Observations 3: Multicultural Musicology for Monolingual Academics? (22/4/15)

Musicology is not Musical PR (25/8/13)

A comprehensive and brilliant critique of Taruskin’s Oxford History of Western Music (28/10/12)

Second part of Franklin Cox’s critique of Taruskin’s Oxford History of Western Music now available (15/11/13)

Hierarchies in New Music: Composers, Performers, and ‘Works’ (29/9/13)

The fetish of the ‘contemporary’ (5/11/13)

In Praise of Mic Spencer (2/5/15)

Interview from International Piano, Nov-Dec 2006 (3/12/14)

Interview between Ian Pace and Michael Finnissy on English Country Tunes, February 2009 (3/12/14)

Remembering Bob Gilmore (1961-2015) (3/1/15)

The Johannes Kreidler protest at Donaueschingen about the fusion of the radio orchestras at Baden-Baden/Freiburg and Stuttgart – a discussion (from Facebook!) (7/11/12) (more readable version here)

Statement from the Gesellschaft für Neue Musik concerning the Kreidler protest at Donaueschingen (30/11/12)

Musical Patronage – A Question from Marc Yeats and an invitation to others to debate this here (14/5/15)

The British Composer Awards have been criticised in terms of gender. But what about race? (14/12/13)

The whiter-than-white world of published British composers, and some wider thoughts (15/12/13)

British Composer Awards – updated figures in terms of ethnic representation (3/12/14)

Students taking A and AS-Level Music – declining numbers (13/11/14)

Siegfried at the Royal Opera House, October 2012 – some reflections (8/10/12)

Proposed Guidelines to protect both Music Teachers and Students – a starting point for discussion (21/2/15)

Article from Music Teacher Magazine on Safeguarding, with Guidelines for Teachers and Students (27/4/15)

Clifford Hindley: Pederasty and Scholarship (3/3/14)

Research Paper at City University, November 12th, on ”Clifford Hindley: The Scholar as Pederast and the Aestheticisation of Child Sexual Abuse” (3/10/14)

Marcel Gazelle and the Culture of the Early Yehudi Menuhin School (7/5/13)

Robert Waddington, Former Dean of Manchester Cathedral, and Chetham’s School of Music (12/5/13)

Alan Doggett, first conductor of Joseph and Jesus Christ Superstar, and the Paedophile Information Exchange (28/3/14) (an updated version of original post from 7/3/14)

Peter Righton’s Diaries: Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and Michael Davidson (11/5/14)

Benjamin Britten and Peter Righton – A Response from the Britten-Pears Foundation (12/9/14)

Geoff Baker on El Sistema: sexual and other abuse in an authoritarian, hierarchical, archaic music culture (15/11/14)

Reported Cases of Abuse in Musical Education, 1990-2012, and Issues for a Public Inquiry (30/12/13) (this post is in need of some updating to mention other cases during the period in question)

The Trial of Michael and Kay Brewer and the Death of Frances Andrade, and the Aftermath, 2013 (12/8/14)

New article on abuse and classical music by Damian Thompson in the Spectator, and some wider reflections on classical music and abuse (5/12/14)

Abuse minimisation as an example of the writing of history as kitsch (14/7/13)


POLITICS

How well or badly did the parties really do, in terms of votes, in the 2015 General Election? (9/5/15)

The rises and falls of the centre parties in the UK since 1918 (9/5/15)

Predictions for the 2015 UK General Election (27/1/15)

To the metropolitan, academic and cultural left – who do you know who thinks these things? (11/5/15)

Labour can and must win in England alone – and has done so several times before (16/5/15)

MPs in terms of gender, ethnicity and state/private education – some figures and reflections (9/2/14)

Blairite Lord Adonis attacks MPs who send their children to private schools – and Mehdi Hasan calls for the banning of private education altogether (7/9/12)

Be very sceptical about online communications laws which protect the powerful – social media and the right to offend (20/10/14)

Judith Butler responds to the hate campaign following her being awarded the Adorno Prize (29/8/12)

Tuition Fees for Higher Education in the UK lead to a record drop in applications (9/8/12)

Petition for Amnesty for Students at London Metropolitan University (3/9/12)


ABUSE-RELATED MATERIAL

See separate index here.


OTHER

The Working of Cultural Studies (11/4/15)

Forthcoming Study Day on Counter-Hegemonic Play and Ageism (11/4/15)


Index of major original articles on abuse

I am in the process of preparing longer bibliographies of both published and online articles relating to issues of institutionalised abuse, specifically the areas on which I have concentrated – abuse in music schools and private schools, the Paedophile Information Exchange, and abuse involving politicians. Having recently reblogged a large number of articles from the Spotlight blog, I realise my site may not be so easy to navigate, so I am providing here a list with links of all my significant original articles.


General

New Cross-Party Group of MPs calling for Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (3/6/14)

Please contact your MP to ask for their support for a national inquiry into child abuse (5/6/14)

The stock government reply to queries about a national inquiry into organised child abuse (15/6/14, also regularly updated)

Peter McKelvie’s response to Sir Tony Baldry MP (9/7/14)

British Association of Social Workers contacts its 14K members calling for them to support organised abuse inquiry (20/6/14)

Published Articles on Geoffrey Dickens, Leon Brittan, and the Dossier (2/7/14)

Dickensgate – Guest Blog Post by Brian Merritt on Inconsistencies in Leon Brittan’s Accounts (6/7/14)

House of Commons debate 26/6/14 following publication of Savile reports (26/6/14)

On the Eve of Possible Major Revelations – and a Reply to Eric Joyce (1/7/14)


Abuse in Musical Education and the Music World

Reported Cases of Abuse in Musical Education, 1990-2012, and Issues for a Public Inquiry (30/12/13) (this post is in need of some updating to mention other cases during the period in question)

The Trial of Michael and Kay Brewer and the Death of Frances Andrade, and the Aftermath, 2013 (12/8/14)

Proposed Guidelines to protect both Music Teachers and Students – a starting point for discussion (21/2/15)

New stories and convictions of abuse in musical education, and the film of the Institute of Ideas debate (11/1/14) (also in need of updating)

Petition for an inquiry into sexual and psychological abuse at Chetham’s School of Music and other specialist institutions (original version – each version has a different long list of comments) (16/2/13)

Petition for an Inquiry into Sexual and other Abuse at Specialist Music Schools – The List of Signatories (19/2/13)

Re-opened until May 31st, 2013 – Petition for an Inquiry into Abuse in Specialist Music Education (9/5/13) (the final version)

A further call to write to MPs to support an inquiry into abuse in musical education (26/11/13)

In the Aftermath of the Brewer Sentencing – A Few Short Thoughts and Pieces of Information (27/3/13)

Michael Brewer – a powerful Director of Music, not just a provincial choirmaster or music teacher (28/3/13)

Reports from the Malcolm Layfield Trial (2/6/15)

Chris Ling’s Views on Sexing Up Classical Music (11/2/13)

Robert Waddington, Former Dean of Manchester Cathedral, and Chetham’s School of Music (12/5/13)

Contact details for Greater Manchester Police relating to Chetham’s (11/4/13)

Publication of Reports into Chetham’s by ISI and MCC – Senior Management and Governors should consider their position (3/4/13)

New Surrey Safeguarding Report on suicide of Frances Andrade draws attention to dangers of music education (10/4/14)

Marcel Gazelle and the Culture of the Early Yehudi Menuhin School (7/5/13)

Craig Edward Johnson, the Yehudi Menuhin School, Adrian Stark, and wider networks? (8/4/14)

Contact Details for Surrey Police, in relation to the Yehudi Menuhin School (11/5/13)

Philip Pickett arrested on 15 charges, and interview with Clare Moreland in The Times (14/2/14)

The case of Ian Lake, and reflections on the year (30/12/13)

Clifford Hindley: Pederasty and Scholarship (3/3/14)

Abuse minimisation as an example of the writing of history as kitsch (14/7/13)

New article in Times Educational Supplement on abuse in musical education – and public debate on October 19th, Barbican Centre (3/10/13)

A message from another victim of abuse at a UK music school, calling for others to come forward (25/11/13)

Call to speak out on bullying and psychological/emotional abuse in music (9/1/14)

Alan Doggett, first conductor of Joseph and Jesus Christ Superstar, and the Paedophile Information Exchange (28/3/14) (an updated version of original post from 7/3/14)

New revelations on Alan Doggett, and Colin Ward’s 1981 article on Doggett and Tom O’Carroll (25/3/14)

Further on Alan Doggett – child prostitution and blaming victims at Colet Court School (28/3/14)

Peter Righton’s Diaries: Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and Michael Davidson (11/5/14)

Benjamin Britten and Peter Righton – A Response from the Britten-Pears Foundation (12/9/14)

Geoff Baker on El Sistema: sexual and other abuse in an authoritarian, hierarchical, archaic music culture (15/11/14)


The Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) and associated areas

NCCL and PIE – documentary evidence 1 (25/2/14)

NCCL Documentary Evidence 2 – Sexual Offences – Evidence to the Criminal Law Revision Committee 1976 (7/4/14)

PIE – documentary evidence 2 – from Magpie 1-8 (trigger warning – contains disturbing material) (26/2/14)

PIE – documentary evidence 3 – from Magpie 9-17 (trigger warning – contains disturbing material) (26/2/14)

PIE – documentary evidence 4 – UP, ‘Childhood Rights’, and Paedophilia – some questions and answers (27/2/14)

PIE – Documentary Evidence 5 – Contact Ads (9/3/14)

PIE – Documentary Evidence 6 – Chairperson’s Report 1975/76 (16/3/14)

PIE – Documentary Evidence 7 – Steven Adrian Smith’s History of the Movement (31/3/14)

PIE – Documentary Evidence 8 – Mary Manning in Community Care and Auberon Waugh in The Spectator, 1977 (16/7/14)

The PIE Manifesto (6/3/14) (link to Spotlight blog from 18/4/13)

PIE and the Home Office: Three+ members/supporters on inside, funded, magazine printed and phone line (15/3/14)

PIE and the Gay Left in Britain – The Account by Lucy Robinson – plus various articles newly online (29/6/14)

Antony Grey and the Sexual Law Reform Society 1 (26/8/14)

Antony Grey and the Sexual Law Reform Society 2 (29/9/14)

Tim Tate – Chapter on Paedophiles from book ‘Child Pornography: An Investigation’ (4/8/14)

Mary Whitehouse and Charles Oxley on PIE – and another letter to Leon Brittan (8/7/14)

Published Articles on Geoffrey Dickens, Leon Brittan, and the Dossier (2/7/14)

Dickensgate – Guest Blog Post by Brian Merritt on Inconsistencies in Leon Brittan’s Accounts (6/7/14)

The File on Peter Hayman in the National Archives (30/1/15)

Two Obituaries of Peter Hayman, Senior Diplomat, MI6 Officer and PIE Member (6/3/14)

Clifford Hindley: Pederasty and Scholarship (3/3/14)

Peter Righton – His Activities up until the early 1980s (21/8/14)

Letter to Guardian from 1963 from a Peter Righton on Books dealing with Sex for 14-year olds (20/8/14)

Peter Righton’s Articles for Social Work Today (5/6/14)

Peter Righton and Morris Fraser’s Chapters in ‘Perspectives on Paedophilia’ (5/6/14)

Peter Righton, Antony Grey and Kevin O’Dowd in conversation on therapy (26/8/14)

Peter Righton was questioned about child sex offences in May 1993 and November 1994 (21/8/14)

The Larchgrove Assessment Centre for Boys in Glasgow that even Peter Righton found to be cruel (20/8/14)

Brian Taylor and Ken Plummer’s Chapters, and Bibliography, from ‘Perspectives on Paedophilia’ (29/6/14)

Peter Righton’s Diaries: Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and Michael Davidson (11/5/14)

Benjamin Britten and Peter Righton – A Response from the Britten-Pears Foundation (12/9/14)

Peter Righton – Further Material (12/6/14)

Peter Righton obituary in Ardingly College magazine (16/7/14)

From the memoirs of John Henniker-Major, 8th Baron Henniker (1916-2004) (3/3/15)

Dr Morris Fraser, Belfast, Long Island New York, Islington (17/10/14) (This is a link to a post on Charlotte Russell’s blog, but so important I wanted to include it here)

The Love and Attraction Conference (1977) and Book (1979) (7/7/14)

Betrayal of Youth (1986) – including the contributions of Middleton, Owens, Faust, Tatchell (5/7/14)

Academia and Paedophilia 1: The Case of Jeffrey Weeks and Indifference to Boy-Rape (29/9/14)

The Uranians #1 – the nineteenth/early twentieth century PIE? (24/5/14)


Public Schools

Alan Doggett, first conductor of Joseph and Jesus Christ Superstar, and the Paedophile Information Exchange (28/3/14) (an updated version of original post from 7/3/14)

New revelations on Alan Doggett, and Colin Ward’s 1981 article on Doggett and Tom O’Carroll (25/3/14)

Further on Alan Doggett – child prostitution and blaming victims at Colet Court School (28/3/14)

Craig Edward Johnson, the Yehudi Menuhin School, Adrian Stark, and wider networks? (8/4/14)

Extraordinarily powerful article by Alex Renton on the abusive world of British boarding schools (4/5/14)

Colet Court School and St Paul’s: A Collection of Articles from The Times (8/5/14)

Benjamin Ross’s account of Colet Court School (8/5/14)

Criminal abuse in the classroom as portrayed by D.H. Lawrence (4/5/14)


Politicians, Government and Abuse

General

Call for All Political Leaders and Leadership Candidates to Pledge Full Co-operation with Abuse Inquiry (9/7/15)

What leading UK politicians should pledge about organised child abuse (17/10/14)

The Meeting with the Abuse Inquiry Secretariat at Millbank Tower, Friday October 31st, 2014 (1/11/14)

Labour’s nominees for inquiry chair, and a left ‘establishment’ (6/11/14)

Elm Guest House: Vigil, September 15th, 2014, and Links to Newspaper Reports (16/9/14)

New Cross-Party Group of MPs calling for Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (3/6/14)

Please contact your MP to ask for their support for a national inquiry into organised child abuse (5/6/14, regularly updated).

The stock government reply to queries about a national inquiry into organised child abuse (15/6/14, also regularly updated)

British Association of Social Workers contacts its 14K members calling for them to support organised abuse inquiry (20/6/14)

Peter McKelvie’s response to Sir Tony Baldry MP (9/7/14)

House of Commons debate 26/6/14 following publication of Savile reports (26/6/14)

On the Eve of Possible Major Revelations – and a Reply to Eric Joyce (1/7/14)

A few good politicians – Becky Milligan at the office of Simon Danczuk, with Matt Baker, and the personal impact of abuse campaigning (18/7/14)

Ed Miliband should be leading the calls for a wide-ranging abuse inquiry (3/5/14)

Article from Telegraph – Simon Danczuk on child sex allegations involving senior Westminster figures (15/5/14)

PIE and the Home Office: Three+ members/supporters on inside, funded, magazine printed and phone line (15/3/14)

Who are the Mystery Liberal MPs Des Wilson refers to? (27/4/14)

Sir Maurice Oldfield, Sir Michael Havers, and Kincora – guest blog post from Brian Merritt (10/7/14)

William Malcolm, the murdered paedophile who may have been about to expose a VIP ring (21/7/14)


Leon Brittan and Geoffrey Dickens

Published Articles on Geoffrey Dickens, Leon Brittan, and the Dossiers (2/7/14)

Dickensgate – Guest Blog Post by Brian Merritt on Inconsistencies in Leon Brittan’s Accounts (6/7/14)

Leon Brittan – A guest post by Tim Tate on the investigations into and evidence relating to him (23/1/15)

Leon Brittan – Interview with Tim Tate on BCFM, 23/1/15 (24/1/15)

Leon Brittan, Special Branch and the creation of a surveillance state (25/1/15)

Douglas Hurd on Leon Brittan at the Home Office (5/7/14)


Peter Morrison

Peter Morrison – the child abuser protected by MI5, the Cabinet Secretary, and Margaret Thatcher – updated July 2015 (26/7/15)

Peter Morrison and the cover-up in the Tory Party – fully updated (6/10/14)

Yes, Labour politicians need to answer questions about PIE and NCCL, but so do the Tories about Morrison, and the Lib Dems about Smith (25/2/14)


Fiona Woolf

Fiona Woolf, Leon Brittan and William Hague – conflicts of interest (11/9/14)

Fiona Woolf – the untruth in her letter to the Home Secretary (21/10/14)

Moira Gibb – her views on physical punishment, response to Kensington and Chelsea abuse, and child deaths in Camden under her watch (25/10/14)


Scottish networks

Colin Tucker, steward to Fiona Woolf, Fettesgate and the Scottish ‘Magic Circle’ Affair, and Wider Networks – Part 1 (28/10/14)

Colin Tucker, steward to Fiona Woolf, Fettesgate and the Scottish ‘Magic Circle’ Affair, and Wider Networks – Part 2 (20/11/14)

A new transcription of the audio tape of the interview with the customs officer – and some comments on the recording (29/7/14) (relates to allegations against a former cabinet minister)


Lambeth and the New Labour Politician

Abuse in Lambeth, Operation Ore, and the Blair Minister(s) – Press Reports so far (16/7/14)


Greville Janner and Frank Beck

Judge in 1991 Leicestershire sex abuse case on ‘people in high places’ (24/5/14)

Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #1 (24/5/14) (these reports say much about the allegations against former Labour MP Greville Janner which were made in court)

Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #2 (24/5/14)

Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #3 (10/7/14)

Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #4 (10/7/14)

Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #5 (10/7/14)

Decision not to arrest Greville Janner in 1991 – then Attorney General and DPP need to answer questions (8/8/14)

The documents in the Andrew Faulds archives on Greville Janner (4/10/14)

Greville Janner was very drawn to children – some press clippings (16/4/15)

Greville Janner’s view on a 1997 case of Nazi War Criminal with dementia (16/4/15)

And another case with Janner calling in 2001 for extradition of war criminal with dementia (16/4/15)

Greville Janner and Margaret Moran – trial of facts more likely for expenses fiddling than child abuse? (27/6/15)


Other

Child abuse and identity politics – the normalisation of abuse on such grounds (18/7/14)

Anne Lakey didn’t ‘seduce’ or ‘take the virginity’ of a 13-year old boy – she sexually abused them (24/6/15)

Gore Vidal – paedophile, literary lover of child rape (11/8/14)

Germaine Greer’s Apologia for Child Abuse (27/6/14)

More pro-child sexual abuse propaganda from Germaine Greer (12/11/14).

