The IICSA Report into Residential Schools – material on specialist music schools and some initial thoughts – Part 2

This post continues from that which I posted earlier this week following the publication of the IICSA Report into Residential Schools, including specialist music schools. This received fairly widespread coverage in the UK media, with reports in the Guardian, Independent, Telegraph, Manchester Evening News, and for the BBC (here and here), ITV and Sky News. A direct overview from the inquiry itself can be read here.

In the earlier post I linked to an earlier post of my own giving links to the videos and transcripts of the evidence given to the inquiry over three days in Autumn 2019. This transcript is especially key for Chetham’s, and includes my own evidence, while this transcript is particularly important in relation to the Purcell School.


I have added an extra passage at the end of the previous blog post, which I will also include here, on the role of educational guardians in residential schools, referencing a specific recent example involving Chetham’s:

Educational guardians
14. International students whose parents are not in the UK need an educational guardian if they attend a British boarding school in order to obtain the relevant visa. Educational guardians act in place of the parents while the child is in the UK, supporting the child throughout their studies and providing a home for them during holidays or weekends. He or she may be an individual appointed by the parents, such as a family member or a friend of the family, or the parents may use the services of an agency to provide an educational guardian.

15. Educational guardians are unregulated. There is no statutory licence, compulsory registration or training required for individuals or companies wishing to provide educational guardian services. If an educational guardian is appointed by a parent, the guardian is not required to comply with any standards or to obtain a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate, and the school is not required to carry out any checks. This means that individuals who are unsuitable to work with children, or even those who have criminal convictions for child sexual abuse, can be appointed as educational guardians.

16. Currently, the NMS for boarding schools permit a member of school staff to be appointed as the educational guardian of an international student, although some schools do not permit this. As Ms Richards told us, school staff acting as educational guardians blurs boundaries, with the potential to cause problems or to prevent problems surfacing. At Chetham’s in the late 1990s, for example, violin tutor Wen Zhou Li was the educational guardian of a 16-year-old girl whom he sexually abused while she was residing with him during weekends and school holidays. In 2013, shortly after the arrest of Wen Zhou Li, ISI inspectors found that there was another staff member at the school who was acting as an educational guardian to a student.


Part E of the report deals with how allegations are responded to, and the role of the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) (a role introduced in 2006 to deal with allegations of abuse against children), also referencing the 2021 report Keeping Children Safe in Education (a modification of earlier reports of the same name). Various types of allegations should be referred to the LADO by a headteacher or chair of governors if the allegations involve the former, but the decision on whether the criteria are met is for one of these individuals to determine. This latter aspect has created a grey area with some headteachers claiming they were unsure whether the threshold was met. The LADO then involves police and social care, but does not investigate themselves. If they believe that an investigation by these bodies is unnecessary, they discuss how to proceed with the ‘case manager’ (usually the headteacher), leading either to further enquiries or no further action. If the former, they negotiate with the school about the nature of the investigation and who would carry it out. If an investigation finds that an allegation is substantiated with sufficient evidence, then the case manager and the LADO should meet to determine any improvements required to prevent such things in the future.

Most ambiguity seems to surround ‘low-level concerns’, which can include the use of ‘inappropriate sexualised, intimidating or offensive language.’ (p. 83) Policies are required to clarify the procedure here, and the inquiry noted that ‘Evidence was provided by residential special schools and some residential specialist music schools which had put in place procedures for reporting low-level concerns’ (p. 84). It also notes the following example of good practice:

At Wells Cathedral School, Mrs Helen Bennett, the DSL from 2006 to 2016, encouraged all staff to report any concerns about staff behaviour to her. She kept detailed notes of these concerns in a confidential file and reviewed these regularly to identify any patterns of behaviour. Mrs Bennett was able to discuss concerns with the headteacher and deputy headteacher who could take appropriate action with the staff member concerned. When Mrs Bennett retired in 2016, Wells Cathedral School continued the system, introducing an online neutral notification form to enable recording and cross-referencing of concerns. (p. 85)

This is however in contrast to the failures of an earlier case at the same school:

However, it should be noted that a low-level concerns policy may not prevent child sexual abuse by a determined perpetrator. At Wells Cathedral School, staff reported low-level concerns about the conduct of Julien Bertrand to the safeguarding lead and the senior leadership team over a period of two years. Bertrand was spoken to on several occasions and given an informal warning and reminded of the importance of boundaries and the school rules, but this did not deter Bertrand, who continued to sexually abuse RS-A202 until the abuse was disclosed to a trusted adult in 2005. (p. 86)



In the following section of Part E of the report, the Michael Brewer case (specifically that which led to his departure from the school) is referenced as an example of the problems inherent in the lack of a staff code of conduct, even after Brewer had left:

At Chetham’s School of Music, the headteacher introduced a staff code of conduct in 1995 following the resignation of the director of music, Michael Brewer, who had been conducting an abusive sexual relationship with a sixth-form pupil. Prior to Brewer’s resignation, there had been no code of conduct or other document setting out guidance and expectations regarding staff interactions with pupils. The staff code of conduct drafted in 1995 was not clear or specific regarding appropriate behaviour with students. Statutory guidance published in 1995 suggested that it may be “helpful” for schools to draw up a code of conduct in consultation with the local authority but it was not mandatory. KCSIE 2021 now requires schools to have a staff code of conduct, so that the boundaries of acceptable behaviour with children are made clear. A low-level concerns/neutral notification policy relies on the existence of a staff code of conduct to set out acceptable behaviour. (pp. 87-88)


In the case of the Purcell School, a major problem was the lack of proper recording of allegations against staff:

During Mr Peter Crook’s time as headteacher of The Purcell School for Young Musicians (the Purcell School), 2007–2011, there was poor recording of allegations against staff. In January 2009, an allegation of sexual abuse of a student by RS-F20, a staff member at the Purcell School, was referred to the LADO from outside the school. The LADO found that the allegation was unfounded and it was referred back to the school. A very similar allegation was made against RS-F20 in 2014, but no records of the 2009 allegation could be found at the school. Guidance at the time required a “clear and comprehensive summary of any allegations made, details of how the allegation was followed up and resolved, and a note of any action taken and decisions reached”, to be kept on the personnel file for at least 10 years or until the individual reached retirement age. In October 2009, Mr Crook found a member of staff, RS-F80, alone with a pupil, RS-A192, on the school field in the dark. Mr Crook arranged for RS-F80 to receive further safeguarding training but did not make a note of the incident and the action taken until RS-A192 disclosed in May 2010 that she had been sexually abused by RS-F80 on that occasion and had been in an abusive relationship with RS-F80 over several months. (p. 88)


However, some better practice appears to have been followed in 2010:

In May 2010, at the Purcell School, RS-A187, a sixth-form pupil aged under 18, disclosed to a non-teaching member of staff that she had been in an inappropriate sexual relationship with a member of staff for several months. RS-A187 spoke to several other members of staff and telephoned Childline before the headteacher and DSL were made aware two days later, when the school notified the LADO of the allegation. Statutory guidance required allegations to be reported straight away to the headteacher, in order for the headteacher to make a referral to the LADO. (p. 89)


Nonetheless, the case involving the headteacher himself, Peter Crook, laid bare the failings of a system to protect whistleblowing, a subject to which I will return in my conclusion. Those reporting abuse, sexual harassment, sexist or racist behaviours, or other comparable things will often find that those above them wish to make them into the issue.

55. In 2009 to 2010, staff at the Purcell School reported concerns to the chair of governors that the headteacher, Peter Crook, used sexually explicit and inappropriate language with children at the school. The concerns included a meeting that Mr Crook conducted with the Year 9 boys who boarded, held at his private residence on a Sunday evening, which he later suggested was a personal, social and health education (PSHE) class in response to an incident of sexualised bullying in a boarding house. Ms Margaret Moore, a teacher, reported her concerns about the ‘PSHE class’ anonymously to the chair of governors, Mr Graham Smallbone, because she had “a genuine fear of reprisal by the headmaster”. Twenty-five members of staff then sent an anonymous letter as the “Staff Association” to Mr Smallbone stating that this incident “is only one of a number of disturbing interactions between the Headmaster and Purcell students on the subject of human sexuality” and concluding that it was an issue which concerned “children at risk”. The letter was sent anonymously for fear of reprisal by the school. Mr Smallbone told the Inquiry that he did not take any action because the whistleblowers wished to remain anonymous. Mr Smallbone discussed the complaints with Mr Crook but did not refer any complaints to the LADO, despite guidance in place at the time requiring a referral to be made to the local authority without discussing the allegation with the person concerned.

