To classical music abuse survivors – please do let me or the Home Office know of your wishes for the inquiry

I will be attending the meeting about the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse at the Home Office on Monday December 8th, to accompany a survivor from a music school. This meeting is one of several to consult with abuse survivors and their representatives on their wishes for the national inquiry (here is an account of the meeting which took place at the end of October).

The website for the inquiry is here – this includes details of the Terms of Reference for the inquiry, the panel, and various other factors.

Amongst the major issues which have come up are whether the inquiry is to be statutory and judge-led, thus having statutory powers to demand evidence from institutions, where the cut-off point should be (at present the inquiry plans to look at events from 1970 onwards, but have indicated they may be prepared to go back further), and of course which institutions are to be considered.

I believe that the Home Secretary are serious about really listening to what survivors want from this inquiry, and what aspects will make them feel safe about participating, in the sense of being prepared to speak to the panel about their own experiences and other information. This may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance for such an inquiry, and I have good reason to believe that the panel may seriously look into abuse in musical education.

With this in mind, I want to call upon all survivors either to let me know of their wishes in this respect (either by posting here, under a pseudonym if desired, or e-mailing me on ), preferably before Monday, or to contact directly the Director of Safeguarding at the Home Office, John O’Brien, at I assure everyone who contacts me (and they can e-mail me at ) that confidentiality will be absolutely respected, but also that I will forward their wishes as they stand. The important thing is that the Home Office and the Inquiry Secretariat hear what you think, not just what I have to say.

Some survivors and organisations have indicated their intention to withdraw from participation (see this open letter). Whilst having immense respect for some of the signatories of this, and sharing some of their concerns, I do believe that constructive, critical engagement is the better option. We have come a long way in getting this far, and I would worry that if the inquiry ends up being postponed until after the general election, its future may be in jeopardy. I am prepared to believe the view of Labour MP Tom Watson that his political opponent, the Home Secretary Theresa May, is committed to this inquiry and getting to the truth, unlike some of her political colleagues. I was very impressed at the last meeting I attended and want to encourage people in the classical music world to participate and make their views known.

9 Comments on “To classical music abuse survivors – please do let me or the Home Office know of your wishes for the inquiry”

  1. Loud applause – and the very best of good luck!

    Vast thanks for all that you’ve done up to this point and for your courage and determination to continue to see it all through to the very best of your considerable ability, come what “May”…

  2. I do feel that heading this up as ‘To Classical music survivors’ is almost as inappropriate as abuse itself. What has classical music done per se that needs to be ‘survived’? Surely you mean survivors of abuse full stop. The fact they may have largely been studying music from the Western Classical tradition is irrelevant.

    • You misunderstand the meaning entirely; “survivors of classical music” is not, of course, what’s meant but survivors of abuse who have experienced such abuse as a direct consequence of involvement in “classical music”!

      Good grief – I’d have thought that this was plainly obvious…

      • I’m afraid the title sounds more like a tabloid newspaper heading read as it stands. It may be obvious to us but not to the casual reader. I would have thought that precise words in these issues would be of the greatest importance. Otherwise what else is incorrect?

        • Well, that’s not how I read it – but perhaps that’s because I don’t customarily read “tabloid newspapers” or perhaps because I am linguistically challenged in English (well, I am a Scotsman, so maybe it’s that)…

          One point here is that, unless and until it’s drawn to the attention of those “casual readers”, many such readers might well be unlikely to credit the association of the “respectable” world of “classical music” with the systematic and widespread abuse and its wilful concealment that has blemished numerous educational establishments that specialse in such music or in which such music features strongly so, for that very reason alone, the title seems to me to be apposite.

          That said, given the gravity of the subject and the dire need for a full and unfettered public inquiry into it, of what importance is quibbling about titles?

  3. I’m afraid it’s everything. Why should be people innocently following a career path in classical music be smeared in this way. Ian Pace’s articles are now making broad assertions about the whole industry that would see any journalist shot down in flames if they followed this path. I could list the various generalisations and smears but let’s just start with a word like survivor. The word is imprecise and carries so much baggage it immediately discredits the author.

    • Ian Pace says:

      The term survivor is now commonly used for those who have experienced sexual or other abuse, as you will see if you read practically any newspaper nowadays (as there are so many related stories).

      Considering that you think some things ‘would see any journalist shot down in flames if they followed this path’, it must be strange that more than a few journalists have wanted to quote these types of ideas at length. I do not seek any credit there, but it is wrong to think this strand of opinion is off-limits to journalists.

  4. Since having my attention to drawn to articles published here and linked through The Spectator to Geoff Baker’s book on El Sistema my concerns are raised almost as much about what appears to be a McCarthy style witch hunt that presumes all classical musicians guilty until proved innocent. There are casual asides here about Dudamel and others implying they share some kind of guilt for being in the profession at all.
    Baker seems highly motivated to bring down El Sistema’s reputation and both you and he have now attempted to link the abuse in the UK with alleged similar activities in Venezuela. Doubtless there are such things. Venezuela is not Richmond on Thames! I sense a campaign to bring these institutions down based on little or no evidence. This simply will not do. By all means publish data on convicted individuals but it is not acceptable to prosecute a wide ranging campaign through hearsay and smears. By this route you lose all credibility.

    • Was the above written before or after you read Baker’s work? Indeed, have you read it? and, if so, are you in a position to point out all – or at least some – of the flaws in his research? (I’m not asking you to do that here – merely to answer the questions with yes or no).

      It seems to me that the risk that he and OUP would have taken in publishing something like this would be immense if based upon insufficient and/or flawed evidence; no publisher of reupte would dream of doing so if it didn’t feel 100% confident in the veracity of the contents and the quality and thoroughness of the research that went into it.

      Yes, it’s very depressing to learn of this and of course we’d all wish that none of it were true, but if it does turn out to be nothing more than an unjustified and indefensible smear campaign, heads will undoubtedly roll; that hardly seems likely.

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