Academia and Paedophilia 1: The Case of Jeffrey Weeks and Indifference to Boy-Rape (29/9/14)

The Uranians #1 – the nineteenth/early twentieth century PIE? (24/5/14)

Simon Callow on the paedophile exploits of André Gide, Oscar Wilde, Lord Alfred Douglas and others (31/7/14)

Liz Davies’ Open Letter to Margaret Hodge (3/8/14)

Paul Foot on Kincora Boys’ Home, and Recent Kincora Articles (1/8/14)

Paul Foot on Kincora – Appendix with Colin Wallace documents, and mention of Morris Fraser (9/8/14)

Claire Prentice in 1998 on Jimmy Savile, Cyril Smith, and Mummy’s Boys (30/6/14)

Mary Whitehouse’s Favourite TV Programme – Jim’ll Fix It (7/7/14)

Elm Guest House: Vigil, September 15th, 2014, and Links to Newspaper Reports (16/9/14)

Abuse in Lambeth, Operation Ore, and the Blair Minister(s) – Press Reports so far (16/7/14)

Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #1 (24/5/14)

Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #2 (24/5/14)

Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #3 (10/7/14)

Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #4 (10/7/14)

Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #5 (10/7/14)

Decision not to arrest Greville Janner in 1991 – then Attorney General and DPP need to answer questions (8/8/14)

The documents in the Andrew Faulds archives on Greville Janner (4/10/14)

Be very sceptical about online communications laws which protect the powerful – social media and the right to offend (20/10/14)


Peter Righton’s writing on child abuse in Child Care: Concerns and Conflicts – his cynical exploitation of a post-Cleveland situation

In light of the conviction yesterday of Peter Righton‘s lover Richard Alston on child abuse charges, in which information was brought to the court’s attention about Alston and Righton abusing a boy together, I intend to update my blog posts on Righton (who was on the executive committee of the Paedophile Information Exchange, and wrote openly about paedophilia) to include more information about Alston, which I previous omitted as he was still awaiting trial which I would not have wished to prejudice. I also plan to blog some more information specific to Alston. But here is another essay from Righton which I am blogging here for the first time.

Peter Righton in 1992.

In 1976 Righton co-edited with Sonia Morgan a collection of essays entitled Child Care: Concerns and Conflicts (London: Hodder Education, 1989), a revised edition of which appeared in 1989, for which Righton also wrote an introduction, which I have reproduced below.

In this introduction, Righton writes first on the family, which he portrays primarily as a site of conflict and tension in light of increasing rates of divorce, remarriage and single-parent families, and advocates a greater degree of sharing of care responsibilities between families and agencies in such situations. It is not difficult to see how this constitutes a strategy on the part of Righton and other paedophiles to increase the availability of deeply vulnerable children for exploitation.

Then Righton includes a section on Child Abuse (following a brief mention of it in the section on the family). Whilst at first he is very keen to stress how the majority of child abuse occurs in the family (which while true is something often flagged up by non-familial paedophiles to take the attention of them), and then draws attention to the 1987 Cleveland Child Sexual Abuse Case, in which 121 diagnoses were made during a five month period leading to children being taken away from their parents and placed in care or hospital on grounds of suspected abuse. The subsequent inquiry, chaired by Lord Justice Butler-Sloss, concluded that most of the diagnoses were inaccurate, and most of the children were returned to their parents. Righton cites this case in order to highlight the danger of false allegations, and goes on (in a manner which is most familiar from PIE and other paedophile publications) to argue that the damage done to children by investigations by social workers and others can be as great or greater than the damage of abuse itself. Righton evokes the idea of a boy or girl who ‘has denied that he or she has been subject to molestation by a parent, yet knows that denial is not believed’, as if this were the primary form of disbelief about which one should be worried.

I do not intend here to express a view on the validity or otherwise of the particular reflex anal dilation test which (nor am I in any sense qualified to do so) by Dr Marietta Higgs and Dr Geoffrey Wyatt. But I offer this to show just quite how cynically a paedophile like Righton could snap up any chance available to portray over-zealous social workers intervening in cases of suspected child abuse. Ultimately, what Righton wanted was least intrusion as he and his networks continued to abuse children in the most hideous manner. That he was able to obtain a position of such respect in the social work profession, and use this to propagate his insidious propaganda, is deeply disturbing.

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Harvey Proctor’s Statement Today – and the False Claims about Tom Watson and other MPs

Below is the complete text of Harvey Proctor’s extraordinary statement today (originally posted on The Needle Blog), after having yesterday been questioned for the second time by detectives from Operation Midland, which is investigated allegations of child sex abuse linked to Westminster.

It would not in any way be my place to express a view on the truth or otherwise of the extraordinarily serious allegations detailed below – this is for the police to investigate, and either bring charges against the individual(s) alleged to have committed the offences, or if there is found to be clear evidence of false allegation or malicious intent, to bring charges against the individual(s) responsible for that.

But I want to draw attention to one thing said today by Proctor:

Those Labour Members of Parliament who have misused parliamentary privilege and their special position on these matters should apologise. They have behaved disgracefully, especially attacking dead parliamentarians who cannot defend themselves and others and they should make amends. They are welcome to sue me for libel. In particular, Mr Tom Watson, M.P. should state, outside the protection of the House of Commons, the names of ex Ministers and ex M.P.s who he feels are part of the so called alleged Westminster rent boy ring.

The definition of Parliamentary Privilege is as follows:

Parliamentary privilege grants certain legal immunities for Members of both Houses which allow them to perform their duties without interference from outside the House. The privileges are: Freedom of speech, freedom from arrest (on civil matters), freedom of access to the sovereign and that ‘the most favourable construction should be placed on all the Houses’s proceedings’. Members are immune from legal action in terms of slander but must adhere to the principles of parliamentary language.

Since Tom Watson MP made his statement on October 24th, 2012 alleging that the evidence files used to convict Peter Righton contained evidence of a high-level paedophile ring with links to a former prime minister (which Watson detailed more on his blog, not subject to parliamentary privilege), there have been several debates and select committee hearings in Parliament to do with child sexual abuse involving prominent people, most of them last year in the process leading to the setting up of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual AbuseI blogged about one of these debates here; others can easily be found on Hansard.

In none of these debates have any of the leading campaigning MPs – Tom Watson, Simon Danczuk, John Mann, Sarah Champion from Labour, ex-MPs John Hemming and Tessa Munt from the Liberal Democrats, Zac Goldsmith or Tim Loughton from the Conservatives, or Caroline Lucas from the Greens – said anything to my knowledge which could identify an MP or other prominent figure, nor anything which could not be safely repeated outside of the House of Commons. Furthermore, one should not that by no means are all of these MPs from the Labour Party, contrary to Proctor’s claim that ‘the paranoid Police have pursued an homosexual witch hunt on this issue egged on by a motley crew of certain sections of the media and press and a number of Labour Members of Parliament and a ragbag of internet fantasists’. This is a cross-party issue, and there is every reason to think that some of the allegations being investigated have the power to be extremely damaging for Labour themselves – not only those against Lord Janner or Lord Tonypandy or a minister in Tony Blair’s government alleged to have been linked to an abuse ring in Lambeth, but also those claims concerning current acting Labour Party leader Harriet Harman, former Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt and MP Jack Dromey in the context of the affiliations between the National Council for Civil Liberties and the Paedophile Information Exchange when all three individuals were involved with the former association at a high level (about which I have blogged plentifully elsewhere, and believe there is more information yet to become public knowledge). Furthermore, John Mann (who in December 2014 handed a dossier naming MPs and peers to the police), has been very publicly critical of Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn concerning his response to allegations of serious abuse in Islington in the 1980s. No party stands to come out well from this, nor is the campaign a partisan issue.

If Proctor does indeed turn out to be the victim of unfounded slurs, he has my every sympathy, and is entitled to full recompense in whatever form that may take. And I do not accept that those offence with which he was charged and convicted in the 1980s, leading to the end of his Parliamentary career (about which he talks more on the 1988 After Dark  discussion below) in any way relate to the truth or otherwise of what is detailed below. But his claims about politicians are unsustainable, and he must provide evidence. Where have MPs said things in Parliament which they would not repeat outside of it, and what are these things? The one case of which I am aware is by Jim Hood who named Leon Brittan in Parliament on October 14th, 2014. This is an isolated case, which none of the other campaigning MPs backed. In March, John Mann said that Harvey Proctor will be the first of many to be investigated, after it was made public that the police had questioned Proctor, but this claim was made outside Parliament.

I believe Proctor is attempting here to maliciously pin blame on Tom Watson, who I believe will undoubtedly be the best Deputy Leader that the Labour Party can have, and has done enormously courageous work campaigning on child abuse and also on disreputable media practices. This claim needs to be questioned properly and Proctor made to substantiate it. Watson has rightly made the following statement, which I wholly back:

It is not for me to judge the innocence or guilt of Harvey Proctor. That is for a jury to do, if the police inquiry yields sufficient evidence to bring a case to court.

I don’t regard allegations of child abuse as a party political matter and I’ve worked with members of all political parties to help bring about the Goddard inquiry into child sexual abuse. I have never used parliamentary privilege to name anyone accused of child abuse.

After Dark, 4/6/88

One very important point to make is that this statement has not been checked exactly with what he actually said today.

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STATEMENT BY MR KEITH HARVEY PROCTOR 

MADE IN THE MARLBOROUGH ROOM, ST.ERMIN’S HOTEL, LONDON

NOT FOR RELEASE BEFORE 2PM ON TUESDAY 25th AUGUST 2015

I am a private citizen. I have not held public office and I have not sought public office since May 1987. As such, I am entitled to be regarded as a private citizen. Since the General Election of 1987 I have sought a private life. I have been enjoying a full life, gainfully employed and personally happy.

This all came to an abrupt end on 4th March 2015. What now follows is a statement on my present predicament created by an unidentified person making totally untrue claims against my name. Before going any further I wish to make it clear that the genuine victims of child sexual abuse have my fullest sympathy and support and I would expect the full weight of the law to be used against anyone, be he ‘ever so high, or ever so low’, committing such odious offences. Nobody and I repeat, nobody is above the law.

2. However, I attach equal weight to justice for innocent people wrongly accused of child sexual abuse, especially when it is done anonymously. This is what is happening to me and many high profile figures, many of whom are dead and cannot answer back. This statement is necessarily lengthy and detailed and at times complicated. Please bear with me and at the end I will be prepared to answer your questions.

3. On 18th June, 2015, at my request, I was interviewed by the Metropolitan Police Murder Squad “Operation Midland”. This interview lasted over 6 hours. At the very outset I had to help the Police with my full name which they appeared not to know. It may surprise you that it was over 3 and an half months after my home was searched for 15 hours and more than 7 months after the most serious allegations were made against me that I was interviewed. I went on to cooperate fully with the Police with their investigation.

4. The allegations have been made by a person who the Police have dubbed with a pseudonym – “NICK”. He appears on television with a blacked out face and an actor’s voice. All of this is connected with alleged historical child sexual abuse in the 1970ies and 1980ies. “NICK” was interviewed by the Police in the presence of a reporter from Exaro – an odd internet news agency.

5. As a Member of Parliament I always spoke in favour of the police. I believe in law and order and I believe in equipping the police to do their job and , with my track record, it will come as a surprise that I have grave and growing concerns about the Police generally and more specifically “Operation Midland”. I have decided to share these concerns with you. I believe I am not speaking just for myself today. I hope I am not being presumptuous when I say I feel I am speaking for those who have no voice whatsoever including the dead to whom I referred moments ago.

6. Two days before my interview with the Police, my Solicitors – Sakhi Solicitors of Leicester – were sent a “disclosure” document. It set out the matters the Police wished to discuss with me. It was the first time I had known of what I had been accused. On the day of my interview I was not arrested, nor placed on Police bail, I was told I could leave the Police Station at any time and that it was a voluntary interview. I and my Solicitors had previously been told I was not a suspect.

7. At the end of the interview I was given no information as to how much longer the Police investigation would take to bring the matter to a conclusion. I think you will understand I cannot allow this matter to rest.

8. So you can gauge how angry I am and in an attempt to stop the “drip, drip, drip” of allegations by the police into the media , I now wish to share with you in detail the uncorroborated and untrue allegations that have been made against me by “NICK”. Anyone of a delicate or a nervous disposition should leave the room now.

9. The following is taken from the Police disclosure document given to my Solicitors two days before my first interview with the Police under the headings “Circumstances”, “Homicides” and “Sexual abuse”.

I QUOTE:-

“ Circumstances

The victim in this investigation is identified under the pseudonym “Nick”. He made allegations to the Metropolitan Police Service in late 2014. Due to the nature of the offences alleged, “Nick” is entitled to have his identity withheld.

“Nick” stated he was the victim of systematic and serious sexual abuse by a group of adult males over a period between 1975 and 1984. The abuse was often carried out whilst in company with other boys whom were also abused by the group.

“Nick” provided names of several individuals involved in these acts including Mr HARVEY PROCTOR. He states MR PROCTOR abused him on a number of occasions which included sexual assault, buggery and torturous assault. He also states MR PROCTOR was present when he was assaulted by other adult males. Furthermore, “Nick” states he witnessed the murder of three young boys on separate occasions. He states MR PROCTOR was directly responsible for two of the allegations and implicated in the third.

The dates and locations relevant to MR PROCTOR are as follows:-

Homicides

1980 – at a residential house in central London. “Nick” was driven by car to an address in the Pimlico/Belgravia area where a second boy (the victim) was also collected in the same vehicle. Both boys, aged approximately 12-years-old, were driven to another similar central London address. MR PROCTOR was present with another male. Both boys were led to the back of the house. MR PROCTOR then stripped the victim, and tied him to a table. He then produced a large kitchen knife and stabbed the child through the arm and other parts of the body over a period of 40 minutes. A short time later MR PROCTOR untied the victim and anally raped him on the table. The other male stripped “Nick” and anally raped him over the table. MR PROCTOR then strangled the victim with his hands until the boy’s body went limp. Both males then left the room. Later, MR PROCTOR returned and led “Nick” out of the house and into a waiting car.

1981-82 – at a residential address in central London. “Nick” was collected from Kingston train station and taken to a “party” at a residential address. The witness was among four young boys. Several men were present including MR PROCTOR. One of the men told the boys one of them would die that night and they had to choose who. When the boys wouldn’t decide, the men selected one of the boys (the victim). Each of the four boys including “Nick” were taken to separate rooms for “private time”. When they all returned to the same room, Nick was anally raped by MR PROCTOR and another male as “punishment”. The other males also anally raped the remaining boys. MR PROCTOR and two other males then began beating the chosen victim by punching and kicking. The attack continued until the boy collapsed on the floor and stopped moving. All of the men left the room. The remaining boys attempted to revive the victim but he was not breathing. They were left for some time before being taken out of the house and returned to their homes.

Between May and July 1979 – in a street in Coombe Hill, Kingston. Nick was walking in this area with another boy (the victim) when he heard the sound of a car engine revving. A dark-coloured car drove into the victim knocking him down. “Nick” could see the boy covered in blood and his leg bent backwards. A car pulled up and “Nick” was grabbed and placed in the car. He felt a sharp pain in his arm and next remembered being dropped off at home. He was warned not to have friends in future. “Nick” never saw the other boy again. “Nick” does not identify MR PROCTOR as being directly involved in this allegation. However, he states MR PROCTOR was part of the group responsible for the systematic sexual abuse he suffered. Furthermore, he believes the group were responsible for the homicide.

Sexual Abuse

1978-1984 – Dolphin Square, Pimlico. “Nick” was at the venue and with at least one other young boy. MR PROCTOR was present with other males.MR PROCTOR told “Nick” to pick up a wooden baton and hit the other boy. When “Nick” refused he was punished by MR PROCTOR and the other males. He was held down and felt pain in his feet. He fell unconscious. When he awoke he was raped by several males including MR PROCTOR.

1978-1981 – Carlton Club, central London, “Nick” was driven to the Carlton Club and dropped off outside. MR PROCTOR opened the door. Inside the premises were several other males. “Nick” was sexually assaulted by another male (not by MR PROCTOR on this occasion ).

1978-1981 – swimming pool in central London. “Nick” was taken to numerous ‘pool parties’ where he and other boys were made to undress, and perform sexual acts on one another. He and other boys were then anally raped and sexually abused by several men including MR PROCTOR.