56. Following Mr Smallbone’s failure to refer the allegations to the LADO, staff members reported a number of incidents anonymously to Ofsted and the local authority. The local authority found one allegation substantiated in July 2009 and advised that the headteacher should face disciplinary action. The local authority also advised that the ‘PSHE class’ was not an appropriate or sufficient response to bullying and that Mr Crook had breached “appropriate boundaries between staff and students” but concluded that there had been no intent to harm children and therefore that allegation was “unfounded”. The local authority did not appear to have considered whether the incident indicated that the headteacher may have been unsuitable to work with children, although this was a criteria for referral in the statutory guidance at the time but it did advise that the language used was inappropriate and should be dealt with through internal disciplinary procedures.

57. Mr Smallbone told the Inquiry that the staff members who reported the concerns about the headteacher were whistleblowers but that he nevertheless considered that “it would have been totally wrong to discipline the headmaster and not the members of staff”. The LADO advised Mr Smallbone that disciplining the whistleblowers would be disproportionate and reminded him that staff must be able to challenge poor practice.

58. Although staff were attempting to follow procedures and raise safeguarding concerns about the headteacher with the chair of governors, their concerns were not dealt with properly, despite the fact that the 2007 statutory guidance required schools to have appropriate whistleblowing procedures in place. There was an attempt to stifle the reporting of concerns internally and to characterise them to external bodies as malicious attempts to undermine the headteacher, who was making changes to the school which were unpopular with some staff. Suspected whistleblowers were required to attend an “intimidating” meeting with governors.


The failures here and lack of action are then summarised as follows:

59. Schools have not always carried out disciplinary investigations or taken appropriate disciplinary action when a LADO refers a case back to them. Mr Crook was never made the subject of any internal disciplinary sanction for incidents of inappropriate conversation with children at the school. During the same period, in 2009, an allegation of a staff member engaging in sexual activity with a student was referred to the LADO from outside the Purcell School. The student would not support a prosecution. The allegation was considered by the strategy meeting to be “unfounded” (“this indicated that the person making the allegation misinterpreted the incident or was mistaken about what they saw …. For an allegation to be classified as unfounded it will be necessary to have evidence to disprove the allegation”) and referred back to the school as an internal matter to address “unsafe practice”. The staff member had admitted to police that his relationship with the student was “too close” and that he had hugged and kissed the student on the cheek after rehearsals at his house. Although the original allegation was considered unfounded, the school had information that a teacher had acted inappropriately, which should have given rise to a disciplinary investigation.

60. The current headteacher at the Purcell School, Mr Paul Bambrough, noted that in such circumstances it would be helpful to have further guidance from the LADO on how to proceed following an allegation being handed back to the school. This is another area where schools are reliant on the LADO. Currently there is considerable variation between LADOs in terms of the time dedicated to helping schools once allegations are referred back to them.


Part F considers the nature of leadership and governance in schools in England (Wales is dealt with in a separate section, which is not strictly relevant to this post, as none of the specialist music schools are located there). The report focuses on the role of the headteacher and the designated safeguarding lead as holding primary responsibilities. In the case of specialist music schools, the report might have also noted the key position of the Director of Music, which in some cases can be almost as powerful as the headteacher, and usually has a more intimate and regular relationship with the music teachers (as the headteacher has often not been a musician themselves). But this role and its relationship to the headteacher has come under some question in recent times: for a period from 2013 the Purcell School abolished the role of Director of Music (though it was recreated again in 2018), while in 2020, following the retirement of former headteacher Alun Jones, Chetham’s created a joint headship shared between the existing Director of Music and Deputy Head.

The report notes the lack of any statutory governance requirements (such as a board of governors) for independent schools, with some overseen by a sole proprietor. While proprietors and governors are themselves required to undergo checks from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), Her Majest’s Chief Inspector for Education, Skills and Children’s Services, Ms Amanda Spielman, believes these are insufficient. It would be interesting to consider, had any equivalent to the DBS (or its predecessor, the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA), working together with the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), from 2002) been in place, in the 1980s, whether this would have prevented Robert Waddington, former Dean of Manchester Cathedral, against whom many allegations of abuse have been made (in which context IICSA in an earlier report were sharply critical of a lack of action on the part of the Church of England), becoming a governor of Chetham’s from 1984 to 1993, including during the time of disclosures of abuse in 1990 against Chris Ling, who left the country. Unfortunately the IICSA report makes no reference to Waddington, and a governing body containing someone for whom all evidence points to his being an abuser himself, but this subject is mention in Fiona Gardiner’s book Sex, Power, Control: Responding to Abuse in the Institutional Church

The report emphasises the role of headteachers in creating a positive culture of safeguarding, but also how this was lacking in most of the schools examined, through poor policies and procedures, inadequate implementation of these, lack of clear staff codes of conduct, inadequate safeguarding training, insufficient awareness by leaders of risks or the signs of abuse or inappropriate behaviour, insular and inward-looking schools with little internal or external accountability, treating allegations as a reputational rather than a child protection concern, discrediting of children who complain, a lack of concern about sexual activity between staff and students, and a general culture discouraging parents, children or staff members from complaining (p. 102). All of these factors were certainly at play at Chetham’s during the period when the maximum abuse occurred, and it would appear for a long period at many of the other SMSs too. John Vallins, headteacher at Chetham’s between 1974 and 1992 (the report wrongly claims he was head from 1970) gave evidence to the inquiry, and seemed to many to whom I spoke to have communicated a sense of being aloof, complacent, and little prepared to engage with the gravity of what had occurred under his watch. The report says the following:

In this investigation, there were examples of headteachers who found it inconceivable that staff might abuse their position of authority to abuse children. Mr John Vallins, headteacher of Chetham’s School of Music (Chetham’s) between 1970 and 1992, assumed the instrumental teachers were “admirable people with absolutely right relationships with their pupils” and that extra tuition outside of school hours was a “splendid aspiration”. There was a failure to recognise that such occasions were potential opportunities for abuse and therefore no safeguards were put in place to minimise such risks and to protect pupils. (p. 103)


At Purcell, Peter Crook’s priority appears to have been to protect teachers against allegations. If such allegations are false, this is indeed a paramount concern, but Crook does not seem to have considered seriously also attempting to ensure that credible accusations were taken seriously:

Mr Peter Crook, headteacher of The Purcell School for Young Musicians (the Purcell School) from 2007 to 2011, drafted a document on safer working practice in 2009 which he presented as being designed to protect staff from allegations which could be made by pupils “of unsound mind”. In the document, Mr Crook described adolescents as sometimes unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality and informed staff that pupils therefore may “present a danger, even to the most careful of teachers”. Although the document was described as a draft for discussion, it may have given rise to the inference that pupils were inherently unreliable and not worthy of belief, and that allegations against staff were likely to be false. Mr Crook subsequently told police investigating a staff member, RS-F80, for sexual offences against a pupil that he did not believe the girl and that her allegation was based on fantasy and exaggeration. It was wrong for Mr Crook to seek to undermine the credibility
of his pupil in this way. (p. 104)


The action of Peter Hullah, Vallins’ successor as headteacher at Chetham’s, working primarily to protect the reputation of the school after Michael Brewer’s relationship with a sixth-form student was discovered, is viewed no more favourably:

On occasion, when allegations of child sexual abuse arose, headteachers moved to protect the reputation of the school rather than the welfare of victims and other children at the school. In 1994, Michael Brewer, the director of music at Chetham’s, resigned after his inappropriate relationship with a sixth-form student was discovered by the headteacher, Mr Peter Hullah. The headteacher suggested that it would be publicly announced that Brewer had taken early retirement on the grounds of ill health, in order to preserve the reputation of the school and its director of music. Brewer went on to work with young people in the National Youth Choir. No external agencies were notified of the circumstances of Brewer’s departure. (p. 104)


In this context, the report also noted that:

The Charity Commission told the Inquiry that some independent schools see their reputation as being of paramount importance and that this has unduly influenced the handling of safeguarding matters by some charity trustees. (p. 104)


At Purcell, the sort of leadership required to protect children was clearly lacking under Peter Crook, as established by an independent report:

As the leader of the school, the headteacher has to be a role model to staff and students, and must embody the values of the school. The headteacher must demonstrate a commitment to safeguarding and adhere to the same rules and boundaries as other staff. An independent review of safeguarding practice at the Purcell School in 2019 found that Mr Crook, headteacher from 2007 to 2011, “did not provide a good role model”. The review concluded that, under the leadership of Mr Crook, the school “did not have a culture of safeguarding”, “safeguarding was not well understood” and “the attitude of senior leaders was complacent”. Mr Paul Bambrough took over as headteacher of the Purcell School in 2018. He said that the high turnover of staff in the headteacher role over the previous 10 years meant the school had no clear identity or idea of its function. Mr Bambrough sought to develop the safeguarding culture and ethos of the school by ensuring that everyone in the school was aware that the “overriding priority is to ensure that all students in the school are safe, happy and healthy”. He considered that consistency in messaging from the headteacher was of central importance in facilitating a safeguarding culture. (p. 104)


The report however considered Wells to have a better approach to such things, at least according to their own account:

Openness and transparency are key to a protective environment. Schools with a strong safeguarding culture responded promptly and appropriately to allegations and concerns, including complaints about non-recent incidents. Wells Cathedral School said that in the aftermath of allegations or safeguarding concerns, it cooperated with external agencies and reflected on opportunities to learn from mistakes in order to improve safeguarding arrangements in the school. (p. 105)


A little later in the section, the report considers further the role of governors and the need for them to act as a check on headteachers, which was not the case at Purcell:

Evidence from the schools examined showed that far from encouraging challenge from governors, some headteachers were resistant to scrutiny, while some governing bodies lacked the ability to challenge school leaders. In some cases, such as at Clifton College and at the Purcell School, governors simply ‘rubber-stamped’ the decisions of the headteacher or failed to address shortcomings in the safeguarding practice of the school, even when these issues had been identified by external safeguarding professionals. (p. 107)


In the case of both Chetham’s and Purcell, there was further reason to believe the governing body negligent in terms of their responsibilities in this respect:

42. The Inquiry heard that at many of the schools examined governors did not monitor the effective implementation of safeguarding arrangements through the scrutiny of safeguarding incidents which arose at the school. This was the case at Chetham’s prior to 2013 and at the Purcell School during the tenure of Mr Graham Smallbone as chair of governors from 1998 to 2010.

43. The local authority’s inspection report on Chetham’s in 2013 found there was little evidence that the governing body had held the school to account to ensure that safeguarding arrangements were “implemented, applied robustly, monitored appropriately, or evaluated effectively”. The ISI also inspected Chetham’s in 2013 and found that there was inadequate oversight of the safeguarding arrangements at the school. The governing body had no means of monitoring the implementation or effectiveness of safeguarding policies and procedures, for example by sampling cases which occurred at the school. In response to the ISI’s findings, the school endeavoured to improve transparency and accountability by creating new formal structures for the oversight of safeguarding. A dedicated safeguarding committee was established within the school’s governing body. It received anonymised reports of all safeguarding incidents which arose at the school, to ensure the school’s policies and procedures were complied with in practice and to enable assessment of the effectiveness of the school’s safeguarding processes. (p. 108)


The role of the Chair of Governors, Graham Smallbone, comes under further harsh scrutiny:

53. The Inquiry heard detailed evidence about governance issues at the Purcell School, where the chair of governors did not deal appropriately with concerns reported by staff about the headteacher, failed to hold the headteacher to account for his inappropriate behaviour, failed to refer matters of concern to the LADO and did not engage transparently with external bodies.

54. In the 2009/10 school year, the chair of governors, Mr Smallbone, was made aware of a number of complaints and concerns regarding the conduct of the headteacher, Mr Crook, in relation to inappropriate conversations with pupils. Mr Smallbone discussed the complaints with Mr Crook but did not refer any complaints to the LADO. Several direct referrals were made by whistleblowers on the school staff and in July 2009 the local authority found one allegation against the headteacher to be substantiated. It was referred back to the school so that the board of governors could take disciplinary action against Mr Crook but in September 2009 Mr Smallbone asked the LADO to reconsider the outcome of the case. It was inappropriate of him to question the outcome or ask the LADO to reconsider it. Mr Crook said that he was never informed by the chair of governors or anyone else that an allegation against him had been substantiated.

55. Mr Smallbone also heard a recording of Mr Crook speaking to Year 9 boys using language which Mr Smallbone described to the Inquiry as “absolutely unacceptable”, although he had previously told the governing body it was “very good with only very minor exceptions”. An independent review commissioned by the governing body in 2009 considered that Mr Crook had used inappropriate language with pupils and recommended that Mr Crook be given a formal final warning and placed on probation. The local authority had also recommended that disciplinary action be taken. Mr Smallbone declined to follow these recommendations to take disciplinary measures against Mr Crook but assured the local authority that disciplinary action had been taken. An independent review commissioned by the current headteacher of the Purcell School concluded in 2019 that the failure to discipline Mr Crook was a misjudgement on the part of the chair of governors and that he failed to properly hold the headteacher to account for inappropriate conduct.

56. Staff at the Purcell School at the time perceived that governors lacked accountability for their failure to hold the headteacher to account. Ms Margaret Moore, a whistleblower at the school during the headship of Mr Crook, told the Inquiry: “the governors ultimately, in that independent school, were in control, and they could do and say what they wanted to”. (pp. 110-111)

The final passage relating to SMSs in this section of the report does acknowledge some positive actions taken by Chetham’s after a critical report on safeguarding in 2013:

Independent school governors are not accountable to the local authority or to the Department for Education in how they exercise their oversight role. Such schools may choose to create an additional oversight mechanism to monitor the effectiveness of the governing body. After Chetham’s failed to meet safeguarding standards in 2013, in addition to creating a sub-committee of the governing body to monitor safeguarding at the school, an Independent Safeguarding Commission was established by the school, composed of individuals who were independent of the school and its governing body. The Independent Safeguarding Commission’s role was to have independent oversight of the safeguarding arrangements at the schools and to scrutinise the safeguarding committee of the governing body. It could request reports from the safeguarding committee and could also invite staff with safeguarding roles to present reports and answer questions regarding safeguarding at the school. (p. 112)


The next section looks in detail at existing and projected requirements in terms of safeguarding training for staff, and the need to renew these. Once again, Wells was cited as an example of good practice:

Effective training goes beyond the minimum of ensuring staff have read and understood the relevant parts of KCSIE and the school policies and procedures. Staff should have a clear understanding of the safeguarding risks which could arise in their school and how to be alert to signs of abuse. Mrs Helen Bennett, the former DSL of Wells Cathedral School, explained that she adapted and supplemented the training materials provided by the local authority to address particular aspects of a residential music school and used real-life examples to emphasise the importance of safeguarding: “I just didn’t really hold back on the dangers that were out there”. Mrs Bennett said that face-to-face training took place on a frequent basis, with training sessions tailored to different staff roles, including ancillary staff such as boarding house cleaners, “to keep child protection and safeguarding a bit of a buzz in the school, because I wanted people to be part of a team. I wanted everybody to be involved”. (p. 116)


This was in sharp contrast to Purcell under Peter Crook:

Mr Peter Crook, former headteacher of The Purcell School for Young Musicians, said that he did not receive any training from the DSL, and considered that he kept up to date with safeguarding by reading bulletins from the professional associations of which he was a member. Evidence showed that he lacked the safeguarding knowledge and awareness that would be expected of a headteacher. (p. 116)


The report also considers the lack of any special requirements in terms of training for those working in boarding schools, and concludes that these are needed. I would add that there should be extra forms of training for all involved in teaching music, because of the specific dangers there (the same may apply to dance, though with different specific dangers). (p. 118) It also the need for governors to have mandatory training and for there to be a standardised safeguarding course for these and proprietors. (pp. 120-122).


The following part of the report, on the role of inspections of schools, makes further reference to Chetham’s and Purcell:

31. During the 2013 inspection of Chetham’s School of Music, the headteacher, Ms Claire Moreland, initially failed to declare that a member of staff, Wen Zhou Li, had been arrested for non-recent sexual offences against a pupil only two or three weeks before the inspection. The ISI had been given this information by the local authority which was conducting an inspection at the same time and therefore knew to press the headteacher on this point. This illustrates both the extent to which the inspectorates are reliant on headteachers telling the truth and the importance of information-sharing.

32. In 2009, at The Purcell School for Young Musicians, there was a concerted effort by the chair of governors, Mr Graham Smallbone, to manage and downplay the safeguarding concerns that had been raised in respect of the headteacher to Ofsted, despite an allegation against the headteacher being found to be substantiated by the local authority. The inspector recorded that, after meeting with the chair of governors, she “felt very confident that the issues are being addressed appropriately and effectively by the governing body”. The Ofsted report did not address the fact that the local authority had been notified of concerns by whistleblowers on the school staff who had no confidence in the safeguarding regime at the school. The report stated that “There has been a small but effective element within the staff team which has actively undermined the headteacher and the school”. This was not a fair or accurate representation of the actions of whistleblowers on the school staff. The inspectors were too ready to accept the assertions of the chair of governors.