1981-1982 – Large town house in London. “Nick” was taken to the venue on numerous occasions where MR PROCTOR and one other male were present. He was forced to perform oral sex on MR PROCTOR who also put his hands around “Nick’’’s throat to prevent him breathing. On another occasion at the same location, MR PROCTOR sexually assaulted “Nick” before producing a pen-knife and threatening to cut “Nick’’’s genitals.MR PROCTOR was prevented from doing so by the other male present.

1979-1984 – residential address in central London.”Nick” was taken to the venue. MR PROCTOR was present with one other male. MR PROCTOR forced “Nick” to perform oral sex on him before beating him with punches.

1978-1984 – numerous locations including Carlton Club,Dolphin Square and a central London townhouse. “Nick” described attending several ‘Christmas parties’ where other boys were present together with numerous males including MR PROCTOR. “Nick” was given whiskey to drink before being forced to perform oral sex on several men including MR PROCTOR.

MR PROCTOR will be interviewed about the matters described above and given the opportunity to provide an account.”

10. I denied all and each of the allegations in turn and in detail and categorised them as false and untrue and, in whole, an heinous calumny. They amount to just about the worst allegations anyone can make against another person including, as they do, multiple murder of children, their torture, grievous bodily harm, rape and sexual child abuse.

11. I am completely innocent of all these allegations.

12. I am an homosexual. I am not a murderer. I am not a paedophile or pederast. Let me be frank, I pleaded guilty to four charges of gross indecency in 1987 relating to the then age of consent for homosexual activity. Those offences are no longer offences as the age of consent has dropped from 21 to 18 to 16. What I am being accused of now is a million miles away from that consensual activity.

13. At the start of the interview, I was told that although the interview would be recorded by the Police both for vision and sound, I would not receive a copy of the tapes. I asked to record the interview for sound myself but my request was refused. During the interview, to ensure that “Nick” had not identified the wrong person, I asked if I could see photographs purporting to be me which had been shown to him. My request was refused. At the end of the interview I was asked if I knew my 8 alleged co conspirators whose homes it was alleged I had visited. I believe I have a good recollection and the list comprised a number of people I knew, some who I had heard of but not met and some I did not know. None of the allegations were alleged to have taken place at my home and I have not visited the homes of any of the “gang”.

14. The list included the names of the late Leon Brittan and the late Edward Heath.

15. If it was not so serious, it would be laughable.

16. Edward Heath sacked me from the Conservative Party’s parliamentary candidates’ list in 1974. Mrs Thatcher restored me to the list 18 months later. Edward Heath despised me and he disliked my views particularly on limiting immigration from the New Commonwealth and Pakistan and my opposition to our entry into and continued membership of what is now know as the E.U. ; I opposed his corporate statist views on the Economy. I despised him too… He had sacked the late Enoch Powell, my political “hero” from the Shadow Cabinet when I was Chairman of the University of York Conservative Association. I regarded Enoch as an intellectual giant in comparison with Heath.

17. The same Edward Heath, not surprisingly, would never speak to me in the House of Commons but would snort at me as he passed me by in a Commons corridor. The feeling was entirely mutual.

18. Now I am accused of doing some of these dreadful things in his London house as well; a house to which I was never invited and to which Heath would never have invited me and to which I would have declined his invitation.

19. The same Edward Heath’s home with CCTV, housekeeper, private secretary, chauffeur, police and private detectives – all the trappings of a former Prime Minister – in the security conscious days of the IRA’s assault on London.

20. It is so farfetched as to be unbelievable. It is unbelievable because it is not true. My situation has transformed from Kafka- esque bewilderment to black farce incredulity.

21. I have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. I appeal to any witness who truthfully can place me at any of the former homes of Edward Heath or Leon Brittan at any time to come forward now. I appeal to any witness who can truthfully say I committed any of these horrible crimes to come forward now.

22. The “gang” is also alleged to have included Lord Janner ( a former Labour M.P.), Lord Bramall (Former Chief of the General Staff) , the late Maurice Oldfield (Former Head of Secret Intelligence Service – MI6), the late Sir Michael Hanley ( Director General of the Internal Security Service – MI5), General Sir Hugh Beach (Master-General of the Ordnance) and a man named – Ray Beech. I did not move in such circles. As an ex Secondary Modern School boy from Yorkshire, I was not a part of the Establishment. I had no interest being part of it. I cannot believe that these other 8 people conspired to do these monstrous things. I certainly did not.

23. Yesterday I was interviewed again by the Metropolitan Police Murder Squad for 1 hour 40 minutes. It was a voluntary interview. I was free to go at any time. I was not arrested. I am not on bail. Unhelpfully, the second disclosure document was given to me some 20 minutes after yesterday’s  interview was supposed to have started rather than last Friday as had been promised.  My Solicitors were told by the Police it was ready but had to be signed off by superior officers on Friday.  The Metropolitan Police are either inefficient or doing it by design. Whatever else, it is  inept and an unjust way to treat anyone.   During yesterday’s interview,  I was shown a photograph of “Nick” aged about 12. I did not recognise him. I was shown computer generated e fit images of 2 of the alleged murder victims created by “Nick”.  They looked remarkably similar  to each other but one with blonde hair and one dark brown. I did not recognise either image. I was asked if I knew Jimmy Saville. I told them I did not. “Nick” alleges – surprise surprise – that Saville attended the sex “parties”. I was asked if I knew a number of people including Leslie Goddard and Peter Heyman. I did not these two. I was asked if I knew well, a doctor – unnamed. Apparently “Nick” alleges the doctor was a friend of mine and allegedly he turned up to repair the damage done to the boys when they were abused at these “parties”. I could not help there . I was asked if I could recognise images of the pen knife mentioned earlier. It was suggested it was Edward Heath who persuaded me not to castrate “Nick” with it. I was obviously so persuaded by Mr Heath’s intervention that I placed the pen knife in “Nick’s” pocket ready for him to present it to the Metropolitan police over 30 years later as “evidence”. I could not identify the knife. I have never had a pen knife. I was asked if I visited Elm Guest House in Rocks Lane, Barnes. I wondered when that elephant in the room would be mentioned by the Metropolitan police. I am sorry to have to disappoint the fantasists on the internet but I did not visit Elm Guest House. I was unaware of its existence.  The so called “guest list” which makes its appearance on the net must be a fake.

24. During my first interview I was told that the Police were investigating to seek out the truth. I reminded them on a number of occasions that their Head of “Operation Midland”, Detective Superintendent Kenny McDonald had said on television some months ago “ I believe what “NICK” is saying as credible and true “. This statement is constantly used and manipulated by Exaro and other Media to justify their position.

25. This remark is very prejudicial to the police inquiry and its outcome. It is not justice and breaches my United Kingdom and Human Rights. This whole catalogue of events has wrecked my life, lost me my job and demolished 28 years of my rehabilitation since 1987.

26. The Police involved in “Operation Midland” are in a cleft stick of their own making. They are in a quandary. Support the “victim” however ludicrous his allegations or own up that they got it disastrously wrong but risk the charge of a cover up. What do I think should happen now?

Either:-

I should be arrested, charged and prosecuted for murder and these awful crimes immediately so I can start the process of ridiculing these preposterous allegations in open court

Or

“NICK” should be stripped of his anonymity and prosecuted for wasting police time and money, making the most foul of false allegations and seeking to pervert the course of justice. Those who have aided and abetted him should also be prosecuted. “NICK” should be medically examined to ensure he is of sound mind.

27. Detective Superintendent Kenny McDonald should resign from his position as Head of “Operation Midland”. He should resign or be sacked. But as the Metropolitan Police is a bureaucratic “organisation” I suggest, to save face, he is slid sideways to be placed in control of Metropolitan London parking, traffic, jay walking or crime prevention. He too should be medically examined to ensure he is of sound mind.

28. An investigation should be launched into “Operation Midland” and its costs. Detectives’ expense claims should be analysed and a full audit carried out by independent auditors.

29. Those Labour Members of Parliament who have misused parliamentary privilege and their special position on these matters should apologise. They have behaved disgracefully, especially attacking dead parliamentarians who cannot defend themselves and others and they should make amends. They are welcome to sue me for libel. In particular, Mr Tom Watson, M.P. should state, outside the protection of the House of Commons, the names of ex Ministers and ex M.P.s who he feels are part of the so called alleged Westminster rent boy ring.

30. Lady Goddard’s Inquiry should examine “Operation Midland’s” methods so as to sift genuine historical child sexual abuse from the spurious.

31. “Operation Midland” should be wound up by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner who should also apologise at the earliest opportunity. On the 6th August 2015, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe shed crocodile tears criticising the Independent Police Complaints Commission and Wiltshire Police for naming Edward Heath as a suspect. He said it was not “fair” and his own force would not do such a thing. This is very disingenuous. When his Police officers were searching my Home and before they had left, the Press were ringing me asking for comment. I was identified. They had told “Nick” of the search who passed on the information to his press friends. The Metropolitan police have also told the press that they were investigating Heath and Brittan and others. Sir Bernard should resign for the sin of hypocrisy. If he does not, it will not be long before he establishes “Operation Plantagenet” to determine Richard III’s involvement in the murder of the Princes in the Tower of London.

32. Superintendent Sean Memory of Wiltshire Police should explain why he made a statement about Edward Heath in front of his former home in Salisbury and who advised him to select that venue. He should also resign.

33. Leon Brittan was driven to his death by police action. They already knew for 6 months before his death, on the advice of the DPP, that he would not face prosecution for the alleged rape of a young woman. But they did not tell him. They just hoped he would die without having to tell him. The Superintendent in charge of his investigation should resign.

34. The Police should stop referring automatically to people who make statements of alleged Historic child sexual abuse as “victims”. They should refer to them as “complainants” from the French “to lament” which would be more appropriate. Parliament should pass laws to better balance the right to anonymity of “victims” and the “accused”. Parliament should reinstate in law the English tradition of “innocence before being found guilty” which has been trashed in recent months by certain sections of the Police, the DPP, MPs, Magistrates and the Courts themselves.

35. I have not just come here with a complaint. I have come with the intention of showing my face in public as an innocent man. I have come to raise my voice as an aggrieved subject now deeply concerned about the administration of Justice. What has become increasingly clear about Police investigations into historical child sexual abuse is that it has been bungled in years gone by and is being bungled again NOW. The moment has come to ask ourselves if the Police are up to the task of investigating the apparent complexities of such an enquiry ? These allegations merit the most detailed and intellectually rigorous application.

36. What is clear from the last few years of police activity driven by the media, fearful of the power of the internet and the odd M.P. here and there is that the overhaul of the Police service up and down the country is now urgently required. We need “Super cops” who have been University educated and drawn from the professions. Such people could be of semi retirement status with a background in the supervision of complex, criminal investigations. These people could be drawn from the law, accountancy and insolvency practices. Former Justices of the Peace could chair some of these investigations. Adequate incentives should be provided to recruit them.

37. I speak for myself and, as a former Tory M.P. with an impeccable record in defending the Police, I have now come to believe that that blind trust in them was totally misplaced. What has happened to me could happen to anyone. It could happen to you.

38. In summary, the paranoid Police have pursued an homosexual witch hunt on this issue egged on by a motley crew of certain sections of the media and press and a number of Labour Members of Parliament and a ragbag of internet fantasists. There are questions to ask about what kind of Police Force do we have in Britain today. How can it be right for the Police to act in  consort with the press with routine  tip offs of House raids, impending arrests and the like. Anonymity is given to anyone prepared to make untruthful accusations of child sexual abuse whilst the alleged accused are routinely fingered publicly without any credible evidence first being found. This is not justice. It is an abuse of power and authority.

39. In conclusion, I wish to thank my Solicitors Mr Raza Sakhi and Mr Nabeel Gatrad and my family and friends for their support without which I would not have been able to survive this onslaught on my character and on my life.

I am prepared to take questions.

END


Full Statement Of Harvey Proctor

Ian Pace:

Here is the full statement made today by Harvey Proctor in response to the offences about which he has been questioned by Operation Midland. I will be blogging later about some of the claims he makes about MPs and Parliamentary Privilege.

The new blog post, which includes the full text of Proctor’s speech and commentary, is here : https://ianpace.wordpress.com/2015/08/25/harvey-proctors-statement-today-and-the-false-claims-about-tom-watson-and-other-mps/

Originally posted on theneedleblog:

One very important point to make is that this statement has not been checked exactly with what he actually said today.

CNQbnovWoAA1TTG

 STATEMENT BY MR KEITH HARVEY PROCTOR 

MADE IN THE MARLBOROUGH ROOM, ST.ERMIN’S HOTEL, LONDON

NOT FOR RELEASE BEFORE 2PM ON TUESDAY 25th AUGUST 2015

    I am a private citizen. I have not held public office and I have not sought public office since May 1987. As such, I am entitled to be regarded as a private citizen. Since the General Election of 1987 I have sought a private life. I have been enjoying a full life, gainfully employed and personally happy.

This all came to an abrupt end on 4th March 2015. What now follows is a statement on my present predicament created by an unidentified person making totally untrue claims against my name. Before going any further I wish to make it clear that the genuine victims of child…

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Judith Butler on unthinking application of ‘theory’ (and Philip Auslander)

I have recently been reading about the case of Philip Auslander and his book Theory for Performance Studies: A Student’s Guide (New York & London: Routledge, 2007), which appeared in a wider series of ‘Theory for X’ books dealing with different disciplines. Richard Schechner, Professor of Performance Studies at the Tisch School of Arts, New York University, undertook a comprehensive comparison of this book with the earlier volume by William E. Deal and Timothy K. Beal, Theory for Religious Studies (New York & London: Routledge, 2004) (both volumes were part of a Theory 4 series) and arrived at the devastating conclusion that Auslander’s book was 90% plagiarised from that of Deal and Beal. His findings were published in a collection of responses entitled ‘Plagiarism, Greed, and the Dumbing Down of Performance Studies, in TDR: The Drama Review, Vol. 53, No. 1 (Spring 2009), pp. 7-21, together with statements on the affair by Talia Rodgers (Publisher, Theatre and Performance Studies, Routledge), Claire L’Enfant (Humanities Editorial Director, Routledge), and short articles by Judith Butler, Marvin Carlson, Tracy C. Davis, David Savran, Shannon Jackson, Branislav Jakovljevic, Jill Dolan, Phillip Zarrilli, W.B. Worthen, Joseph Roach and Peggy Phelan. Most were extremely critical of what Auslander had done, and raised wider questions of plagiarism in an age with immense pressure to publish and the poor practices it can engender. Schechner sent questions to Deal and Beal, who made clear their shock and immense disappointment at this, whilst Rodgers made clear that Routledge were withdrawing the book and pulping all existing stock.

Knowing Auslander through some of his writings on music (in which discipline this plagiarism case appears hardly to have registered, to my knowledge) and in particular his book Liveness: Performances in a Mediatized Culture (London: Routledge, 1999), I have had many reasons for scepticism about his work for some time, not least because of the blanket application of standard theories and paradigms generally associated with writers who identify as post-modern to a field without a great amount of attention to the specifics of that field (in this case music – a good deal of what Auslander has written demonstrates only a small amount of specialised and skilled musical knowledge). But the essay by Judith Butler made some points about this most eloquently, which I wanted to reproduce here. This is the last paragraph of her ‘If the Commodity Could Speak…’ (pp. 22-3), in which she argues against subsuming a discipline into an all-purpose body of theory (and a canon of theorists) rather than developing the theory out of the specifics of the discipline. More widely, what Butler has to say here has implications for the wider field of cultural studies (about which my view is not dissimilar to that presented here by Joanna Williams) in which knowledge of generic theorists appears often to count for more than any wider knowledge of a specific cultural field.

Intellectually, such books are a fiasco. The process is mainstreamed, so the same theorists who form the background for religious studies are supposedly the ones who form the background for performance studies. Where are Schleiermacher and Schussler-Fiorenza in the Religious Studies student guide? And where are Richard Schechner and Sue-Ellen Case in Theory for Performance Studies? Are such fields thinkable without such names? If we were to ask, what kinds of theory ought performance studies students read, we would have to think carefully about the various legacies that have informed that field. The idea that “theory” is a toolbox that can be “applied” to various disciplines not only belongs to a highly problematic view of theory as instrument, but misses the “instrumentalist” critique that critical theory itself can perform (cf. Adorno) as part of its very critique of capitalism. Both the approach to theory as “tool” and as “great thinkers” misses the fact that theory emerges in a dynamic and crucial relation to the various disciplinary modes of thinking, popular culture, art, and performance. In other words, those theories that would be crucial for thinking about performance studies would be substantially different from those that are needed to think about geography, and where there are intersections (which is interesting), these exist for a reason. But theory cannot be “exterior” to what it thinks about; it has its own multiple histories and trajectories, but it also is always engaged with the work that is going on in ostensibly nontheoretical domains: Benjamin and Barthes on photography, Derrida on Mallarmé; de Man on Rousseau; Marx on liberal political economy; Geertz on ritual; Johnson on Poe; Phelan on Freud; Jameson on Brecht. Even to start such a list risks the kind of canonization that does not quite work, since what is most important are not the “names” of theorists but the problems of performance studies. How does one theorize performance to the side of the proscenium stage, and how does that come to redefine our understanding of the stage, of public space, of public movement? What is the relation of performance and ritual? How do we understand the body, gesture, movement, and stillness? And how do we understand cultural action and practice in new ways? How do notions of performance in military, economic, and aesthetic contexts converge or fail to converge? How do we think about racial meanings in performance, and what does this tell us about how theories of race need to be developed? There are so many questions that performance studies has introduced to theory. There is no theory for performance studies, in this sense, but only a set of implicit and explicit theoretical challenges that are posed by the field itself, and which have already enriched and revised the field of theory. So any book that sought to think about critical theory for performance would have to really start with a different beginning: What does performance bring to critical theory?; and, Where do we find performance within critical theory?; and, indeed, my favorite, What form of critical theory do we find in performance?