The final relevant section of the report is that on conclusions and recommendations. The most relevant aspects are as follows:

  • The dangers of sexual abuse in boarding schools are especially acute, are not addressed in current statutory guidance and standards, and the problem is heightened for those whose parents are overseas.
  • There are many cases of poor leadership, especially on the part of headteachers, and governance, while there are too few checks on independent schools.
  • Statutory training does not involve minimum standards, leading to inconsistency, nor does it address the particular needs of certain types of schools.
  • There should be a single inspectorate body (currently there are two), and better sharing of information between different parts of the system (schools, local, authorities, DBS, etc.). This would also address cases where school leaders do not disclose all the necessary information.
  • DBS checks do not make enhanced certificates compulsory for supervised volunteers, for whom the system is in general too loose.
  • Recruitment decisions have been made without full and proper assessment of relevant information.
  • The Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) does not deal with those doing work such as being cover supervisors or teaching assistants, and should do.

As for recommendations to the Department of Education and the Welsh Government, the relevant ones are as follows:

  • A new duty for boarding schools to inform the relevant inspectorate of allegations of sexual abuse and other serious incidents, with professional/regulatory consequences for breach of this.
  • A system of licensing and registration of educational guardians, with DBS checks.
  • National standards for LADOs, and clarification that they can be contacted for informal advice too.
  • Modification of governance standards within the Independent School Standards, involving external scrutiny, transparency and honesty, and forbidding a proprietor to be a safeguarding lead.
  • Standards for independent schools to be brought in line with those for free schools or early years provision.
  • National standards for safeguarding training, mandatory for headteachers, safeguarding leads and safeguarding governors.
  • Schools to be required to inform the relevant inspectorate if they have referred a staff member to DBS, TRA or Education Workforce Council.
  • More guidance for supervised volunteers working with children, and ensuring DBS checks are free of charge to them.

Questions of mandatory reporting, support for victims and survivors, and vetting and barring will be revisited in IICSA’s final overall report, to be published later this year.

These may all seem quite general, and few of them specific to music schools, but nonetheless are all important developments. Overall, the report goes much further than any previous document in placing in the public domain a good deal of information relating to grievous past errors, neglect, complacency or even corruption such as has allowed abusers to act with relative impunity in a range of settings. I know from speaking to a range of survivors how important it is for much of this to be made public by a goverment-appointed body, in terms of clearly laying the issue of the responsibility not only with the abusers themselves, but also the institutions which failed to protect these survivors from them when children. There is absolutely no reason for any such survivors to ‘blame themselves’, as unfortunately the earlier processes of obfuscation, cover-up and denial on the part of the institutions have encouraged.

I believe various individuals deeply implicated in this ought to make some statement of their own, at the very least to acknowledge the severity of what has happened – in particular John Vallins, Peter Hullah and Clare Moreland, all former head teachers at Chetham’s, and Peter Crook and Graham Smallbone from Purcell. As was recounted in a piece for the LRB Blog by Laura Newey written soon after the IICSA hearings, one attendant there was incensed by Vallins’ testimony, claiming not to know about the abuse going on at the hands of Chris Ling, and shouted from the gallery at him (this was edited out from the video); in my own testimony I also made reference to various indviduals who had come to me with evidence that they had indeed told Vallins. If it may be the case that sexual abuse of the type perpetuated by Brewer, Ling, Gazelle and others is less likely today than it was in earlier decades, that is some consolation, but as Newey wrote, it is a ‘low bar’; there remain various types of other physical or emotional abuse and bullying which are often part of the culture of music education, and these are equally important to address.

I would have liked to have seen more consideration in the IICSA report of the wider culture at the schools (as well as the institutional structures). This is touched upon but not pursued in any depth, though may be somewhat daunting for non-musicians to consider. Undoubtedly this is an area which warrants much further study and research, some of which I will be undertaking myself.

Overwhelmingly the report identifies a prioritisation of the reputation of schools over the welfare of pupils, and does allude to the power and influence of revered music teachers, a theme about which I have also written on multiple occasions previously. The relatively unregulated form of patronage which exists in the wider musical world militates against those who have experienced abuse, assault, harassment or other discriminatory treatment from coming forward, and some wider regulatory measures to protect such individuals are needed, even if this means a less ‘hands-off’ approach to arts funding than has hitherto been the case.

As I mentioned in my previous post, despite clear evidence and knowledge of the activities of Philip Pickett, it took a long time before individuals finally felt able to go forward. How many are intimidated into staying silent so as not to ‘rock the boat’? How many fear that all they have worked for as a musician stands to be taken from them if they register a complaint, and may risk opprobrium from other musicians (as has been the case for some of those courageous ones who have come forward since the Brewer trial)? But people knew, some of these activities were relatively ‘common knowledge’ in sections of the music world. How many choose just to look the other way and ignore these in their own self-interests, leaving the victims even more isolated? Similarly, how many see individuals being mistreated in various environments, educational, workplace or even social, and think the simplest option for them is simply to tacitly go along with this, so as to stay with the ‘in group’? These types of bullying behaviour and complicity with the same may start at school but by no means necessarily end there. And all the evidence of intimidation and marginalisation of abuse survivors points to the same processes and behaviours being commonplace, and exploited maliciously. Principled whistleblowers like Margaret Moore are very much the exception rather than the rule. The whole music world needs to look at itself, and stop pretending that being involved in such an elevated field of practice somehow makes such concerns secondary.

I would also draw people’s attention to the recommendations submitted to the inquiry by lawyers Slater & Gordon, who represented a range of survivors. When IICSA produces its final report, then it will be time to reflect more widely on these.


My contribution to the debate on ‘Authoritarian Populism and Impure Futures: The Legacy of Stuart Hall’

On Tuesday 23 June 2020, as part of the City School of Arts and Social Sciences Online Festival of Research, a public debate was hosted entitled ‘Authoritarian Populism and Impure Futures: The Legacy of Stuart Hall’, co-convened by Professor Chris Rojek, of the Department of Sociology (author of Stuart Hall (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003)), and myself. It was chaired by Professor Sylvia Walby, also from Sociology. Chris and I both featured as panellists, alongside Dr Jessica Evans, of the Open University; Dr Ajmal Hussain of the University of Manchester and Professor Jim McGuigan, Professor of Cultural Studies at Loughborough University. Unfortunately Professor McGuigan had some microphone problems so was unable to speak, but was there in spirit. My own contribution, below, was quite deeply informed by some of the work of McGuigan.

A short report on the debate can be found here , and we hope to place the video of the debate online soon – I will post a link when it is up. This is a slightly longer version of the text I delivered, with minor edits. It was adapted in part from sections of a paper I gave in 2018 on ‘The Populist Turn in Musicological Scholarship and the Retreat from Social Democratic Cultural Production, in which I placed the thought of Hall and others in the context of the debates on artistic autonomy in the Weimar Republic, the attack on forms of European protectionism and subsidy espoused by Woodrow Wilson in his ‘fourteen points’ formulated in January 1918, many of them authored by Walter Lippmann, known for his work on the manipulation of public opinion (which he did not view pejoratively), and from whom the term ‘manufacturing consent’ originates, as well as the relentless lionisation of commerce and market-driven musical production by many figures associated with contemporary musicology.

Populism is a vivid phenomenon in contemporary politics, witnessed in such figures as Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Viktor Orban, Jair Bolsonaro, Narendra Modi and others. It is not necessarily an especially new phenomenon, but it has certainly been theorised more extensively in its own right than previously. Stuart Hall was undoubtedly an early contributor to this branch of political analysis, anticipated in some of the collectively authored volume Policing the Crisis (1978). In this volume, he and others considered such matters as the creation of ‘moral panics’, or the ability of a figure like Enoch Powell to appeal to some base racial nationalism amongst working-class people, as witnessed through the dockers who marched in support of Powell following his ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech. Hall himself arrived at the term ‘authoritarian populism’ slightly afterwards, according to him through reading the final section of Nicos Poulantzas’s book on State, Power, Socialism, about the growth of state control and decline of democratic institutions and civil liberties. Poulantzas viewed this as a type of ‘authoritarian statism’, an explanation which Hall nonetheless found unsatisfactory, because it took insufficient account of the extent to which advanced capitalist democracies appealed to popular consent for their policies, and achieved some legitimation in the process. As a result, he substituted the term ‘authoritarian populism’, an idea which was developed further in the important work of Margaret Canovan.

However, I wish to argue is that as Hall’s own thought developed in certain directions, he was unable to resist a populism of his own, which I believe undermined some of his earlier positions. I also want to say here how pleased I am to meet – at least in the online sense – Jim McGuigan, whose work on Cultural Populism (London: Routledge, 1992) has had a significant influence on my own thought on populism in musical and musicological thought.

In early post-war Britain, the influence of thinkers associated with ‘Western Marxism’, including the Frankfurt School, Ernst Bloch, Walter Benjamin, György Lukács, Siegfried Kracauer, Galvano della Volpe, or indeed for a long time Antonio Gramsci, was relatively minimal on the left, by which I mean those to the left of the Labour Party. As such, there was less engagement on such a left’s part with issues of culture and consciousness, a more accepting view of forms of collectivism ‘from above’ combined with somewhat idealised views of the proletariat, and as such a strong tendency towards Stalinism. At the same time, the same era saw the height of various progressive developments resulting from benevolent attitudes from above, which originated in the late nineteenth century. These included the growth of the welfare state, of state education with the Fisher Act of 1918 and then the Butler Act of 1944, the foundation of the Arts Council in 1940, and its flowering in the post-war era, especially during the 1960s, a degree of increased openness to European modernist culture after 1945, not least in architecture, where a series of architects inspired by the likes of Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe were charged with rebuilding bombed cities after 1945. Equally important was the role of the BBC as a sponsor and promoter of culture markedly distancing itself from commercial television and advertising.

The same era saw a new confrontation with commercial culture from the United States, which stimulated the growth of contemporary cultural studies. Richard Hoggart, in his 1957 book The Uses of Literacy (London: Pelican, 1958), contrasted new trends in American popular music with older forms of working class song. Whilst recognising the potential for nostalgic idealisation of the latter, he still saw in the former a high degree of standardisation, sentimentality, and appeal to a restricted and familiar range of emotions. Like Adorno and others before him, Hoggart identified the changes in music resulting from the relatively anonymous nature of mass production and the division of labour. The work of Raymond Williams, who in some ways bridged the worlds of Hoggart and of Hall, was of a related nature. Williams was highly critical of the bourgeois culture he encountered as a working-class boy from Wales, and the implied denigration of forms of working-class culture. But at least in his work from the 1950s, he did not necessarily see American commercial culture as the route to liberation. While neither Hoggart nor Williams adhered to an Arnoldian view of culture as a civilising force for the masses, by any means, neither were they starry-eyed about the top-down culture of American capitalism, though Williams’ position in this respect arguably shifted over the years.

When Stuart Hall took over as director of the Birmingham School of Contemporary Cultural Studies in 1969, founded 5 years earlier by Hoggart, there was a gradual but marked shift away from the outlook of Hoggart and in some ways Williams. Significant in this respect is one of Hall’s most lasting intellectual legacies, the model of ‘encoding/decoding’ as set out in his 1973 essay. Looking at television culture, he proposed that certain messages were ‘encoded’ in the work by its producers, but that audiences ‘decoded’ others. This was not however in Hall’s view a passive process, whereby the messages decoded were simply what the producers wished, and much depended upon the background of the consumers and their own priorities and ideologies. Hall framed this in terms of production, circulation, use and reproduction. Emphasis was placed upon the agency of the recipient and their ability to ‘decode’ such work. This stood in stark opposition to the model of culture which had grown in the preceding decades from the Frankfurt School, which tended to stress the successful use of mass communications as a weapon of manipulation, as in Theodor Adorno’s writings on horoscopes or charismatic preachers encountered during his time in the United States. Equally it was at odds with the model of the ‘consciousness industry’ or ‘mind industry’ developed by the German writer Hans Magnus Enzensberger in the 1960s, somewhat distinct from Adorno and Horkheimer’s ‘culture industry’. Enzensberger felt the latter placed too much emphasis on culture, in line with the priorities and interests of its protagonists. He argued instead that the previous century had witnessed a process whereby the ruling classes instilled a certain mode of consciousness amongst other citizens in a society through the mass media, education and other means. This was made possible by increased leisure time and mass production of consumer goods, all of which created sites for ruling class interests to manipulate others. Unlike Adorno, Enzensberger saw little possibility for critical resistance, as intellectuals were part of this whole process. Where this leaves Enzensberger’s own work is rather a difficult question.

The work of Hall and others on cultural studies have been labelled ‘cultural Marxism’, not only by old-fashioned conservatives but also in the major study of the Birmingham School, Dennis Dworkin’s Cultural Marxism in Postwar Britain: History, the New Left, and the Origins of Cultural Studies (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1997) is already mistitled, in my opinion, taking its cue from the volume edited by Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg, Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture (Urbana and Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1988), which came out of an 1983 conference. Whilst various contributors to this were serious about their engagement with Marx, the volume contains an interview with Hall (linked to his article ‘The Toad in the Garden: Thatcherism among the Theorists’) which makes clear how far he was moving away from Marxism, and especially its focus on economic factors. Hall had certainly written at length on some of Marx’s original writings, but rightly set himself against a reductive view of the relationship between base and superstructure adhered to by vulgar Marxists and Stalinists.

But a wider shift of direction on Hall’s part was signified most clearly in a 1981 essay, ‘Notes on Deconstructing “The Popular”’ (in People’s History and Socialist History, edited Raphael Samuel (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981), also reproduced in Cultural Resistance Reader, edited Stuart Duncombe (London: Verso, 2002)), from which point I identify the move towards a populism of his own. Considering the period from the 1880s to the 1920s, Hall had little time for the idea of a ‘separate, autonomous, “authentic” layer of working class culture’ as he felt most things like that ‘are saturated by popular imperialism’. To Hall, this could not be ‘authentic’, but must be ‘the culture of a dominated class which, despite its complex interior formations and differentiations, stood in a very particular relation to a major restructuring of capital; which itself stood in a peculiar relation to the rest of the world; a people bound by the most complex ties to a changing set of material relations and conditions; who managed somehow to construct “a culture” which remained untouched by the most powerful dominant ideology – popular imperialism?’

So far, I think Hall’s point is valid, but he went on to argue against those socialists who were sceptical of ways in which working people consumed commercial culture , and the concomitant view of ‘false consciousness’:

Take the most common-sense meaning [of the word ‘popular’]: the things which are said to be ‘popular’ because masses of people listen to them, buy them, read them, consume them, and seem to enjoy them to the full. This is the ’market’ or commercial definition of the term: the one which brings socialists out in spots. It is quite rightly associated with the manipulation and debasement of the culture of the people. In one sense, it is the direct opposite of the way I have been using the word earlier. I have, though, two reservations about entirely dispensing with this meaning, unsatisfactory as it is.

First, if it is true that, in the twentieth century, vast numbers of people do consume and even indeed enjoy the cultural products of our modern cultural industry, then it follows that very substantial numbers of working people must be included within the audiences for such products. Now, if the forms and relationships, on which participation in this sort of commercially provided ’culture’ depend, are purely manipulative and debased, then the people who consume and enjoy them must either be themselves debased by these activities or else living in a permanent state of ’false consciousness’. They must be ’cultural dopes’ who can’t tell that what they are being fed is an up-dated form of the opium of the people. That judgment may make us feel right, decent and self-satisfied about our denunciations of the agents of mass manipulation and deception – the capitalist cultural industries: but I don’t know that it is a view which can survive for long as an adequate account of cultural relationships; and even less as a socialist perspective on the culture and nature of the working class. Ultimately, the notion of the people as a purely passive, outline force is a deeply unsocialist perspective.

Hall went on to acknowledge that commercial popular culture could be manipulative, but was more concerned about any claims made for the autonomy of alternative forms of popular culture. I believe his seemingly moderate point is anything but that, and itself ‘unsocialist’ in ways which bring it close to postmodernist thinking.

Hall’s appropriation of two Marxist thinkers is fundamental in this respect. One is Antonio Gramsci, and his concept of egemonia or hegemony, involving the role which intellectuals play in disseminating dominant ideologies throughout society, on the basis of the prestige and confidence they hold through their position:

What we can do, for the moment, is to fix two major superstructural “levels” : the one that can be called “civil society”, that is the ensemble of organisms commonly called “private”, and that of “political society” or “the State”. These two levels correspond on the one hand to the function of “hegemony” which the dominant group exercises throughout society and on the other hand to that of “direct domination” or command exercised through the State and ”juridical” government. The functions in question are precisely organisational and connective. The intellectuals are the dominant group’s “deputies” exercising the subaltern functions of social hegemony and political government. These comprise:

  1. The “spontaneous” consent given by the great masses of the population to the general direction imposed on social life by the dominant fundamental group ; this consent is “historically” caused by the prestige (and consequent confidence) which the dominant group enjoys because of its position and function in the world of production.
  2. The apparatus of state coercive power which “legally” enforces discipline on those groups who do not “consent” either actively or passively. This apparatus is, however, constituted for the whole of society in anticipation of moments of crisis.

(Antonio Gramsci, ‘The Intellectuals’, in Selections from the Prison Notebooks, edited and translated Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith (New York: International Publishers, 1981)).