Addendum: I came across some interesting comments on this affair by T. Nikki Cesare Schotzko, in her book Learning How to Fall: Art and Culture after September 11 (New York & London: Routledge, 2014). She relates this case to some of the arguments in Liveness, as follows:

Auslander is a provocative case study to reference. One of the primary arguments he makes in Liveness – “[l]ive performance exists within the economy of repetition largely either to promote mass-produced cultural objects […] or to serve as raw material for mediatization” ([1999} 2008:28) – might serve as a necessary precondition for the publication of his Theory for Performance Studies as part of Routledge’s Theory 4 series in 2008 (coincidentally, the same year as Double Agent) […]

The irony of the sordid affair is that the debate Theory for Performance Studies motivated, through its pitting of the authenticity of the “original” against the (plagiarized) copy, methodologically replays one of the fundamental debates in performance studies – a debate in which Auslander, as counter to Peggy Phelan, was a major player. [….]

Presuming performance and document are veritably interchangeable, as Auslander does (though this is an argument I cannot hold with), Auslander effectively, in his citing-as-writing, enacted a performance of remediation wrapped up tight in the economy of repetition to promote mass-produced academic, if not cultural, objects. Perhaps evaluating Auslander’s actions in terms of delegated performance that might (through a subversion of [Claire] Bishop’s argument*) recapitulate the academy’s commodification would yield at least a more compelling, if not convincing, defense.

*This is the argument discussed earlier by Claire Bishop, in her ‘Outsourcing Authenticity? Delegated Performance in Contemporary Art’, in Claire Bishop and Silvia Tramontana (eds), Double Agent (London: Institute of Contemporary Arts, 2009), p. 114, to do with how ‘certain strands of delegated performance could be argued to recapitulate the artwork’s commodification by taking advantage of this genre’s ability – due precisely to its liveness – to excite media attention, which in turn heightens the value of the event.’


Reports from the Richard Alston Trial

[EDIT: Now that a verdict has been reached in this trial, I can mention that in many of my earlier blog posts on Peter Righton, I have deliberately omitted anything relating to Richard Alston, New Barns School, and so on, as he was facing trial, which I did not want to prejudice. I intend soon to update most of these accordingly – mostly importantly this post and this one. Richard Alston contributed to various books written or edited by Donald Mitchell, Benjamin Britten’s publisher and later director of the Britten Estate. There is undoubtedly much more to be revealed about the relationship between Alston, Righton and Mitchell.]


Press Association Mediapoint
, August 17th, 2015
Nina Massey, ‘Remedial School Teacher ‘Groomed 11-Year-Old Boy’
(Versions of this printed in Daily Mirror and some regional newspapers)

A former teacher at a remedial school molested an 11-year-old boy at a school camp and spent years grooming him with his boyfriend, a court has heard.

Richard Alston, 70, met the alleged victim while working as a teacher at Cavendish School in Greenford, Middlesex, in the late 1970s.

But after starting to touch the youngster inappropriately on school grounds, Alston invited him up to the flat he shared with his partner, Peter Righton.

Southwark Crown Court in London heard that Alston began molesting the youngster after he fell off a climbing frame in the play area of the school, under the pretence of comforting him.

Prosecutor Peter Clement said: “If he said anything, it could be explained away – ‘I was doing nothing but comforting the boy who had just fallen’.

“If he didn’t say anything then that boy was susceptible to more serious sexual conduct.”

Mr Clement said that Alston touched the boy over his clothing to “gauge” his reaction.

He added: “The Crown suggest that at the first indecent assault the defendant realised that there was little or no prospect of complaint and he exploited that.”

Two further indecent assaults are said to have taken place during a school camp, and allegedly involved Alston creeping into the complainant’s tent and touching him while swimming in a pond.

Mr Clement told the court that one of the allegations was that Alston had gone into the 11-year-old’s tent and slid his hand into his sleeping bag and into his pyjamas, under the pretence of wishing him goodnight after “story time”.

Alston, who as a teacher was in a position of trust, is alleged to have started grooming the boy after realising that the youngster would deliver milk to his address as part of his milk round.

“It is here that the defendant and his then partner further groomed and acted indecently towards that boy,” said Mr Clement.

Jurors heard that they would tip the youngster 75p, and regularly started inviting him up to their flat, offering him beer, cigarettes and other gifts.

On one occasion Righton – now deceased – gave the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, a pair of silk swimming trunks, which he asked him to wear and “parade” in front of himself and Alston.

Mr Clement said: “He did as he was asked. It was a purposefully quasi-sexual act.”

Other allegations state that Alston and Righton – sometimes in the presence of their friend Charles Napier – would play pornographic films at their flat and watch the youngster’s reaction, occasionally asking him to perform sex acts on them as he did so.

Jurors were told that while the youngster saw the two adults as “friends”, their motivation was to indecently assault him.

“He regarded both adults as friends who paid him attention and gave him treats.

“By this point, the defendant, together with his partner, had something of a hold over this boy,” said Mr Clement.

Although the youngster said nothing of the alleged abuse at the time, when he was 16 he confronted Righton about what he had been subjected to, jurors were told.

Mr Clement said: “Peter Righton dismissed this complaint and told him he had connections to powerful people, that the boy had no evidence and that no-one would believe him.

“And that worked because it meant that he did not say anything for many many years.”

Alston, of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, denies six counts of indecent assault, and four counts of indecency with a child, in the late 1970s.

Giving evidence, the complainant described Alston and Righton as “really nice guys”.

When asked why he had not said anything after the first incident in the playground, he replied: “I was embarrassed. I didn’t think I would be believed – all series of emotions, really.”

The alleged victim also told jurors that he had introduced other boys to Alston and Righton.

Mr Clement asked if he went to the flat alone.

The witness replied: “I wasn’t always alone, no, I introduced other boys to Peter and Richard, they kept asking if I knew any friends.”

Recalling how the couple had given him 75p tips for delivering milk, he added: “Back in the ’70s, at 11 years old, that was a lot of money. That was a lot of money in those days.”

Asked about his visits to the flat, the complainant said: “I was fine with going to their house. They seemed like really nice guys.

“In a word I wouldn’t want for anything, I could get whatever I liked – toys, sweets, anything, money – they were always very generous.”


Press Association Mediapoint
, August 18th, 2015
Nina Massey, ‘Accused Ex-Teacher ‘Romped with Children’ on Classroom Mattress’

A former teacher who allegedly molested an 11-year-old pupil kept a mattress in his classroom on which he “romped with children”, a court has heard.

Richard Alston, 70, is accused of repeatedly indecently assaulting the youngster at Cavendish School in Greenford, Middlesex, in the late 1970s.

The attacks are said to have taken place on school grounds, during a school camp and at the flat Alston shared with his then boyfriend, Peter Righton.

Southwark Crown Court in London heard evidence from Wendy Doyle, who worked as a teaching assistant at the school for maladjusted boys at the same time as Alston.

She said “overbearing” Righton had been a governor at the school, but Alston did not really have much personality.

When asked by prosecutor Peter Clement if there was anything unusual about Alston’s teaching, she replied: “There was a mattress that they kept in the cupboard. It was small, just a rolled-up, flat mattress.

“If you wanted to go into the classroom, you couldn’t really push the door open anyway, because the mattress was down, with the furniture pushed back.”

She added that she thought it was “odd” but did not say anything to the headteacher at the time.

Simon Spence, defending, asked Mrs Doyle what she meant when she said she “imagined” Alston and the children had been “romping” on the mattress.

She answered: “Richard and the children were in the classroom. I could see from his reaction when he came out – he was hot and bothered, if you like.”

Alston denies six counts of indecent assault and four counts of indecency with a child against one complainant in the late 1970s.

He allegedly first molested the then 11-year-old after he fell off a climbing frame in the play area of the school, under the pretence of comforting him.

Two further indecent assaults are said to have taken place during a school camp, and allegedly involved Alston creeping into the complainant’s tent and touching him while swimming in a pond.

Mr Clement told the court that one of the allegations was that Alston had gone into the 11-year-old’s tent and slid his hand into his sleeping bag and into his pyjamas, under the pretence of wishing him goodnight after “story time”.

On one occasion Righton – now deceased – gave the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, a pair of silk swimming trunks, which he asked him to wear and “parade” in front of himself and Alston, jurors heard.

Other allegations state that Alston and Righton – sometimes in the presence of their friend Charles Napier – would play pornographic films at their flat and watch the youngster’s reaction, occasionally asking him to perform sex acts on them as he did so.

Alston, of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, is on bail and denies all charges against him.

Jurors also heard from Alston, who took to the witness box to give evidence.

He said he had realised he was gay as a young adult, and met Righton – 19 years his senior – when he was just 16.

However, Alston told the court that he did not start a physical relationship with Righton until he was about 22, and they moved in together in 1971.

Mr Spence asked his client: “Was it a full-time, committed monogamous relationship?”

Alston replied: “Not necessarily absolutely monogamous. Like a marriage with a fairly liberal interpretation of the marriage.”

Mr Spence also asked if Alston, “as a homosexual”, had ever had any interest in younger men or boys.

Alston answered: “Younger men, possibly. But not boys.”

When asked how young, he responded: “Around 16.”

Alston told the court he remembered the complainant from Cavendish School, and that he had interviewed him, along with four other boys, as part of a study he was conducting.

However, when asked repeatedly if he had ever indecently assaulted the pupil, the defendant asserted “No”.

He also denied he had ever given the youngster beer or other gifts.

Mr Spence asked: “Were you present when he was given a pair of silk swimming trunks (by Righton)?

“Were you aware of him being provided with a remote control plane or a truck?

“Did you ever see him smoking cigarettes?”

To each of these, Alston replied “No”.

The accused was then quizzed further about his relationship with his deceased partner.

Mr Clement asked if Righton had acted indecently towards the complaintant.

Alston replied: “I don’t know.”

Mr Clement continued: “Might he have done?”

“It is possible,” said Alston.

He also admitted that he and Righton would watch pornography at home, on cinefilm. But denied that this had ever been shown to the complainant.

Alston added that he thought the movies had come from Amsterdam, and could not remember if Charles Napier had brought them back from Scandinavia.

He went on to say that he was the only person with Righton when he died in 2007 and that he had been aware of a 1994 BBC documentary on his former partner.

The court heard that in January 1979 in Aberdeen, Scotland, Alston was admonished – the equivalent of a caution in English law – after admitting one count of lewd, indecent, libidinous practices, namely placing his hand on a boy’s thigh in the cinema.

Alston told jurors that he did not disclose the conviction to the school or local education authority because he hoped to be able to carry on with his work.

But he conceded that the act was an “attempt at a sexual approach” towards a boy who was of an age that he was attracted to – 16 or 17.

The trial continues.


ITV News Report
, August 18th, 2015
‘Former teacher ‘romped with children on classroom mattress”

A former teacher accused of molesting an 11-year-old pupil kept a mattress in his classroom on which he “romped with children”, it has been claimed.

Richard Alston, 70, is accused of assaulting the youngster repeatedly at a school in Greenford, Middlesex, in the late 1970s.

The attacks are said to have happened on school grounds, during a school camp and at a flat shared with the teacher’s former boyfriend, Peter Righton.

Righton, now deceased, was a former governor at the school.

Southwark Crown Court heard evidence from Wendy Doyle, a teaching assistant at the school at the time in question, who said she thought it was a “odd” that a mattress was kept in the cupboard.

It was a small, just a rolled-up, flat mattress.

If you wanted to go into the classroom, you couldn’t really push the door open anyway, because the mattress was down with the furniture pushed back.

Richard and the children were in the classroom. I could see from his reaction when he came out – he was hot and bothered, if you like.

– WENDY DOYLE

Simon Spence, defending, asked Mrs Doyle what she meant when she said she “imagined” Alston and the children had been “romping” on the mattress.

She answered: “Richard and the children were in the classroom. I could see from his reaction when he came out – he was hot and bothered, if you like.”

Alston denies six counts of indecent assault and four counts of indecency with a child against one complainant.

He allegedly first molested the then 11-year-old complainant after he fell off a climbing frame in the play area of the school, under the pretence of comforting him.

Two more incidents are said to have taken place during a school camp, and allegedly involved Alston creeping into the complainant’s tent and touching him while swimming in a pond.

Other allegations state that Alston and Righton – sometimes in the presence of their friend Charles Napier – would play pornographic films at their flat and watch the youngster’s reaction, occasionally asking him to perform sex acts on them as he did so.

Alston, of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, is on bail and denies all charges against him.

The trial continues.


East Anglian Daily Times
, August 18th, 2015
PR Import – PA, ‘Former teacher denies ‘grooming’ 11-year-old remedial school pupil’

A former teacher who worked at a remedial school allegedly molested an 11-year-old boy at a school camp and spent years grooming him with his boyfriend, a court has heard.

Richard Alston, 70, who now lives in Bury St Edmunds, met the alleged victim while working as a teacher at Cavendish School in Greenford, Middlesex, in the late 1970s.

But after starting to touch the youngster inappropriately on school grounds, Alston invited him up to the flat he shared with his partner, Peter Righton.

Southwark Crown Court in London heard that Alston allegedly began molesting the youngster after he fell off a climbing frame in the play area of the school, under the pretence of comforting him.

Prosecutor Peter Clement said that Alston touched the boy over his clothing to “gauge” his reaction. He added: “The Crown suggest that at the first indecent assault the defendant realised that there was little or no prospect of complaint and he exploited that.”

Two further indecent assaults are said to have taken place during a school camp. Mr Clement told the court that one of the allegations was that Alston had gone into the 11-year-old’s tent and slid his hand into his sleeping bag and into his pyjamas, under the pretence of wishing him good night after “story time”.

Alston, who as a teacher was in a position of trust, is alleged to have started grooming the boy after realising that the youngster would deliver milk to his address as part of his round. Jurors heard that Alston and Righton would tip the youngster 75p, and regularly started inviting him up to their flat, offering him beer, cigarettes and other gifts.

On one occasion Righton – who has since died – gave the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, a pair of silk swimming trunks, which he asked him to wear and “parade” in front of himself and Alston.

Other allegations state that Alston and Righton – sometimes in the presence of their friend Charles Napier – would play pornographic films at their flat and watch the youngster’s reaction, occasionally asking him to perform sex acts on them as he did so.

Although the youngster said nothing of the alleged abuse at the time, when he was 16 he confronted Righton, jurors heard.

Mr Clement said: “Peter Righton dismissed this complaint and told him he had connections to powerful people, that the boy had no evidence and that no-one would believe him. And that worked because it meant that he did not say anything for many many years.”

Alston denies six counts of indecent assault, and four counts of indecency with a child, in the late 1970s.

The case continues.


Bury Free Press
, August 18th, 2015

‘Special needs teacher from Bury St Edmunds is accused of molesting vulnerable’ pupil’

A teacher at a special needs school groomed an 11-year-old boy for sex with gifts of beer, cigarettes and silk swimming trunks, a court has heard.

Richard Alston, 70, of Robin Hood Court, Bury St Edmunds, first molested the pupil after he fell from a climbing frame in the grounds of a Middlesex school in the late 1970s, it is alleged.

Over the next three years Alston abused the vulnerable’ and needy’ child at whim with his paedophile boyfriend Peter Righton, who has since died, Southwark Crown Court heard yesterday.

When the boy turned 16 he decided to confront the pair but was scared into silence after Righton boasted of his connections to powerful people’, jurors were told

In his opening address to jurors, prosecutor Peter Clement said: “The case is about indecent assault and indecency with and towards the same person dating back some 30 years.

“At the time the complainant was a child. By virtue of not only his age – he was aged around 11 when this sequence of events begins – but also his personal circumstance, the prosecution suggest that the complainant was vulnerable.

“This defendant was in a position which brought with it a considerable degree of trust, not only of the child who he was charged with caring and educating but also the child’s parents and also the trust of colleagues at the same school.

“This defendant exploited and breached that trust that came with his position and he breached it for his own sexual gratification.

“It is indicative, the prosecution suggests, of what is commonly referred to and understood as the grooming of that child.

“Grooming so as to enable the abuse to take place and to ensure that boys silence for many, many years continuing into adulthood.

“It was all under the guise of caring for and being kind to the complainant.”

Alston forced the boy to perform sex acts and also involved his partner in the abuse, the court heard.

“On occasions the defendant’s then partner, now deceased, a man called Peter Righton, was actively involved – two men acting indecently towards that same boy,” said Mr Clement.

The court heard that the school’s regime was relaxed’ with students relatively free to roam around the school grounds’ and pupils calling teachers by their first names.

Mr Clement said Alston by all accounts was a popular, well liked, successful teacher’.

He added: “That boy, described by one form teacher as a needy child, was at that point expected to refer to his teachers by their first names and he grew to regard them as friends.

“The boy found the defendant to be friendly and approachable but he was to describe him as touchy-feely.

“There were boundaries in the 1970s and there are today – this defendant crossed them deliberately for his own sexual gratification.”

Alston first touched the child while comforting him following a fall from a climbing frame at the school, jurors heard.

Mr Clement said: “Richard Alston went over purportedly to comfort him by hugging him, embracing him, but in doing so he ran his hands over the boy’s back and over his genitals over his clothes.

“It was a deliberate touching of that boy’s genitals.”

Alston was attempting to gauge the reaction’ of the child and to see if he would say anything, jurors heard.

He later plied the boy with gifts of beer and cigarettes and tipped him generously when he, as a paperboy, delivered to his door, the court was told.

It is claimed that when Righton, who was Alston’s boyfriend at the time, gave the boy a pair of silken swimming trunks’, the couple asked him to parade in front of them.

“It was a purposefully quasi-sexual act in the mind of both the defendant and his then partner,” said Mr Clement.

It is alleged the victim was also shown pornographic films and would watch the screen as the couple, and a friend, looked on.

“By this point the prosecution suggest this defendant and his partner had something of a hold over this boy,” said Mr Clement.

The boy decided to confront the pair at their home shortly after his 16th birthday but Righton scared him into keeping his silence, the court heard.

“He confronted him about what he had been subjected to but Peter Righton dismissed his complaint and told him that he, Righton, had connections to powerful people, that the boy had no evidence and that no-one would believe him and that worked because the complainant didn’t say anything for many, many years,” said Mr Clement.

It was only when researching a book that the alleged victim stumbled across an article about Righton asking for information and plucked up the courage to contact investigators.

Alston denies six charges of indecent assault and four charges of indecency with a child.

The trial continues.


Sunday World
, August 18th, 2015

‘Teacher had classroom mattress for “romping with children”’

A former teacher who allegedly molested an 11-year-old pupil kept a mattress in his classroom on which he “romped with children”, a court has heard.
Richard Alston, 70, is accused of repeatedly indecently assaulting the youngster at Cavendish School in Greenford, Middlesex, in the late 1970s.

The attacks are said to have taken place on school grounds, during a school camp and at the flat Alston shared with his then boyfriend, Peter Righton.

Southwark Crown Court in London heard evidence from Wendy Doyle, who worked as a teaching assistant at the school for maladjusted boys at the same time as Alston.

She said “overbearing” Righton had been a governor at the school, but Alston did not really have much personality.

When asked by prosecutor Peter Clement if there was anything unusual about Alston’s teaching, she replied: “There was a mattress that they kept in the cupboard. It was small, just a rolled-up, flat mattress.

“If you wanted to go into the classroom, you couldn’t really push the door open anyway, because the mattress was down, with the furniture pushed back.”

She added that she thought it was “odd” but did not say anything to the headteacher at the time.

Simon Spence, defending, asked Mrs Doyle what she meant when she said she “imagined” Alston and the children had been “romping” on the mattress.

She answered: “Richard and the children were in the classroom. I could see from his reaction when he came out – he was hot and bothered, if you like.”

Alston denies six counts of indecent assault and four counts of indecency with a child against one complainant in the late 1970s.

He allegedly first molested the then 11-year-old after he fell off a climbing frame in the play area of the school, under the pretence of comforting him.

Two further indecent assaults are said to have taken place during a school camp, and allegedly involved Alston creeping into the complainant’s tent and touching him while swimming in a pond.

Mr Clement told the court that one of the allegations was that Alston had gone into the 11-year-old’s tent and slid his hand into his sleeping bag and into his pyjamas, under the pretence of wishing him goodnight after “story time”.

On one occasion Righton – now deceased – gave the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, a pair of silk swimming trunks, which he asked him to wear and “parade” in front of himself and Alston, jurors heard.

Other allegations state that Alston and Righton – sometimes in the presence of their friend Charles Napier – would play pornographic films at their flat and watch the youngster’s reaction, occasionally asking him to perform sex acts on them as he did so.

Alston, of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, is on bail and denies all charges against him.


East Anglian Daily Times
, August 19th, 2015
PR Import – PA

A former teacher who allegedly molested an 11-year-old pupil kept a mattress in his classroom on which he “romped with children”, a court has heard.

Richard Alston, 70, who now lives in Bury St Edmunds, is accused of repeatedly indecently assaulting the youngster at Cavendish School in Greenford, Middlesex, in the late 1970s. The attacks are said to have taken place on school grounds, during a school camp and at the flat Alston shared with his then boyfriend, Peter Righton.

Southwark Crown Court in London heard evidence from Wendy Doyle, who worked as a teaching assistant at the school for maladjusted boys at the same time as Alston. She said “overbearing” Righton had been a governor at the school, but Alston did not really have much personality.

When asked by prosecutor Peter Clement if there was anything unusual about Alston’s teaching, she replied: “There was a mattress that they kept in the cupboard. It was small, just a rolled-up, flat mattress.

“If you wanted to go into the classroom, you couldn’t really push the door open anyway, because the mattress was down, with the furniture pushed back.”

She added that she thought it was “odd” but did not say anything to the headteacher at the time.

Simon Spence, defending, asked Mrs Doyle what she meant when she said she “imagined” Alston and the children had been “romping” on the mattress. She answered: “Richard and the children were in the classroom. I could see from his reaction when he came out – he was hot and bothered, if you like.”

Alston denies six counts of indecent assault and four counts of indecency with a child against one complainant in the late 1970s.

He allegedly first molested the then 11-year-old after he fell off a climbing frame in the play area of the school, under the pretence of comforting him.

Two further indecent assaults are said to have taken place during a school camp, and allegedly involved Alston creeping into the complainant’s tent and touching him while swimming in a pond.

Mr Clement told the court that one of the allegations was that Alston had gone into the 11-year-old’s tent and slid his hand into his sleeping bag and into his pyjamas, under the pretence of wishing him goodnight after “story time”. On one occasion Righton – now deceased – gave the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, a pair of silk swimming trunks, which he asked him to wear and “parade” in front of himself and Alston, jurors heard.

Other allegations state that Alston and Righton – sometimes in the presence of their friend Charles Napier – would play pornographic films at their flat and watch the youngster’s reaction, occasionally asking him to perform sex acts on them as he did so.

Alston is on bail and denies all charges against him.

Court News, August 27th, 2015

The long term lover of a founding member of the Paedophile Information Exchange is facing jail for the abuse of an 11-year-old boy in the 1970s, it can be revealed.

Richard Alston, 70, taught at the Cavendish School for ‘maladjusted children’ in Greenford, Middlesex, even though he had a previous conviction for sexual assault.

He groomed the ‘needy’ and ‘vulnerable’ child with his boyfriend, the notorious paedophile Peter Righton.

Together they plied the boy with gifts including beer, cigarettes, silk swimming trunks and a remote control plane before abusing him.

Shortly after his sixteenth birthday the victim plucked up the courage to confront Righton but he was scared into silence after the abuser boasted of the couple’s ‘connections to powerful people’.

Last Thursday a jury panel of eight men and four women found Alston guilty of one counts of indecency with a child and one count of indecent assault.

He was cleared of a further four counts of indecent assault and two counts of indecency with a child.

The jury were unable to reach a verdict on a remaining count of indecent assault and one count of indecency with a child.

The verdicts can now be published after the CPS opted not to pursue to retrial on the outstanding counts in a secret hearing.

White haired and rail-thin Alston, who was supported during the trial by his brother from the public gallery, did not react as the verdicts were read.

Oxford alumni Alston had insisted to jurors that he never touched the child but said ‘it is possible’ Righton, who he was in a relationship for 40 years, abused the boy.

Righton, who died in 2007, was convicted in September 1992 for possession of child porn and is widely believed to have been influential in a powerful network of child abusers.

Prosecutor Peter Clement said: ‘This defendant was in a position which brought with it a considerable degree of trust, not only of the child who he was charged with caring and educating but also the child’s parents and the trust of colleagues at the same school.

‘This defendant exploited and breached the trust that came with his position and he breached it for his own sexual gratification.’

Alston was convicted of performing a sex act on the victim and forcing the victim to perform a sex act on him at his flat.

The victim was forced to parade in front of the paedophile couple, who he believed to be ‘really nice guys’, in a pair of silk swimming trunks they gave him.

He told jurors he was bowled over after receiving a 75 pence tip for delivering milk to the couple’s home.

‘Back in the ’70s at 11 years old that was a lot of money, that was a lot of money in those days,’ he said.

‘I was fine with going to their house, they seemed to be really nice guys. ‘In a word I wouldn’t want for anything, I could get whatever I liked – toys, sweets, anything, money –they were always very generous,’ he said.

‘I was going through a bad patch at home and needed somebody else to talk to about the problems so I decided to ring them up as normal to go to their home,’ the complainant told jurors.

‘I was given some alcohol which I didn’t like the taste of and they put some lemonade in to make it taste better… ‘

After the drink I wasn’t feeling very well and I fell asleep and I woke up some time later on a bed,’ he said.

‘Were you clothed,’ asked Mr Clement.

‘Yes I was clothed,’ replied the alleged victim welling up with tears in the witness box.

The victim was also shown pornographic films imported from Amsterdam during sessions that were also attended by convicted paedophile and former PIE treasurer Charles Napier.

Napier, who is the half-brother of Tory MP John Whittingdale, was locked up for 13 years in December last year after admitting 28 charges concerning 21 boys aged eight to 13 between 1967 and 1972.

‘By this point the prosecution suggest this defendant and his partner had something of a hold over this boy,’ said Mr Clement.

The boy decided to confront the pair at their home shortly after his 16th birthday but Righton scared him into keeping his silence, the court heard.

‘He confronted him about what he had been subjected to but Peter Righton dismissed his complaint and told him that he, Righton, had connections to powerful people, that the boy had no evidence and that no-one would believe him and that worked because the complainant didn’t say anything for many, many years,’ said Mr Clement.

It was only when researching a book the alleged victim stumbled across an article about Righton that he plucked up the courage to contact investigators.

While giving evidence Alston admitted he hid a conviction for groping a teenager in an Aberdeen cinema from the authorities in 1978.

He stroked the thigh of a boy, who he guessed to be 16 or 17, in an ‘attempt at a sexual approach’ but the youth reacted ‘aggressively’ and pushed the teacher into a nearby alley where his friends threatened him with a broken bottle unless he handed himself into the police.

He received the equivalent of a caution after admitting touching the boy.

Alston, of (4) Robin Hood Court, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, was convicted of one charge of indecent assault and one charge of indecency with a child.

He was cleared of four charges of indecent assault and two counts of indecency with a child.

Jurors were unable to reach verdicts on further charges of indecency with a child and indecent assault.

He will be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court tomorrow.
ends


Press Association
, August 27th, 2015
Nina Massey, ‘Remedial School Teacher Richard Alston Guilty of Molesting Pupil, 11’

A former remedial school teacher and long term partner of one of the founders of the Paedophile Information Exchange has been found guilty of molesting an 11-year-old boy, it can be revealed.

Richard Alston, 70, met the victim while working at Cavendish School for “maladjusted boys” in Greenford, Middlesex, in the late 1970s.

Together with his partner, Peter Righton, the pensioner forced the youngster to watch pornography and then perform sex acts on him.

It was the investigation into Righton, who was convicted of importing child pornography in 1992, that led to MP Tom Watson using parliamentary privilege in 2012 to allege that there was “clear intelligence” of a VIP child sex abuse ring.

Righton was also a founding member of the Paedophile Information Exchange – a notorious group set up in the 1970s that campaigned to lower the age of consent.

He and Alston were together for 40 years, and although the teacher denied indecently assaulting the schoolboy, while giving evidence he conceded it was “possible” his lover may have done.

Giving evidence, Alston explained that he realised he was gay as a young adult, and met Righton – 19 years his senior – when he was just 16 years old.

Despite being cleared of a number of offences, he was convicted of incidents that took place when Righton was present and a participant.

A jury at Southwark Crown Court in London cleared Alston of molesting the youngster on school grounds and during a camping trip when he was alleged to have crept into his tent after “story time”.

The verdicts were reached last week, but can only be reported now for legal reasons.
Alston, who was in a position of trust as a teacher, was found guilty of one count of indecent assault and one count of indecency with a child, showed no emotion as he was convicted.

Jurors found that he and Righton groomed the schoolboy after he began visiting them at their flat, plying him with alcohol and buying him gifts such as cigarettes and toys.
Prosecutor Peter Clement said: “It is here that the defendant and his then partner further groomed and acted indecently towards that boy.”

Jurors were told that while the youngster saw the two adults as “friends”, their motivation was to indecently assault him.

“He regarded both adults as friends who paid him attention and gave him treats.

“By this point, the defendant, together with his partner, had something of a hold over this boy,” said Mr Clement.

On one occasion Righton – who died in 2007 – gave the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, a pair of silk swimming trunks, which he asked him to “parade” in front of himself and Alston.

Giving evidence, the complainant said: “I was fine with going to their house. They seemed like really nice guys.

“In a word I wouldn’t want for anything, I could get whatever I liked – toys, sweets, anything, money – they were always very generous.”

Although the youngster said nothing of the alleged abuse at the time because he was “embarrassed”, when he was 16 he confronted Righton about what he had been subjected to.

Mr Clement said: “Peter Righton dismissed this complaint and told him he had connections to powerful people, that the boy had no evidence, and that no-one would believe him.

“And that worked because it meant that he did not say anything for many many years.”

Alston was found to have made the schoolboy watch pornographic films and then ask him to perform sex acts on him and Righton.

The court heard that their friend Charles Napier – now a convicted paedophile – would also be present for some of these viewings.

Last December, Napier, the half-brother of senior Conservative MP John Whittingdale, was jailed for 13 years for carrying out hundreds of sexual assaults on young boys.

He was convicted of conducting a “campaign of abuse” at the school where he worked in the late 1960s and early 1970s, grooming and assaulting 21 victims aged as young as eight on scores of occasions.

He pleaded guilty to 28 counts of indecent assault – including many covering “multiple incidents” – and one indecency charge in relation to those crimes, as well as two further separate historical allegations of indecent assault against two 13-year-old boys after he left the school, the first in 1979 and the second in 1983.

Alston, of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, was cleared of four counts of indecent assault and two counts of indecency with a child. The jury was unable to reach verdicts on one count each of the same offences.

The verdicts can now be reported after the CPS took the decision in private not to pursue a retrial on the outstanding charges.

In January 1979 in Aberdeen, Scotland, he was admonished – the equivalent of a caution in English law – after admitting one count of lewd, indecent, libidinous practices, namely placing his hand on a boy’s thigh in the cinema.

Alston is due to be sentenced on September 28.


East Anglian Daily Times
, August 27th, 2015

Colin Adwent, ‘Former teacher Richard Alston from Bury St Edmunds guilty of molesting 11-year-old boy’

A former remedial school teacher from Suffolk and long-term partner of one of the founders of the Paedophile Information Exchange has been found guilty of molesting an 11-year-old boy, it can be revealed.

shares
Richard AlstonRichard Alston

Richard Alston, 70, of Vinery Road, Bury St Edmunds, met the victim while working at Cavendish School for “maladjusted boys” in Greenford, Middlesex, in the late 1970s.

Together with his partner, Peter Righton, Alston forced the youngster to watch pornography and then perform sex acts on him.

It was the investigation into Righton, who was convicted of importing child pornography in 1992, that led to MP Tom Watson using parliamentary privilege in 2012 to allege that there was “clear intelligence” of a VIP child sex abuse ring.

Righton was also a founding member of the Paedophile Information Exchange – a notorious group set up in the 1970s that campaigned to lower the age of consent.

He and Alston were together for 40 years and lived in Thornham Magna after Righton’s conviction.

Although Alston denied indecently assaulting the schoolboy, while giving evidence he conceded it was “possible” his lover may have done.

Giving evidence, Alston explained that he realised he was gay as a young adult, and met Righton – 19 years his senior – when he was just 16 years old.

Despite being cleared of a number of offences, he was convicted of incidents that took place when Righton was present and a participant.

A jury at Southwark Crown Court in London cleared Alston of molesting the youngster on school grounds and during a camping trip when he was alleged to have crept into his tent after “story time”.

The verdicts were reached last week, but can only be reported now for legal reasons.

Alston, who was in a position of trust as a teacher, was found guilty of one count of indecent assault and one count of indecency with a child, showed no emotion as he was convicted.

Jurors found that he and Righton groomed the schoolboy after he began visiting them at their flat, plying him with alcohol and buying him gifts such as cigarettes and toys.

On one occasion Righton – who died in 2007 – gave the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, a pair of silk swimming trunks, which he asked him to “parade” in front of himself and Alston.

Alston was found to have made the schoolboy watch pornographic films and then ask him to perform sex acts on him and Righton.

The court heard that their friend Charles Napier – now a convicted paedophile – would also be present for some of these viewings.

Alston was cleared of four counts of indecent assault and two counts of indecency with a child. The jury was unable to reach verdicts on one count each of the same offences.

The verdicts can now be reported after the CPS took the decision in private not to pursue a retrial on the outstanding charges.

In January 1979 in Aberdeen, Scotland, he was admonished – the equivalent of a caution in English law – after admitting one count of lewd, indecent, libidinous practices, namely placing his hand on a boy’s thigh in the cinema.

Alston is due to be sentenced on September 28.

Last December, Napier, was jailed for 13 years for carrying out hundreds of sexual assaults on young boys.

He was convicted of conducting a “campaign of abuse” at the school where he worked in the late 1960s and early 1970s, grooming and assaulting 21 victims aged as young as eight on scores of occasions.