Hegemony is a vital concept and intimately linked with those of either the ‘culture industry’ or of ‘manufacturing consent’. Gramsci uses the term sometimes in this respect, others simply to refer to explicit power from above, as with the power of one regionality (for example, Florence) to dominate others, and force them to conform to certain cultural norms – this was how a form of Tuscan speech became standard Italian. Elsewhere in the Prison Notebooks Gramsci also uses the term to refer to the domination of ruling class ideas of laissez-faire liberalism, an argument which resembles the later views of Enzensberger.

But the term has come to be used by some in cultural studies to refer to any set of aesthetic or intellectual values which are at odds with something construed as popular taste. In this sense, teaching a foreign language to young people who might not have expressed any particular desire to learn it, or teaching something about various forms of West African music to white Western teenagers, or even encouraging some to eat a more balanced diet than might be obtained from fast food outlets – or for that matter attempting to challenge young people on ideas which may be prevalent amongst their peer group, whether those might be forms of white supremacy, or misogynistic views of white early-teenage girls as one step away from prostitutes – all constitute some form of hegemony. In short, this view opposes education.

My reference to fast food outlets is not arbitrary, as I have in mind Marie Gillespie’s book Television, Ethnicity and Cultural Change (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), an ethnographic study of a South Asian diaspora community in Southall, London, in which she talks about parents having a ‘hierarchy of values attached to different foods’, when they encourage them to eat dal, saag, subji (a vegetable curry) or roti, as opposed to food from McDonald’s, KFC, Coca-Cola and so on, and comes close to endorsing the view of some teenagers that such products might entail some form of emancipation and global youth culture, a view embodied in the classic Coca-Cola advert featuring the song ‘I’d like to teach the world to sing’.

Hall’s view, as I relate it to education, is also bolstered by the writings of another of Hall’s ideological heroes, Louis Althusser, who in his 1970 essay ‘Idéologie et appareils idéologiques d’Etat’ (Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses) (published in Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, translated Andy Blunden (London: New Left Books, 1971)) wrote that:

…the school (but also other State institutions like the Church, or other apparatuses like the Army) teaches ‘know-how’, but in forms which ensure subjection to the ruling ideology or the mastery of its ‘practice’. All the agents of production, exploitation and repression, not to speak of the ‘professionals of ideology’ (Marx), must in one way or another be ‘steeped’ in this ideology in order to perform their tasks ‘conscientiously’ – the tasks of the exploited (the proletarians), of the exploiters (the capitalists), of the exploiters’ auxiliaries (the managers), or of the high priests of the ruling ideology (its ‘functionaries’), etc.’ The possibility that schools and teachers might at least be trying to do something else more positive in their work is entirely ruled out.

Gramsci, however, in 1919 (in ‘[Communism and Art]’ in Selections from Cultural Writings, edited David Forgacs and Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, translated William Boelhower 9London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1985)) praised the attempts of Soviet communists to increase schools, theatres and opera houses, to make galleries accessible to all, and so on, which he said showed that ‘once in power, the proletariat tends to establish the reign of beauty and grace, to elevate the dignity and freedom of those who create beauty’, comparing the work of Anatoly Lunacharsky and Maxim Gorky to the bureaucrats in Italy. In a few short essays from 1930 (‘Concept of “National-Popular”‘, and ‘Italian National Culture’, ibid.), in response to a fascist journal which was perturbed by the fact that newspapers in Rome and Naples were serialising novels of Alexandre Dumas and Paul Fontenay, which were very popular, Gramsci wrote of how the Italian people ‘undergo the moral and intellectual hegemony of foreign intellectuals, that they feel more closely related to foreign intellectuals than to ‘domestic’ ones, that there is no national intellectual and moral bloc, either hierarchical or, still less, egalitarian’ and that ‘Every people has its own literature, but this can come to it from another people, in other words the people in question can be subordinated to the intellectual and moral hegemony of other peoples.’ So hegemony here can be a voluntary and arguably not undesirable thing, as a counterpart to nationalism. Of course, these latter essays must be read in terms of the context of Italian fascism and the kitsch culture it bequeathed.

Lenin had argued that some sections of the working classes could be convinced that imperialism was in their interests and become its advocates, whilst many Marxist thinkers, not least amongst the Frankfurt School, had considered the phenomenon of false consciousness. This general trend of thought continued to inform the work of the Glasgow Media Group, founded in 1974. This would come to form a powerful alternative to the orthodoxies at Birmingham, with its director Greg Philo one of the most cogent critics of Stuart Hall. Through relentless collecting of evidence (published in their series of books entitled Bad News), Philo and his colleagues produced rigorous and compelling studies of how various forms of flagrant misinformation are disseminated and absorbed by media viewers through clear bias, lack of explanation and background, and various else. A similar outlook can be found in Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky’s book Manufacturing Consent (New York: Pantheon Books, 1988). The Glasgow group, Herman and Chomsky were in no sense presenting those viewers who have been manipulated as somehow mere fodder beyond redemption, but they recognised that it took a level of education and critical consciousness to resist such manipulation. This is one reason why conservatives have always disliked education towards such an end, and especially dislike the non-functionalised approach to learning associated with the humanities.

As Philo and David Miller point out (in their ‘Cultural Compliance: Media/cultural studies and social science’, in Market Killing: What the Free Market does and what Social Scientists can do about it, edited Greg Philo and David Miller (Harlow: Pearson Education, 2001)), by the 1980s most of the analysis of the hegemonic power of the media had gone from Hall’s work, and he moved closer and closer to a celebratory view of popular culture or at least of how it is appropriated by its consumers. This was even more pronounced in the work of some of those who continued in his wake, especially in two books published in 1989, around the peak of the Thatcher-Reagan-Bush senior era, and the year which later saw the fall of communism in Eastern Europe: John Fiske, Understanding Popular Culture (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989) and Andrew Ross, No Respect: Intellectuals and Popular Culture (New York: Routledge, 1989). Fiske interprets various approaches to consumption (which he describes as ‘a tactical raid upon the system’), such as sporting of particular garments, make-up or hairstyles, as guerrilla actions which subvert dominant values, writing that ‘At the point of sale the commodity exhausts its role in the distribution economy, but begins its work in the cultural. Detached from the strategies of capitalism, its work for the bosses completed, it becomes a resource for the culture of everyday life’. Ross, one of the contributors to the 1983 volume on Marxism and culture, is utterly scathing about any type of defence of high culture, seeing in this an affront to the values of democracy, and a hegemonic attempt by a dominant class to protect their privilege.

Both Fiske and Ross, wittingly or not, advocate quite vehemently the values of the free market, using the language of hegemony to attack any attempts to modify it. This type of phenomenon has been analysed by some of the most penetrating critics of cultural studies. Todd Gitlin (in ‘The Anti-Political Populism of Cultural Studies’, Dissent, Spring 1997) writes of how cultural studies simply inverted old hierarchies, so that popular taste became an automatic yardstick of quality, writing that ‘One purports to stand four-square for the people against capitalism, and comes to echo the logic of capitalism.’ Thomas Frank (in One Market Under God: Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism and the End of Economic Democracy (New York: Doubleday, 2000)) also writes scathingly about of how cultural studies flaunted the logic of the market, seen as expressing ‘the will of the people’ so that ‘virtually any criticism of business could be described as an act of despicable contempt for the common man’ and the language of class warfare could be deployed in support of corporate objectives, for which cultural studies was a cheerleader, ‘with stories of aesthetic hierarchies rudely overturned; with subversive shoppers dauntlessly using up the mall’s air conditioning; with heroic fans building their workers’ paradise right there in the Star Trek corpus’. Other relevant texts in this context include Chris Rojek and Bryan Turner, ‘Decorative sociology: towards a critique of the cultural turn’, The Sociological Review 48/4 (November 2000), pp. 629-48; Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter, The Rebel Sell: How the Counter Culture became Consumer Culture (Chichester: Capstone, 2006); Fran Tonkiss, ‘Kulturstudien und der “economic turn”’ (2007), in Karin Harrasser, Sylvia Riedmann and Alan Scott (eds.), Die Politik der Cultural Studies – Cultural Studies der Politik (Vienna: Turia + Kant, 2007), pp. 214-226; and Catherine Liu, American Idyll: Academic Antielitism as Cultural Critique (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2011).