The Hegemony of Anglo-American Popular Music – an online discussion

Below is a discussion which took place in early August 2015 on Facebook between a range of different individuals, responding to my initial comments, positing that the truly hegemonic musical force in contemporary society is not modernism, nor the classical canon, but Anglo-American popular music, which is ubiquitous (I had been thinking this whilst away off the coast of Africa and hearing primarily local musicians playing renditions of Anglo-American standard hits). The ensuing discussion was so intelligent and striking that I wanted to blog it (as with another discussion from 2012 following the protest at Donaueschingen by composer Johannes Kreidler). This is done with the permission of all participants, and with a few edits.

As is in the nature of such discussions, it does not entail a closed argument by any means, and there are plenty of ‘loose ends’, some tangents, and so on, whilst the tone ranges from serious, scholarly, intense, to more flippant and irreverent. Nonetheless, I believe there are many stimulating perspectives which will be of value to anyone with an interest in this subject. I don’t want to say more on who the various people contributing are; various people will know some of them, but the point is not their status, but what they have to say here.

Comments preceded by two asterisks are part of sub-threads attached to the last ‘normal’ comment which precedes them.


Ian Pace: I read lots of hot air about classical/modernist music and ‘hegemony’ – but everywhere I travel I hear mostly Anglo-American popular music. Why is there near-silence on this being the true form of musical hegemony?

Ian Pace: Where I am away on holiday, no chance at all of hearing Boulez in the hotel. But Beyonce…..

Franklin Cox: Isn’t the most successful form of hegemony the one that no one recognizes as a hegemony?

**Joan Arnau Pàmies: Concealed ideology… Such a powerful weapon.

Franklin Cox: It’s an odd thing that happens when Marxist concepts become part of the academic circuit: they tend to lose their analytical potential, instead becoming magic charms.

Ian Pace: Actually, most of the cultural studies/new musicology types who make the usual claims are amongst the most aggressive neo-liberals of all.

**Franklin Cox: Yes, and neo-liberals dare not face the magical thinking at the basis of their worldview.

Ian Pace: I cannot imagine Gramsci being happy with this situation, nor if he’d read a lot of the writings of the figure most responsible for his UK reputation, Stuart Hall.

Alan Cassar: Your point came out when Nicola Benedetti, after promoting classical music, was recently called elitist : no one says anything about the fact that we’re bombarded by Anglo-American pop music.

Jim Aitchison: I’ve felt this for years. I would say that commercial popular music (a very wide and obviously important and fascinating field, notwithstanding) is so ingrained and so overwhelmingly suffocating and THE dominating sonic orthodoxy, and has been for so long, that one can’t imagine any public or private sonic experience not informed by it, be it if you turn on the TV when you get up in the morning, or go to the bank, get put on hold when calling HMRC, waiting in a doctors’ surgery, riding on a train and having to listen to the multi-clicking tattoo of 30 iPods, walking along a road and folks with in-car audio drive past with windows down, bass pumping on full, to sitting in your own home and having to endure someone else’s taste in music when some kind of celebration makes them think that other people’s feelings about their personal spaces and homes being invaded don’t matter in the slightest. The utter saturation of amplified Anglo-American pop music is so total, that if I say what I have just written above to most ‘ordinary’ folks, they will look at me as if I’m stark raving bonkers (so I try not to). Larson, will no doubt recognise this as we’ve talked about it before…

**Ian Pace: We need ‘Anglo-American popular music free spaces’.

**Jim Aitchison: Sometimes I feel like completely music free spaces: there’s too much music of all kinds (sometimes!)

**Amelia Young: Ian you’re too bloody intelligent for most of the world’s population who have a preference for Anglo American music! Should we not be proud that the UK and our Co-Anglo counterpart USA are so popular! Wish they would play more of the best American music like Gershwin X

**Larson Powell Jim, this stuff is like McDonald’s, a kind of anthropological lowest common denominator: I-IV-V progressions and 16 and 32 bar phrases like hamburger meat, salt chips, and fat… everyone has to love it, don’t they?!

**Jim Aitchison: Larson, to me, it really does feel like a version of a kind of sonic totalitarian thought-police. I can think of folks who believe it is their scared human right to be able to ‘express themselves’ by playing their music as loudly as they wish, wherever and whenever they feel like it. In some ways I don’t care what they listen to, but the blanket society-wide *belief* that life cannot be endured for one second without constant pentatonic rhythmicization feels like a kind of madness to me.

**Larson Powell: Yes, Jim, I agree: I think the enforced pounding is in fact the real police of our society. The one thing that is intolerable is the idea that someone might actually want to think, feel, or experience at their own tempo, without prefabricated cliche emotions swallowed whole. The whole “party”-Unkultur is conformism packaged as pseudo-rebellion: the tyranny of the teenager. Can you imagine anything more awful than a world run by high school idiots? There’s where we’re going. What REALLY terrifies me is the thought of how bad it will be when my parents’ generation, who did not grow up with canned garbage in their heads all the time, die out and we are left alone with the zombies as sole “consumers,” therefore sole arbiters of truth… then I will move to the Orkneys.

**Jim Aitchison: And I will join you!

Ian Pace: Maybe it’s time to look again at the status and value popular music degree courses, as a counter-hegemonic action?

**Alan Cassar: Popular Music degree courses are there because they allow people with practically no knowledge of music to come out with a degree and some validation. Most of these courses are a con.

**Jim Aitchison: Love to see that one tried and the reaction ensuing!

**Alan Cassar: One of the problems one faces is that employers rarely differentiate between a bogus degree (eg most of the pop music ones and some musicological ones) from a bad university and a qualification/degree from a world-class college (and if your qualifications are foreign…oh god!). Neither do accreditation bodies NARIC, etc.

To get an idea of the general level in **some** universities, one has to listen to compositions and performances from BA/MA students… It’s embarrassing and dishonest (these universities still charge extortionate fees).

Adam Fergler: Because it’s a multi-billion dollar industry and where there’s commercial success we’re supposed to turn a blind eye. Money is everything. Success from (and in the form of) money is supposed to be aspirational. Anything else has no worth. Apparently.

Excuse me while I put on my Nike running shoes so I can run to Tesco to buy an Innocent Smoothie. I’d go in my over-sized people carrier, but running and smoothie drinking is part of my branded lifestyle.

Ian Pace: McDonald’s is a multi-billion dollar industry as well. If all courses on gastronomy had to include this as a shining example of all-inclusive, multicultural cuisine, then you would have a pretty good equivalent of the state of musical education.

Jim Aitchison: That’s an incredibly apposite comparison…

Adam Fergler: One has to be fair. There’s some great Anglo-American pop music (there’s drivel, too). As far as I can see, nothing good has come out of MacDonald’s

**Ian Pace: Ah yes, but according to that received wisdom which has become an unquestioned orthodoxy in musical education, to valorise anything but the most nakedly commercial is nothing more than another form of hegemony, importing values from the hegemonic culture.

**Ian Pace: Beyonce sucks, by the way.

**Adam Fergler: Hahaha! And there I was imagining you dancing away to ‘Single Ladies’

**Jim Aitchison: (That’s just a rumour Ian ;) )

**Franklin Cox: And when you see her singing and emoting in performance–she’s just emoting, not singing.

**Richard Wattenbarger: I’ve heard very little Beyoncé, and I doubt I’d recognize her if I heard her. So, Ian, I’m giving you a thumbs up not because I agree (because I have no basis for doing so) but because you have the chutzpah to denounce the emperor’s nakedness!

Adam Fergler: Ian, you forgot to mention that MacDonald’s relies on highly addictive and demonstrably unhealthy ingredients to get its consumers hooked.

I’m just going to leave that hanging there…

Franklin Cox: I’ve had to swallow my thoughts for a long time on this. Bravo, everyone.

**Jim Aitchison: It’s amazing how incredibly powerful the propulsion towards (self) censorship is re this subject…

Ian Pace: How about, in all places, a quota of 40% on the amount of popular music which is sung in English? Having regular exposure to other languages in popular music would be great for young people’s language skills.

**Alan Cassar That would be a good start, but for this to happen, schools must first start realise the importance of languages. One must also put things in perspective : how many teachers in the UK actually speak foreign languages to a decent level? In this case, how is one going to teach foreign songs – by using phonetics?

Ideally schools would need to encourage pupils and their families to make language learning part of home-life and for them to expose themselves to the culture of the countries where these languages originate from.

Franklin Cox: I don’t like the notion of “hegemony” much (and I’ve seen indications that Gramsci was not the saint he is portrayed as), because it’s too broad a brush and tends to neutralize opposition. It is only valuable as an initial means of shaking people into awareness, but once one is aware of a hegemony, the concept tends to neutralize response to it, because the hegemony is so all-pervasive, can’t be seen directly, has infiltrated our conceptual presuppositions, etc. That’s what I object to; once one is aware of illegitimate power, one has to be able to specify what it is and what it is doing and work to curb it. I’ve run into so many people who end up using the term “hegemony” as an sort of excuse (by one in the know, mind you) for passivity.

Ian Pace: In my most cynical moments, I say that ‘hegemony’ is a term used by couch potatoes who only want to lie back and be spoon-fed what they already know, and whinge like spoilt children when anything else is suggested.

Franklin Cox: But the notion of hegemony is useful for the commercial art world, because it really is trying to remake reality in its image. There’s a pretty good book (skewered by Taruskin and the popheads) called “Who Needs Classical Music,”, in which the author writes about how people use music as a sort of mental furniture, providing a sort of sound track to their life. They go home and settle into their favorite furniture, they drive to work as though they were in a movie, with a soundtrack throbbing around them.

**Justin Benz: I’ve known an alarming number of people who only seem drawn to music that provides backdrop to their frequent trips to the gym, i.e. the only ‘Murica-approved form of self-improvement, much like what’s allowed in an actual prison. One result of the western world’s sweeping campaign of denial against self-reflection, restraint, patience, intelligence, etc.., is that this music naturally ends up being all these people listen to when they’re NOT at the gym. I specifically have horrid memories of working in a chemistry lab and having to endure loud dance/party music for eight hours a day, because we all know that silence means the terrorists win or some bullshit…

**Franklin Cox: That’s horrible to imagine. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to cool down in my responses to most difficulties, but the one thing that enrages me still is the thumping of pop music from a neighbor’s stereo–it really drives me nuts. Luckily, we have our own house now, and I haven’t had to suffer from this for over a year (I just realized this as I was typing this note!).

Ian Pace: The study of popular music would be strong if it were genuinely historical and global. But mostly it’s a quick fix for those who do not want to have to step out of the here and now.

Alan Cassar: Ian , but then will it belong to music courses?

Franklin Cox: Tia DeNora evidently did a paper or book studying how some bureaucrats in the UK piped classical music into certain areas as a means of reducing rowdyism, etc., using this (if I remember correctly) as a demonstration of the manipulative nature of classical music. How odd that she would focus on the rare use of classical music–comprising probably .00001% of the existing cases of the use of music in public spaces to control crowds–as her focus of concern.

Franklin Cox: That’s how hegemony works.

Ian Pace: Quite so. She is the person who wrote a book on Beethoven’s career, without engaging with the music, and without appearing to be able to read German.

Franklin Cox: The book on Beethoven is one of the most embarrassing things I’ve seen. Rosen skewers it effectively, as does Kivy.

**Ian Pace: Have a look at this if you haven’t already seen it, especially footnote 33, on DeNora. https://ianpace.wordpress.com/2015/04/22/musicological-observations-3-multicultural-musicology-for-monolingual-academics/

Ian Pace: This hegemony thing, like – can’t you see how children from primary school onwards, all over the world, are force-fed Ferneyhough? It’s an outrage, and the clearest sign of white male privilege. :(

Ross Feller: Wait, what? I thought I was the only one force-feeding Ferneyhough. Ha

Anne Ozorio: The hegemony stems from the domination of the English language, further exacerbated by the dominance of the internet by English speakers. Ignorance and insularity feed upon each other, Eventually everyone comes to believe that the narrow world of internet opinion “must” be right.

Ian Pace: Not just in the internet – throughout the educational sector as well.

Anne Ozorio: and the more people hear the dominant dogma, the more they believe it and forget their own culture

Larson Powell: The reason why this kind of orthodoxy about popular music is never challenged is that Anglo-Am pop has been the most effective and influential means of spreading a certain kind of semi-egalitarian, but also deeply resentful, chauvinistic and anti-intellectual lower-middle class culture (and its attendant political position or ideology) worldwide. The European Continent – France, Germany – could not produce this sort of cultural virus, since there were too many archaic survivals from court, church and aristoratic cultures, too strong a tradition of étatisme. But Anglophone culture is the triumph of the lower middle classes, who can ONLY admire the likes of Beyonce, since all of them think: I could do that too! I could play three chords and sing out of tune too, and if only I got lucky I too could be rich and famous! But confront that same mentality with a string quartet, or Proust, and they know they couldn’t “do that too,” so they can’t admire it. since it threatens their petit-bourgeois Ressentiment — which is the real key to a lot of pseudo-left cult stud, unfortunately. Anglopop is the most faithful servant of Anglo-Am cultural imperialism, hiding under specious claims to ‘democracy.’ The best escape from it is to speak other languages comfortably. (The rulers of Anglodom are doing their best to make sure few English speakers are ever able to escape the narrow confines of their own culture.).

Franklin Cox: There’s a real-world factor as well: one of the keys to weakening the Soviet bloc was evidently Western popular culture, and especially popular music. When the rock sensation hit, people in the East bloc wanted to hear this music, but could rarely get access to it. Governments tried to create their own pop groups, but none of them had the magic allure of the Rolling Stones. The Sword and the Shield, based on the Mitrokhin archive, has descriptions of KGB reports assessing the subversive effects of Michael Jackson and Pink Floyd. One musician I knew toured the Soviet Union with a rock band shortly before the end of the USSR and told me about the overwhelming impact of the music. Our analysts figured this out pretty quickly and by the 1960s were switching the focus of artistic outreach from high culture (which is how Cage, Cunningham, and others were able to travel around the world) to popular culture. In addition, the economic impact of popular music was at one time forming significant amount of economic activity; I used to joke that if you criticized pop music during a recession, you might be accused of harming the economic recovery. I think both of those factors–international image and economic impact–have been significant in validating popular music studies within the academy. There’s another factor, which is that popular music and arts are one area that African-Americans and minorities have played a large role, so I can see good reasons to avoid blanket denigration. However, there’s a big difference between the superb jazz musicians of the 20th century and Beyonce and company, and I don’t have any moral qualms about pointing this out.

Ian Pace: There are plenty of minorities working in McDonald’s too.

**Franklin Cox: That line has been tried as well. After the Los Angeles riots in 1992, McDonald’s got lots of good press for being one of the largest employers of minorities in the inner cities, and one of the few “legit” career paths for them.

Anne Ozorio: Yet there is/was plenty of popular music in other cultures.

Larson Powell: But how much of it is just an imitation of the US? Would this all have happened at all without US influence? I doubt it very much. Franklin’s point about the Cold War is well taken – this is, of course, uncritically hyped to the sky by many US academics as being somehow emancipatory, but much of the effect of it is the destruction of any idea of artistic or craftsmanly authority beyond commercial “success.” This is the main point of Americanization: to destroy any and all cultural alternatives to US global domination, while pretending the latter is somehow “democratic.” Central to this is the destruction of any idea of cultural authority outside that of the mass market; which is why Adorno remains, even now, the arch-enemy of this creed.

Larson Powell: (So much of this fake rebellion was already skewered back in the 1960s by figures as otherwise dissimilar as Lacan, Foucault and Habermas… but the more time has passed, the more the orthodox dogma that this was all “progress” has become entrenched, whether in the university or elsewhere, to the point where one cannot criticize the dogma publicly anymore without instantly being labelled “fascist,” “racist,” etc. etc.)

**Franklin Cox: Larson, there’s also the aura of the natural–the release from oppressive restrictions, etc.–about so much of the reception of and publicity for rock music in the early years. The reception in the Soviet bloc was really interesting, though, because people were not being told to love this music; in fact, they were being told the exact opposite. There was something genuine about this, which I find fascinating. Something as simple as listening to entertainment music with no serious political content was viewed as threatening to the regime. Although of course, much of what was seen in this music was a projection–something exciting happening “over there”, in another land full of wonderful cars and shops loaded with food that few people could visit. It was smart marketing on our part to push this product. But it is an awfully shallow representation of American culture, and a thin basis on which to define freedom. And it’s a serious problem when academics can’t distinguish a rationale that served as effective marketing overseas until recently (the Islamic radicals are reacting precisely against our entertainment products and are using them against us) from a serious ethnomusicological or sociocultural analysis of this music.

**Franklin Cox: I know you don’t like Arendt much, but one of my favorite essays is her “Truth and Politics” in “Between Past and Future”. She has a wonderful discussion of the ways in which rationales that used to be confined to state policy are mixed with Madison Avenue methods of persuasion, with the result that the rationale starts to be treated as truth, and even its fabricators have trouble distinguishing the fable from reality.

Justin Benz: In the church of secularism, questioning the works of ‘the invisible hand’ is heresy.

Adam Kondor: Did not some old Chinese theorists write about the relationship of music and power? Consciously or unconsciously there is always a relationship. You need to “synchronize” people. One beat, one folk. You don’t need an emperor materialized in flesh and blood but you need the function of the emperor. (Actually the Chinese emperors were also non-existent as persons for the majority of the people ruled by their ‘name’, by the function.)

There is also some mathematics showing that the rich must be richer: the tendency for concentration of resources, power, narratives, etc. is a natural fact. Languages spoken by small communities are just dying out. Not much you can do against it, particularly not on some moralizing ground.
(Note: this is not an argument FOR pop music. Over-saturation is lethal, no doubt about it.)

Anne Ozorio: The US did not invent popular culture. Just because Anglos don’t know, doesn’t mean it didn’t exist. Therein the dilemma

Larson Powell: We’re not talking about the same thing. There are light years of distance between la France profonde, the world of French peasant culture, of Eugen Weber”s Peasants into Frenchmen, of bransles de Bourgogne and ah! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira on the one hand, and Anglopop on the other. Global Anglopop has destroyed local popular cultures. I wonder what Jean-Pierre Le Goff (La Fin du village) would say about this? I am not sure it makes much sense to call Beyonce and French or Italian popular customs (those that Pasolini saw destroyed by TV) by the same name. We need a better terminology. It is precisely the attempt to claim that all of this is just one and the same “popular culture” that is problematic.

Natalie Tsaldarakis: I feel an Adorno coming up ! You do not attack a convenient medium of subjugation of the masses to a life of idiotic or at least mindless (self)consumption. The danger is for classical music in its “pop” packaging and commercialism to become just as mindless or even obsolete. The “blame” lies in the semiotics, rather than the repertoire: adoption of sexualised images of performers (but an attractive performer or a beautiful dress per se is not the problem: the intent of achieving marketability is); rock-star gestures where preponderance of visual cues divert from accessing the actual music; and even an overconsumption of certain repertoire in pop culture manner…

Anne Ozorio: Larson, I’m talking about Asia and popular traditions there which go back hundreds of years

Larson Powell: Of course, of course! (I studied Chinese and Japanese for years…) All I am suggesting is that the blanket term “popular culture” may be too general? Isn’t the English working class culture of E.P. Thompson different from that of the countryside, or from global pop now? Modernity means the end of “the people” in the old sense (Durkheim)… so wouldn’t the word “popular” mean something different now? I think the romanticising of the popular among us Anglos is as harmful in its own way (not of course in the same way!) as German ideas of Volk…

Larson Powell: Chinese “popular traditions” included powerful millenarian religious beliefs (a bit like Joachim de Fiore or Thomas Muenzer in the West) that fed into massive peasant rebellions in the 18th c. and early 20th (see Döblin’s Die drei Spruenge des Wang-lun on popular Taoism and Jacqueries)… completely different..’

Franklin Cox: What is commonly called pop music should really be called commercial music. Popular music traditions are something different,although they are easily turned into commercial music, as long as you cut out most of the interesting bits. Commercial music is a standardized product designed for mass production and distribution. It uses whatever will sell on a large scale, so elements of existing popular music traditions are often employed as hooks.

**Alan Cassar: Thanks for reinforcing that!

How could one define in more detail ‘commercial music is a standardized product designed for mass production and distributions’?

One could possibly argue – but with caution- that in ‘commercial music’, lyrics mainly avoid a sophisticated use of language, and pathos.

Themes emphasise mainly basic emotions such as crude, graphic sex ; and basic expression of love. Political and social themes ; and references to the arts or to history are avoided. There is an increasing element of shock factor through gang-crime-related themes and misogyny in both lyrics and videos (the latter is possibly an aftermath of androgynous and homosexual imagery of the 70s and 80s which nowadays has ceased to widely shock).

Musically, the musical language tends to be basic (e.g. triadic harmony, simple melodic lines, formulaic writing, simple structures). There is also an increasing trend to refer to older styles such as funk, soul and bubblegum rock, but the outcomes are simpler.

In all of these elements,’reduced risk-taking’ is omnipresent.

Sound engineering has also been affected and has become increasingly ‘homogenised’ : heavy pitch correction has reduced expression making voice sound ‘perfect’ (which translates as ‘too perfect and unnatural’) ; heavy compression is often used in order to make the music sound louder and therefore be more suitable for radio and club use.

Conspicuous comparisons of ‘standardisation’ could be drawn with fast food industry.

Larson Powell: Franklin, couldn’t agree more; think of how complex the rhythms are in Greek popular music, not to speak of Africa; not much to do with endless 8-16-32 bar phrases.

Ben Leeds Carson: The dissemination of popular culture normally goes hand-in-hand with hegemony. Hegemony is that condition in which the oppressed are complicit in their own subordination; popular culture and hegemony mutually reinforce one another, almost necessarily. Of course not all consumption of popular music is internal self-oppression…subcultures can and do turn popular music back on itself in defiant acts of self-determination. But when music “belongs” to an activist audience in that way (rather than to what Adorno called “official culture”) that’s not really popular culture.

When musicologists run off at the mouth about the hegemony of European Art Music, they’re usually just trying to map their undergraduate comprehension of post-colonial theory onto the landscape of the world’s musical cultures, i.e. the British enjoyed a hegemony of moral and economic power in pre-revolutionary China, so, someone blandly imagines, the dominance of European classical music among Chinese audiences must be just an extension of that kind of cultural power. This neglects the core of arguments by Said, Spivak, etc. (whether you favor those or not), which tie hegemony distinctly to modern cultural production. The Chinese didn’t come to love Mozart in some sort of isolated propogandistic endeavor. They came to love Mozart mostly within the same array of cultural forces that we did. Some of them learned to hear Mozart and Stephen Foster as part of the same bourgeois symbolic world—as part of the same (popular) cultural system, in which it’s possible also to love low tea in a rose garden, or lacey furniture drapings—in which case the term hegemony applies. Others learned to love Mozart as a foil to all that, as a testimony to the possibility that musical ideas and their relationships actually matter. In that case pin the hegemony on other forms –

**Franklin Cox: Ben, I think we’re talking about the same thing, but I still think it’s useful to distinguish popular culture from commercial culture. The oppressed are complicit in their oppression in practically all cultures and cultural subsets, so following your definition, any popular music would be hegemonial. But if hegemony is tied to modern cultural production, then pre-modern popular musics can’t be hegemonial, or at least in the same way (this is part of the problem I have with the “hegemony” concept– once one tries to pin it down, it seems to me to turn into a distinction without a difference). However, there are popular cultures that don’t map onto the dominant culture, especially in all those periods in which the upper classes pretty much sealed themselves off from the rest of society–which is a good chunk of world history. But maybe the term “popular music” is too loaded and “folk music” is better; the problem here is that “folk music” has become a sort of genre instead of a descriptive term that could apply to various cultures.

**Franklin Cox: Commercial music at the top of the charts now is pretty much like fast food: it is written by a team, using standardized progressions, vocal figures, lyrics, and emoticons. An artist is affixed to the product and lip-syncs it while writhing or emoting on stage. There is pretty much nothing there at all beyond a burp of energy.

**Franklin Cox: Ben, when you say “subcultures can and do turn popular music back on itself in defiant acts of self-determination”, what kind of music do you mean? Political art on the right or left (non-state supported, I mean)? I’m just not sure if there’s a clear dividing line here. Precisely the same popular tune could be sung in a saccharine way and be popular or have new lyrics and be delivered with a critical twist. But I doubt that anyone in the reception community for either would claim that one song is popular art and the other isn’t. You’ve brought up an interesting way of looking at this, but I’m not sure if I can see such a clear distinction between these cases that I could consider one popular art and the other not.

**Franklin Cox: Whatever Brecht intended, the Threepenny Opera became popular art of a sort, didn’t it?

**Ben Leeds Carson: Popular culture is best defined not as those forms that are “most popular,” or “most successfully commercialized,” but as those forms whose meaning arises ***specifically as a result*** of its dissemination beyond the boundaries of a particular community, i.e. across subcultural and cultural distinctions and into those larger landscapes (and a plurality of “cultures”) connected by mass media. No, certainly, there is no rigid distinction (!), as there are countless cultural forms that function in one way (i.e. are valued, interpreted, etc. in one way) in their community of origin, and in other ways across a greater cultural breadth. But it’s a rigorous one.

Big Mama Thornton made a kind of music that most of Elvis’ audience could only regard as aesthetically (and also morally) remote, as “belonging” to a group of midwestern working-class dance-hall musicians (and their audiences), in a way that resisted legibility to outsiders. Reactions to Soulsonic Force would have been similar, had any of hip-hop’s future bourgeois/suburban audience heard them prior to 1983. That doesn’t prevent either Thornton or Bambataa from making popular culture; in Thorton’s case by taking up a Lieber & Stoller song like “Hound Dog”, essentially a kind of minstrelsy, to romanticize her own cultural remoteness for a wider audience. The distinction isn’t rigid because certainly some of her former audience could love “Hound Dog,” and her new audience could love her earlier material, but it’s rigorous in that the diverse set of values and meanings that “the blues” acquires in the 1950s among pre-baby-boom suburban teen audiences is barely recognizable to the mostly rural adult swing-era audiences to whom Thornton and her contemporaries were writing/performing. Same goes for the way you and I likely interpreted Run DMC and Public Enemy ca 1986— which, speaking for myself and my white-and-latino peers in a rural farming town, was a kind of cultural revolution, a whole new way of understanding the world. But that worldview has little to do with the set of meanings and values that drove hip-hop’s early formations in Bronx housing projects. And yes, how the music makes the transition from one set of meanings to the other is almost always hegemonic; almost always a kind of minstrelsy. For her peers, Thornton can be a hundred things in a hundred different songs, but to become a “blues singer” (or for Redding to become a “soul singer”) the material needs to be repainted to emphasize what a popular audience wants black music to be.

In this formulation of the term “popular music,” the quaint and unilluminating categories of “folk” music and “court” music are actually in the same—sure, one might be vernacular and the other institutional, one oral and the other written, but aside from those superficial distinctions they share a reliance on conventions that are learned and reinforced in one particular social context. We can enjoy an early 17th-c French dance suite or a West Virginia fiddler’s jig without being in their native cultures, but we know they’re court music and folk music in part because we’re not in that court, not part of that folk.

Both of those “white” musics can be subordinated and repurposed in popular culture as well, as long as they are insulated from modernity (either by history, in the case of the baroque, or by class, in the case of the fiddler). It won’t surprise anyone to hear those W.Va. fiddling gestures in “popular” music (commercial country music), but now the gestures’ rhetorical power is flattened in order just to serve (again) the simpler cultural function of identity formation—the fiddler no longer suggests we should turn a dance partner, or listen for a B-section in which the step changes, the way it would register for its “folk.” Now the fiddle just says “I’m country” or “I’m nostalgic for small-town life where probably there were barn dances.” On the other hand, it might surprise you to know how many baroque ritornelli can be found in the tracks of albums by Method Man or Bone Thug n’ Harmony. Their producers aren’t as much interested in counterpoint as they are in that unmistakeable sense of the militant gothic that 18th-c counterpoint puts across almost as well as Middle-English calligraphy on a black silk-screened t-shirt. (I do hope it’s clear, by the way, that I’m NOT arguing this is equivalent to the hegemony in which contemporary black music operates.)

The relative “popularity” of this or that painter or sculptor or novelist in one era or another doesn’t qualify her as popular culture, and the relative unpopularity of a group like the Grateful Dead doesn’t disqualify them either. It’s a question of cultural function. I like to think of popular music as music that the audience injests, or maybe just wears, passively, as a badge of identity, in a way that’s indifferent to what’s expressed in the material creation of a recording or performance. In the mid-1990s, college-aged men “dress up” in ska and reggae and gangsta rap, while their younger sisters dressed up in “80s” music to launch Spears’ and Aguilera’s careers. 20 years later, those audiences’ kids are entering their own college dorms, and they flash “gangsta” signs on Facebook and listen to the exact same hip-hop that their parents did, without even realizing that it’s old. That’s how far removed they are from the moment of production. And yes, for some audiences, Beethoven and Bach even Stravinsky can be “worn” that way.

**Ben Leeds Carson: Franklin Cox wrote: “following your definition, any popular music would be hegemonial”

“if hegemony is tied to modern cultural production, then pre-modern popular musics can’t be hegemonial, or at least [not] in the same way”

Yes and yes. For me at least. I can’t really think of the term “popular culture” in a way that would be compatible with personal or community self-determination. And there’s very little use in applying the term popular culture to anything prior to the rise of the “middle class” in the 19th century.

Some exceptions of course—you see popular culture’s characteristics to some extent in the promotion of late 18th-c opera in Italy and France (and the sale of sheet music in the latter), but those exceptions prove the rule; they’re nascent formations of a bourgeois consciousness.

**Ian Pace: I’m not sure if that definition of popular music wouldn’t encompass a good deal of art music, and exclude some commercial work.

One factor insufficiently filtered into this debate is the hegemony of music sung in English.

**Ben Leeds Carson: Folk (Volk) music, as a concept, also comes into existence in the 19th c, along with nationalism and that same rise of a middle class who wants to think of itself as having an epic past (cf. J.G. von Herder). Folk, art, pop; all of these are modern pretenses that quickly evaporate when one examines pre-modern musical practices. Still, the term “folk” is meant to describe a music that’s “authentically” tied to an ethnicity and a language, and so although the term is recent, it can describe pre-modern musics. The “art music” badge, likewise, is retroactively applied to early composers whose art matters to us even though their audiences didn’t share our 19th-c sense of the term “artist.”

**Ben Leeds Carson: The term “popular culture” (and popular music) absolutely should include some art music in some of its contexts.

**Ian Pace: I wonder whether we need the term ‘popular’ at all for music. I would sooner look at the relationship to commercialism.

**Franklin Cox: Ben, the problem is that terms are coined or altered in order to deal with changes in reality, and one can’t arbitrarily declare them null and void on the basis of earlier historical practices. “Revolution” doesn’t mean “return” anymore, even though it had that meaning (“or if revolution be the same”) longer than it has the present one. The more important question for me is if terms can be clearly understood and delineate useful distinctions. I’d rather use existing terms and try to sharpen them than throw them out and try to invent a whole new set. Perhaps I’m just a bit irritable about this right now because I’ve spent a month delving into neo-Riemann terminology. This is a perfect example of chaos ensuing when a group of very bright and headstrong theorists go hogwild trying to build the perfect symbolic mousetrap.

**Ben Leeds Carson: I agree with Frank as well that commercial music and popular music are overlapping but non-identical concepts. Frank invokes commercialism to refer to standardization, mechanization, and, well, thoughtlessness; i.e. a mode of production meant to maximize profit. But surely not all popular music fits into this category, and surely it’s possible to produce a Woody Guthrie or a Beethoven CD with that in mind. We shouldn’t want any of these terms to be mutually exclusive of one another.

I think we need the term “popular” for the same reasons that Adorno and Horkheimer needed it, which is to understand that there are cultural forces at work in the music, which would be otherwise unaccountable. To substitute the term “commercial” puts emphasis on the agency of producers who seek the profits associated with music … and on the puppet strings they might hold above their audiences. That would exclude examples of independently produced music that, when popularized, impacts culture deeply in ways that profiteers couldn’t have envisioned. It wouldn’t really make sense to describe the music of Duke Ellington or Johnny Cash as “commercial” music, but they were prominent & central forces in American popular music and culture.

**Ben Leeds Carson: Frustration understood Frank, but I *think* I’m using the term “popular culture” the way that Adorno and Horkheimer used it.

Vernacular (from linguistics): arising from unlearned usage and rhetoric

Folk: music associated with a cohesive ethnic or social group, usually oral and usually “authentic” to a group in the sense that it’s insulated from modern institutional influence.

Court: music cultivated by a politically empowered group, usually to ceremonialize its power, and/or to formulate a distinction between the civilized and the uncivilized

Art: I’ll pass on defining this :)

Popular: culture whose value isn’t situated within a community, but within the mass media that connect varied audiences and communities in the modern era, mass culture separated from its means of production

Commercial: music made for commerce and profit

**Franklin Cox: Ben, maybe we’ve been arguing at cross-purposes, which is what I suspected. I was originally talking about the sort of canned pop music that has by and large taken over the popular music field. Justin Bieber, Brittany Spears, M. Cyrus, are all products. This is commercial music, plain and simple, produced in accordance to audience surveys. Adorno had a wonderful early essay form the 40’s about this process, in which a lyrics team hitches up with a songwriting team, matching word and tone to audience survey. This is all part of the field of popular music, using “popular music” purely in a pragmatic sense. But most of the time popular music can’t be reduced to commercial music, except when the entire field has lost its vibrancy. I do think that pop-rock in the US has become so formulaic now that most of the best-selling songs are pure commercial products.

**Ben Leeds Carson: Not only across purposes (perhaps) but across comment-drafts. ;)

**Ben Leeds Carson: I’d like to say, though, that I don’t think we’re in much more than a semantic disagreement. I belabored the definition of popular culture mostly to offer the perspective that, from a dialectical materialist view anyway, hegemony is pretty much built into it. I agree that commercial music is nefarious too, for reasons you’ve outlined, and minor points aside we pretty much agree that the distinction is important because the two categories are problematic in different ways.

**Franklin Cox: Indeed…I just now saw your “Popular culture is best defined not as those forms that are “most popular,” or “most successfully commercialized,” but as those forms whose meaning arises ***specifically as a result*** of its dissemination beyond the boundaries of a particular community, i.e. across subcultural and cultural distinctions and into those larger landscapes (and a plurality of “cultures”) connected by mass media.” reply, which is wonderful. Okay, I think I can buy most of this definition. My problems here are first that the culture of the nobles was constantly being disseminated beyond its community from the Middle Ages on, without any mass media to convey it. And second, mass media weren’t necessary for the success of the big Handel festivals in England in the 19th century. But I agree with the general form of the definition.