What can rarely be found explored in any remotely benevolent or even benign fashion in this type of cultural studies is the public sector. To a genuine social democrat, the public sector – and also the realms of the welfare state, regulation of capital and industry through democratically accountable bodies – acts as a corrective to the unfettered reign of capital, and offers realms of life, activity and indeed culture which maintain some degree of autonomy from the commodity principle. Marxists are often sceptical, and often draw attention to the difficulty of sustaining the public sector at times of economic slump, not to mention the role of global financial organisations in limiting the scope of individual governments to maintain the regulated and mixed economy. But that position comes not from an antipathy towards the public sector, but rather a belief that capitalism, in the sense of a society founded upon private property, needs to be hauled up by its roots in a wholesale structural revolution, rather than simply modified and reformed. A genuine Marxist revolutionary – and I am not arguing from that perspective – would want to end the private sector altogether. With this would be destroyed the cultural industries as we know them, for sure, hardly the position of many in the field of cultural studies. This is the primary reason why I cannot accept that the school of cultural studies bequeathed by Hall can be considered Marxist. On the contrary, through the relentless valorisation of commercial culture over that produced in other contexts in more-or-less social democratic societies (often expressed through kneejerk antipathy towards anything associated with ‘the state’), it should be clear where the cultural studies crowd’s sympathies lie, and how easily they revert to quite standard consumerist rhetoric.


Could Labour be playing a tactical game on #PeoplesVote?

Like many others, I was deeply disappointed to read Jeremy Corbyn’s interview with Der Spiegel published two days ago (Jörg Schindler, ‘Interview with Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn: “We Can’t Stop Brexit”‘, Spiegel Online, 9 November 2018). This was published right after the news of transport minister Jo Johnson’s resignation and calls for a second referendum on Brexit, since which he has said it would be a ‘democratic travesty’ not to have another Brexit vote. Corbyn’s statement seemed to make this impossible, as a new referendum bill or amendment to that effect of an existing bill could not happen without Labour support.

The 2017 General Election produced 317 Tory MPs, 262 Labour, 35 SNP, 12 Liberal Democrats, 10 DUP, 7 Sinn Fein, 4 Plaid Cymru, 1 Green, 1 Independent and the Speaker. There is no likelihood at all of the Sinn Fein MPs ever taking up their seats, whilst the Speaker remains nominally neutral. Neither he (John Bercow (Conservative)) nor his three deputies (Lindsay Hoyle (Labour), Eleanor Laing (Conservative) and Rosie Winterton (Labour)) vote, by convention. The meaningful total is therefore 639 rather than 650, and so the government needs 30 seats for a majority. Following the Confidence and Supply agreement with the DUP, the government can count on their support in motions of confidence and various aspects of their legislative agenda, thus producing effectively 326 (316 Tories, without their Deputy Speaker, plus 10 DUP) MPs, as against 311 in the Opposition. Since the General Election, 2 Tories and 5 Labour MPs have either been suspended from their party or have resigned the whip, so there are a total 8 Independent MPs, whose loyalties in confidence or crucial Brexit motions may be unknown.

But assuming the suspended/resigned MPs continue to vote according to type, the government has a working majority of 13 votes. This means that if seven Tory or DUP MPs vote against them, they could lose a vote if there is also 100% opposition from the other parties.

It is now looking possible, even perhaps likely, that Theresa May will fail to get any deal through Parliament, with a range of Brexiteer Tories and the DUP warning they will vote against, while the deal is also opposed by some Remainer supporters of a second referendum such as Justine Greening. Representatives of the government have been allegedly attempting to woo some Labour MPs to support them on a deal. The Mirror suggested as many as 30 may be prepared to do this, but this may be too few, though the consequences of last-minute pressure from whips in both parties should not be underestimated.

But if the government fails to get a deal through Parliament, it is highly unlikely that they themselves would introduce a second referendum bill, having repeatedly ruled it out (though, as has been noted, Theresa May as repeatedly ruled out an early general election, then called one). However, there are various means by which such a thing could be triggered, either through primary legislation or amendments to existing bills; a UCL paper details five possible scenarios (Jess Sargeant, Alan Renwick and Meg Russell, ‘The Mechanics of a Further Referendum on Brexit’ (London: The Constitutional Unit, UCL, 2018), pp. 23-28).

The major question is whether a parliamentary majority could be found for this option. As the DUP are firm supporters of Brexit, there is little chance of their supporting any second referendum motion. At present, The Sun counts eight Tory MPs supporting a second referendum: Johnson, Philip Lee, Justine Greening, Anna Soubry, Guto Bebb, Amber Rudd, Heidi Allen, Sarah Wollaston. They do not list Dominic Grieve oddly, but he has made clear his support for this for some time. There are plenty of suggestions that a variety of other Tory MPs would support this if it came to it, despite not having yet said so publicly. The Liberal Democrats and SNP are likely to vote solidly for such a measure. As for Labour, in June The Independent counted 42 MPs backing a second referendum, to which there are probably a few other names to be added. But almost none of the Corbynistas, nor many of the Brownites/(Ed) Milibandites are on this list. Then there are the pro-Brexit Labour MPs, including Grahame Stringer, John Mann, Kate Hoey, Dennis Skinner and (formerly holding the Labour whip) Frank Field, while others such as Caroline Flint and Stephen Kinnock appear opposed to a second referendum. The 2018 Labour Conference saw a motion passed keeping a second referendum option open if MPs are deadlocked, but this does not firmly commit to anything. That said, Corbyn’s statement to Der Spiegel would appear to be in direct contravention of conference policy.

A second referendum will only get through with relatively solid Labour support, and a significant number of Tory MPs voting for it. My guess is that between 10 and 20 Labour MPs will definitely oppose even if the party institutes a three-line whip, so this requires 20 to 30 Tory MPs to vote for it and against their own government, a tall order. However, if the country looks to be heading for no deal (and Theresa May has set a date of this week, as Parliament returns from recess, for the government will begin to set into motion many emergency measures to deal with this), all sorts of new options are possible.

So, in light of Corbyn’s statement, a second referendum may seem impossible. Or is it? Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry was interviewed on The Andrew Marr Show this morning (42’27”-56’22”). After Marr brought up Corbyn’s statement, apparently ruling out a second referendum, Thornberry began by saying that ‘the results of the referendum need to ought to be abided by’, but then immediately afterwards said ‘We do need an injection of democracy in between the results of the referendum and us going any further’. She then said that Labour wanted a ‘meaningful vote’, which was not what Theresa May was giving them in offering the choice between her deal or no deal, ‘the devil and the deep blue sea’. Thornberry said that instead, there should be a general election, but if that did not happen, then ‘yes, of course, all the options remain on the table and we would, you know, campaign for there to be a People’s Vote, but there are several stages before we get there’. Pushed further on Corbyn’s statement, Thornberry attempted to diffuse this by claiming context, need to be democrats, etc., and went onto discuss staying in the Customs Union, trying to produce ‘a Brexit which is good for the country’ (with no details of what this might be) and so on. When brought back to what is Labour’s procedure, Thornberry said ‘First stage is we demand a general election and that is what the proper thing should be. If we don’t get a general election then what we have said is all options remain on the table, and we will…’ then Marr interrupted to point out that Parliament has passed statute and so there are no options for overturning that. Thornberry then said ‘The difficulty is, our system is such that we are in opposition. You know, there are many ways in which we would want to have proceeded over this period of time, and we have a government…’, when Marr interrupted again to point out that they had a general election last year. Thornberry continued to say ‘But we have been doing our best to try to keep this government honest, try to keep this government focused on what’s good for the country, and we have been entirely consistent about that. She knows what it is that…. and like everyone else, vacillating backwards and forwards. We have said: six tests, we will vote for it, bring back a deal we will agree to. If she’s sensible, what she’ll do, is she’ll negotiate properly and bring back a deal which means that we’re in a Customs Union, and that we’re in a free market agreement with the European Union, based on free market rules, and if she brings back something like that, then it may well be that she’ll get sufficient support, but she won’t [attempt from Marr to interrupt again], hang on hang on, let me just, because this is really important, she won’t do that, because she’s more interested in saving her own skin and the Tory Party, because what she will rely on is Labour votes and some Tory votes, and she doesn’t dare do that. She ought to, because she’s the leader of the country. That is not leadership.’ Marr then noted that Kier Starmer had said that the six tests would be in the next Labour election manifesto and asked Thornberry to confirm this, to which she asked when the election would be, pointing out that an election manifesto in the next few weeks would be very different to one in a year’s time. She then said ‘In the next few months, what we would have in our manifesto is we would say: we have a vision for this country, we have a vision for Brexit. We know that the best way to proceed on this is to try to get a deal which is, as I’ve said several times, the model that I’ve put forward [Marr: ‘Six tests’] and with the six tests, and which is the six tests, and that’s what we would be working towards. And we would go in as pragmatists, and we would say to the European Union: the grown-ups have arrived and we’re no longer shouting at you, we’re going to sit down pragmatically and sort out something which is good for our economy and your economy.’ Marr pushed Thornberry further on one of the six tests , that which requires the ‘exact same benefits’ as membership of the Customs Union and Single Market, asking if there was a shred of evidence that the EU would contemplate that. Thornberry avoided this question, just saying that they had had meetings with the EU, who knew their position, but couldn’t negotiate with them as they were not the government. Marr pushed further, quoting Michel Barnier and Jean-Claude Junker on how third countries can never have the same rights and benefits as full members. Thornberry again had no real answer other than to say that these were negotiating positions, and that May had put down unrealisable red lines and ‘ridiculous tests’, unlike Labour. She continued to reiterate the same stuff, then Marr claimed Labour had a ‘fantasy prospectus’ and there was no way of getting anything like what they wanted. After more vacillation from Thornberry, the interview turned to Trump and some domestic issues.