**Franklin Cox: I guess my old objection to “hegemony” returns: if it’s everywhere, then it’s nowhere specific. The term is only useful in a critical sense if one can differentiate its presence from its absence.

**Ben Leeds Carson: Thank you! I’m working on this stuff these days.

Yeah, I kind of see the dawn of the public concert series in Handel’s London, and the (even earlier) 17th-c appetite for virginal and harpsichord scores, and madrigal parts, in both England and France, as exceptional early examples of popular culture—these urban Londoners were unique on the planet at that time in that they were numerous, literate, and had disposable income, and had access to massive printings of editorial pamphlets, poetry books, and musical scores. The Messiah really was a “hit” in the sense that we use the word now.

Btw, popular music scholars usually regard the sheet music industry arising in the early 1800s as a form of mass media. In its proper history, popular music begins at that time with pirated copies of Haydn symphonies reduced and simplified for performance on spinnets and parlor pianos, sold to a growing middle class in Paris. The “parlor song” genre of Stephen Foster was on the heels of this—simplifying the idea of art music for popular consumption.

I’m not sure nobility tried to transmit its culture to serfs in Medieval Europe; I’d like to learn more about that. An argument could certainly be made that the religious and academic elite did the opposite, maintaining an elevated literature in Latin and preventing the undeserving from learning that language. There are other examples of cultural transmission, of course—Asoka spread governing and educational philosophies across thousands of miles and dozens of languages—but those processes aren’t driven by consumer demand in such a way as to qualify as hegemony.

**Ian Pace: My one question about the definition from Ben, cited by Frank: who gets to determine how such a meaning arises, or what that meaning is?

**Ben Leeds Carson: The most useful thing about the term hegemony for me, in teaching undergraduates, is to distinguish for them that they make choices as consumers that might lead to compromises in their own development and autonomy, i.e. that serve interests other than their own. But I agree… it’s definitely overused.

**Anne Ozorio: But the 19th cent choral thing was an outgrowth of religious singing which goes way back before the growth of classes not defined by agrarian values

**Ben Leeds Carson: Ian, I’m not sure we need, as academics, to say *what* the meanings of “the blues” are to one community or another, to know that they are different. Angela Davis’ book “Blues Divas” does a pretty good job, arguing from cultural context and testimony, in showing that what Bessie and Clara Smith meant, when they sang about jealousy and woman-to-woman competition, was pedagogical; i.e. meant to show black women the dangers of turning against one another in a racist society. But even if she doesn’t persuade you that those meanings arise in “Empty Bed Blues”, I think it’s clear that a chasm separates those blues singers’ early creative efforts from the hypersexual meanings broadly associated with them.

Bessie Smith was an educated Vaudeville singer who didn’t see herself as a “blues woman”…she sang the same repertoire as her white contemporaries, and then added the blues in the 1910s when W.C. Handy’s sheet music started to sell. W.C. Handy’s case was similar—he led a (non-stylistically-specific) brass band and taught music at a Louisiana College. After he realized his patrons were more likely to buy music with the word “blues” in the title, he recomposed previously published fox-trots and cake-walks with 12-bar patterns, and achieved great commercial success. (Btw, all of this was before you could get any of that on a record or over the radio.) There’s no doubt, from visual and textual evidence, that consumers of the blues were interested in finding some elemental force of nature within an unruly “negro” culture, and that artists like Handy and Smith could capitalize on that by suppressing their middle-class modern sensibilities. And let’s keep in mind that they weren’t corrupting the blues, they were inventing it. No one started recording the “authentic” delta blues guitarists until the mid 1920s, and by then (it’s widely testified), those musicians had changed *their* styles to match what Handy was doing so successfully. The “birth of the blues” is a process in which popular culture reshapes black identity from something pluralistic, multi-ethnic, and complex… into the giddy monolithic humor of a single 12-bar form.

There’s just as much evidence for similar distinctions of meaning in minstrelsy—which was *the* dominant form of American popular culture for nearly a century—and in swing (Ellington’s music was marketed as “jungle music,” meanwhile, in interviews, he questioned whether jazz should even have a categorical name to distinguish it from classical music), and of course in hip-hop. The problem is particularly acute and consistent across the two-century history of African American music, but as I’ve tried to note above, it also affects other traditions.

**Ian Pace: My point was really to do with how often, and easily, claims about ‘meaning’ are bandied about, but these can be so extremely subjective that their weight is often determined by the power and status of those claiming to identify such meaning (and this is itself another form of hegemony).

**Ben Leeds Carson: @Anne, thanks for the clarification … absolutely, madrigals and rounds have both folkloric and religious roots. I didn’t mean to argue that the genre arises because of popular culture. I’m arguing that popular culture is a phenomenon grafted onto it, which transforms what people will do with it, and how they’ll use it. Choral singing, as a musical practice, really changes when suddenly you have this literate middle class who can read parts, and can make a major family activity out of rehearsing and performing them. It encouraged this whole new vogue, in England, for comical and harmonically expressive Italian secular music, which would have been impossible to imagine before. Without music literacy and cheap printing, choral music is either passed down via an oral tradition, or it’s disseminated by religious authorities.

**Ben Leeds Carson: @Ian, I agree. Too many cultural studies scholars try to tell us that hidden meanings in popular culture portend a revolution of activist re-appropriations. Evidence is often sloppy, and some of them are even proud of that.

**Ian Pace: I’d be the last one to try and deny that music has meaning, but it is an amorphous thing (as with sculpture and architecture), and that can be a strength as well as a weakness.

**Ian Pace: The case of Bessie and Clara Smith seems to be one of intent rather than meaning. I’ve seen so many cases of popular music celebrated by those who are antipathetic to its politics as to feel this to be extremely problematic.

**Ben Leeds Carson: There is a subtle level, yes, at which differences in the way we might understand a particular recording are primarily about intent. But coupled with that is a larger level at which these artists shift, willingly (thus the term hegemony) to a whole new (and narrower) mode of expression, in order to serve a broader view of what a black singer is supposed to be.

**Ian Pace: Absolutely, but those two things are perfectly compatible with one another.

**Ben Leeds Carson: Yes! Which is why it’s so important to me that we define popular music without a sense of mutual exclusion from other categories like art and folk.

**Larson Powell: This is one of the best discussions of popular music I have ever read, thank you. Learned a lot here.

**Franklin Cox: I’ve just been reading Auerbach, and he makes the point that Boccaccio’s Decameron applied the high style traditionally applied to serious subjects to ordinary men and women, for a largely rich bourgeois audience. There is certainly a constant process of this happening throughout the middle ages. The exclusive, hermetic troubadour poetry was extended outside of this enclosed sphere by the Italian poets, and then via Petrarch was applied to the beloved throughout Europe, seeping down the social ladder. The romance followed a similar path. I would make the case that the massive production of dances in the Baroque period, seeping down from the royal courts, was another case of this. Yes, printing was a mass medium from the beginning.

**Franklin Cox: Isn’t one common factor in most of what is considered popular music a certain basic expertise in the style on the part of much of the audience for it, so that substantial amounts of it can be performed by the consumers? This certainly was the case in a fair amount of popular music in the US over the last century, from the people who leaned standards by heart to wannabe jazz performers and rock guitarists. What’s happening now with this is that the skills that people need for current commercial products have more to do with technology than with musical performance (although many people still imitate pop singers). No band on earth can get the complex textures and range of samples found in many current pop tunes; and the singers aren’t actually doing much of the vocal product we hear in the final mix, as autotune has become a standard factor in most of the pop tunes. Of course, all of this doesn’t apply as much to genres such as Country music or folkish music. I wonder if one could make a case that such amateur-level basic expertise is the norm in popular music traditions; perhaps an emphatic definition of the term would require it.

**Ben Leeds Carson: Hi Frank, yes; this is a common dynamic in popular music, dating back to the early 19th-c examples described above. In my view, there’s a tension here: you had to be able to put the notes in front of your accompanist sister or mother (usually the women were the ones cultivating music literacy), and you had to be able to sing it yourself. But the opposite constraint was just as important. There’d be no point in buying a spinnet and taking up lessons if you couldn’t feel that the whole endeavor made you in some way aristocratic; this is a definitive component of the bourgeoisie, of that distinctly middle-class consciousness that in its leisure time aspires to the culture of the ruling class. It’s for this reason that I don’t really think we need the term “popular culture” in reference to premodern societies where the phenomenon of modern class consciousness, I think we can agree, is unrecognizable.

In the 20th century, popular music goes through brief periods of over-professionalization, and there’s always a corrective reaction. Rock and roll is partly a reaction to 1940s post-swing crooners. Professional songwriters and producers of Brill-building pop and Motown beget the personal, rustic authenticity of Dylan and the Rolling Stones. The whole concept of DIY that thrived in late-70s punk, which perhaps resonates most strongly with your point here, was widely considered a reaction to disco (“disco” being an inadequate term for the professional songwriting and romantic pop sensibilities that included bands like Journey, Air Supply, Dan Fogelberg, the Carpenters) … but actually the two cultures’ rise and fall pretty much coincided. In our own generation the success of producers like Brian Eno and bands like Nirvana and U2, leading to the whole “Indy” concept in the early 90s, was largely a corrective campaign against overvalued professionalism in the synth-pop and glam metal of the late 80s.

I think these moments in which pop devotes itself to virtuosity and other displays of technical or intellectual prowess are the exception, and DIY aesthetics the rule. But this tension is nearly always present, and popular culture can never really be without both impulses: the romantic/heroic one that appeals to bourgeois ambitions, and the fundamental need for the music to have some element of participatory creativity that engenders a more “authentic” sense of ownership on the part of a non-expert audience.

**Ian Pace I’ve always thought of punk, at least the UK variant, as more a reaction to prog and heavy metal than disco. The US precedents in the form of the New York Dolls and the Ramones were somewhat different and overlapped in various ways with glam.

**Ian Pace (Also, I would need to see more evidential data to view Dylan and the Stones as a reaction to Motown)

**Ben Leeds Carson Yes, that’s right. Disco, at its core at least, is an over-maligned category, and usually misunderstood… To really grasp what punk artists in the US were reacting against, you need to broaden the definition as I did above, to include an array of sappy popular spin-offs that were only loosely connected to it.

The coexistence of these impulses is really evident when you consider the haphazardness of how we identify watershed moments in both metal and punk… from critical reactions alone it’s clear that Black Sabbath itself was arguably more on the “punk” side of the equation, with “blues” bands like Cream and the Yardbirds being seminal to the “prog” side. And Malcom McLaren’s role in both the New York Dolls’ and the Sex Pistols’ breakthrough performances should remind us just as much of professional, producer-driven boy-band pop as anything truly DIY.

**Ben Leeds Carson: Not Dylan contra Motown; Dylan contra the norms of early-1960s pop. What’s useful to consider at least in the case of Dylan is that in his prime he was praised for the perceived “authenticity” of his approach to songwriting (not only in contrast to pop, but in contrast to the norms of folk); the love songs in particular were about specific relationship experiences rather than universal ones. This was a starting point for “confessional” values in songwriting, in contrast to the notion of songs as “standards.” Although the Beatles, and Hank Williams, and countless blues artists, wrote their own material, the only artists prior to Dylan that had made a public point of //expressing themselves as individuals// in the act of writing a song were the great blues divas. John Lennon famously remarked that prior to hearing Dylan he hadn’t realized that songwriting of that sort was even possible.

So the contrast I’m drawing up here is along the lines of the professionalism/DIY distinction that Frank alludes to. I’m less confident in my sense of the Stones’ audiences’ relationship to the phenomenon, but the point isn’t that Dylan fans wanted something contrasted with Motown, it’s that they relished the idea that he was, in song form, being himself; that’s certainly in sharp contrast to Neil Sedaka, the early 60s girl groups, and anything Phil Spector or Holland and Dozier wrote in that notoriously professional period in pop from around 1958-1962.


Dealing with workplace bullying – and the tears of shame that its facilitators should weep

Bullying 1

Bullying in the workplace appears to be a growing phenomenon, and is rarely taken seriously by managements or HR departments, whose first instinct is to back the bully when they are the one with the senior position. I cannot say a lot here, but I want to share information on this subject as much as possible – the more there is an increase in awareness, the more it might be possible to increase vigilance about it.

I have known a number of bullies over the years – there are many in both music and academia – and almost without exception they are deeply inadequate people who by chance have achieved some position for which they are not really capable in any way. Instead of doing the natural and decent thing – to try and learn more and gain skills and experience on the job, and learn from and respect where possible those who may not have their position of seniority – they are ever vigilant against anyone who might see them for what they are, and want to do everything they can to destroy such people, who they perceive as threats. Overpromoted, inadequate people tend also to try and recruit in their own image, and this is one way in which a culture of bullying becomes consolidated within an institution.

All lot of the ways in which bullies work are not necessarily that explicit or obvious to outsiders, and deliberately so, so then can easily be denied, and others can deny them do when it is in their interests to do so. They work subtlely, but relentlessly, to undermine their target’s confidence and standing, belittling and humiliating them as often as possible in front of others, singling out their faults in a way they would never do with others, to create a climate of fear, setting them impossible tasks which they are bound to fail, and much more. This will often occur over a long period of time. The effect is hugely corrosive, and all workplaces should have people monitoring for this happening.

Bullying 3

Those who see it happening and exploit that situation to gain advantage for themselves, or simply allow it to happen, for it appears to be in their own interests mostly to simply ‘look after number one’. There are no tears of shame which are enough for those who take such an action. But this is common: bullying is rarely just one person against another, but a primary bully who mobilises others against someone, in a manner not unlike the head of a lynch mob or paramilitary organisation. Bullies create a toxic culture and atmosphere in any environment in which they are active; I want to say that they should simply be removed, always, but actually think that for the most part they are in serious need of help.

I have experienced sustained and vicious bullying myself, and seen it happen to others (and tried to help in the latter situations). Being in a vulnerable situation in part through work campaigning on child abuse (the personal effects of which I spoke about in an interview here), can make other forms of bullying and abuse seem all the more vivid. I remember seeing a young woman driven absolutely to the edge by a grotesque female boss who didn’t get her own way (and who had a particular hatred for intelligent younger women working under her, for all the feminist rhetoric she would spout otherwise) – the reluctance of almost anyone else to take this seriously was a disspiriting spectacle to behold, utterly consistent with everything I know now about those who see serious abuse going on in education and elsewhere, and think it most convenient to do nothing.

Bullying 4

On the basis of this experience, I would say that if you know of someone being bullied, do the following:

(a) offer them help and support as much as you can.
(b) emphasise emphatically that person’s qualities, skills, abilities, and anything good about them, and tell others this. What bullies try to do is destroy someone’s self-esteem, to the point where they feel utterly worthless.
(c) under all circumstances that might arise, refuse to interact with the bully, and make sure they are called out for what they are publicly. Shame and exposure are what bullies most fear.
(d) point bullying victims in the direction of resources and information – realising one’s experiences are far from unique can be empowering.

Here is a list compiled by Stop Workplace Bullies on some of the symptoms of bullying, some of which are very familiar:

Bullying In The Workplace Can Cause Injury to health and makes you ill. How many of these symptoms do you have?

* constant high levels of stress and anxiety
* frequent illness such as viral infections especially flu and glandular fever, colds, coughs, chest, ear, nose and throat infections (stress plays havoc with your immune system)
* aches and pains in the joints and muscles with no obvious cause; also back pain with no obvious cause and which won’t go away or respond to treatment
* headaches and migraines
* tiredness, exhaustion, constant fatigue
* sleeplessness, nightmares, waking early, waking up more tired than when you went to bed
* flashbacks and replays, obsessiveness, can’t get the bullying out of your mind
* irritable bowel syndrome
* skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis, athlete’s foot, ulcers, shingles, urticaria
* poor concentration, can’t concentrate on anything for long
* bad or intermittently-functioning memory, forgetfulness, especially with trivial day-to-day things
* sweating, trembling, shaking, palpitations, panic attacks
* tearfulness, bursting into tears regularly and over trivial things
* uncharacteristic irritability and angry outbursts
* hypervigilance (feels like but is not paranoia), being constantly on edge
* hypersensitivity, fragility, isolation, withdrawal
* reactive depression, a feeling of weakness, lethargy, hopelessness, anger, futility and more
* shattered self-confidence, low self-worth, low self-esteem, loss of self-love, etc
* overwhelming fatigue
* pains in the joints and muscles with no obvious cause
* occasional bursts of energy, followed by exhaustion and joint/muscle pain
* inability to concentrate
* poor recall, words, sentence construction, etc
* mood swings, including anger and depression
* difficulty in learning new information
* sense imbalances, in smell, taste and appetite
* dislike of loud noises and bright lights
* inability to control body temperature
* sleep disturbance (sleeping by day and waking at night)
* disturbance of balance
* clumsiness, eg unable to grasp small objects, inability to separate sheets of paper

There is much information available online on bullying, and I would especially recommend this book.

Bully in Sight

Two excellent article I read recently are here and here; here is the UK government’s page on the subject, and here is an important site dealing with legal resources available to victims of workplace bullying. Another valuable sites is this, whilst this NHS resource suggests signs that one is being bullied (not all realise it at first), as does this guide.

Above all, it is the bully who needs help, and perhaps to leave the workplace, not their target.


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