But I think this interview may be significant in many ways, notwithstanding the waffle and false claims about being able to obtain a deal (in reality, Labour would end up in a very similar situation to Theresa May, save for accepting the Custom’s Union). Thornberry is probably the sharpest politician on the Labour front bench, and clearly knows exactly what the brief is and what needs to be said. The fact that she mentioned a People’s Vote early in the interview is vital, even though she was careful not to return to the issue. The official Labour line is to want a general election. The chances of this are very slim (though not impossible if the government truly alienate the DUP over a border in the Irish Sea, to the point where the DUP would no longer support them in a confidence motion). But Labour have to stick to this line, which would be easily dismissed if they were vocal about supporting a second referendum. But Thornberry said that failing to get an election, they would campaign for a People’s Vote.

So I believe that Labour are talking down a second referendum in order to maintain their line, but do have plans to support it when it becomes inevitable. This could be soon – if a confidence motion is put and the government wins it, thus precluding an election.  Of course it is also possible that Thornberry, Starmer and Corbyn are all putting out different lines publicly. I just hope this may have been co-ordinated.

There are many practical complications in bringing about a second referendum, which are explained in the UCL paper, but as this makes clear, it is possible, regardless of what Corbyn says. Labour could be acting more shrewdly than some imagine.


How about a week without American culture?

The worst fears of many about a Trump presidency are coming to fruition, especially with the implementation of the federal orders banning entry to anyone from born in one of seven Muslim countries (though not the worst, like Saudi Arabia or some of the Gulf states, with strong business links), or who holds dual nationality. Not to mention the ongoing plans for the Mexican Wall. And Britain’s excuse for a Prime Minister has offered Trump a full state visit, before tootling off to sign a lucrative arms deal with another dictator, President Erdoğan of Turkey. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world…..

But getting angry may not achieve anything, least of all convince the millions of Americans who strongly support Trump’s actions, and previously have shown ferocious support for capital punishment, horrendous rates of incarceration of those convicted of petty offences, an insane gun culture which causes annually over 10 000 more deaths of Americans (at the hands of other Americans) than any other cause, use of gas-guzzling cars for small journeys and contempt for the very idea of climate change, not to mention neo-imperial military action against many other countries who are not necessarily compliant towards the US.

The issue is, to me, why we continue to legitimise a tacit view which assumes that the United States stands at the centre of the world, but only economically and militarily (both of which might be able to be shown with some degree of objectivity), but in cultural and intellectual terms too?

With this in mind, I have a proposal, which I will implement in a hard-line form for the duration of February, and recommend to others in milder manifestations. How about, first of all, going a week without partaking of any culture produced in the US? I do not want to limit this in terms of ethnicity, allegiance, ideology, and so on, simply down to where it was produced, as far as this can be ascertained fairly. So, just put on hold for now, any novel, poem or play from an American writer, any music produced by American musicians, any American visual art, any American films or TV, and so on. Then see how many times this becomes an issue, and this may give some indication of the extent to which your cultural habits are dominated by US culture. Try and make a point of seeking out something from elsewhere instead. For example:

  • If you were going to watch South Park or Family Guy, how about looking into some comedy and animation from elsewhere? There has been loads of such work from Eastern Europe over an extended period – this blog should give some pointers.
  • If you were going to listen to any African-American popular music, how about trying something from one of the 54 countries in Africa instead (or by African diaspora communities in countries other than the USA)? Try some of the work of Afrisa, or Prince Nico Mbarga, Hugh Masekela or King Sunny Ade, just to take a few of the most obvious examples?
  • If planning to listen to American minimalist music, how about trying some non-American alternatives? For example, the work of Louis Andriessen, Michael Nyman, Kevin Volans, Gavin Bryars, Arvo Pärt, Karel Goeyvaerts or others? Some might dispute the use of the term ‘minimalist’ for some of these, but assertions of unity amongst even the classic American ‘minimalists’ look less and less tenable all the time. Nyman himself just today pointed out to me that when he coined the term ‘minimal music’, it was when reviewing a performance at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in 1968 of Springen by Danish composer Henning Christiansen, played by Charlotte Moorman (US) and Nam June Paik (Korea, moved to US in mid-30s).
  • If planning to watch an American film, think of the many other countries with such important film industries as well, and how about watching an Italian, Russian, Iranian, Chinese, Nigerian or Argentinian film instead? From these and many many other countries, there is a vast amount to see, of all types. Just avoid the easy option of watching one of the usual blockbusters, and seek out something different.
  • Post-1945 American art is endlessly celebrated and anthologised – why not check out what was being produced in France, Sweden, Italy, Japan, during the same period?

And so on and so forth. I intend to do this for the whole of February, but my suggestion to others is this – try doing it for a week, and then the following week, limit US culture to no more than a third of what you watch/read/listen to/etc (which is still a huge percentage), and stick to that for the rest of the month. Do this for the sake of diversity and to challenge the notion that the country which now has Trump as President, and refuses entry to millions of people of Muslim origin, should continue to exert cultural hegemony as well.

This is not kneejerk anti-Americanism – I have in my office at work hefty volumes of poetry of William Carlos Williams, Lorine Niedecker and Charles Reznikoff which I had hoped to get round to soon, but they can wait. Instead, I will have a read of the new volume of the poetry of Basil Bunting which I received recently. I will have some works of John Cage and Morton Feldman to practice in advance of a concert in Oxford in early March, but as far as listening more widely to these, I have spent vast amounts of time before – I would sooner spend more on Franco Evangelisti or Henri Pousseur or Bent Sørensen or Yuji Takahashi. And lots and lots of recordings of Sardinian, Iraqi and Japanese traditional musics on which I’d like to spend more time. And films I have and have been meaning to watch from Dziga Vertov, René Clair, Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Melville, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Dušan Makavejev, Zhang Yimou, Abbas Kiarostami, Nagisa Oshima. And many others which are lighter fare. Sam Fuller, David Lynch, Harry Smith, Kenneth Anger, Sidney Lumet and John Cassavetes can wait, great though they all are.

An further, an invitation: do leave a comment here with recommendations, of any period, genre or whatever, of any type of books, plays, films, music, art, etc., from all the other countries in the world. Imagine, as John Cage said, that the US is just one country in the world, no more, no less.

None of this will stop Trump, for sure, nor is it a substitute for pressing political action. But just perhaps, if a great many made a conscious effort in this respect, the hegemonic power of the United States in general upon people’s minds might be diminished and become more proportionate to its undoubted cultural achievements.


Bright Futures, Dark Pasts: Michael Finnissy at 70 – Jan 19/20, Conference/Concerts at City University

Click here to book tickets for the conference and/or the concerts.

On Thursday January 19th and Friday January 20th, 2017, City, University of London is hosting a conference entitled Bright Futures, Dark Pasts: Michael Finnissy at 70.  This will feature a range of scholarly papers on a variety of aspects of Finnissy’s work – including his use of musical objets trouvés, engagement with folk music, sexuality, the influence of cinema, relationship to other contemporary composers, issues of marginality, and his work in performance. There will be three concerts, featuring his complete works for two pianos and piano duet, played by the composer, Ian Pace, and Ben Smith; a range of solo, chamber and ensemble works; and a complete performance (from 14:00-21:00 on Friday 20th) of his epic piano cycle The History of Photography in Sound by Ian Pace. The concerts include the world premieres of Finnissy’s Zortziko (2009) for piano duet and Kleine Fjeldmelodie (2016-17) for solo piano, the UK premiere of Duet (1971-2013) and London premieres of Fem ukarakteristisek marsjer med tre tilføyde trioer (2008-9) for piano duet, Derde symfonische etude (2013) for two pianos,  his voice/was then/here waiting (1996) for two pianos, and Eighteenth-Century Novels: Fanny Hill (2006) for two pianos. There will also be a rare chance to hear Finnissy’s Sardinian-inspired Anninnia (1981-2) for voice and piano, for the first time in several decades.

Keynote speakers will be Roddy Hawkins (University of Manchester), Gregory Woods (Nottingham Trent University, author of Homintern) and Ian Pace (City, University of London). The composer will be present for the whole event, and will perform and be interviewed by Christopher Fox (Brunel University) on his work and the History in particular.

The composer and photographer Patrícia Sucena de Almeida, who studied with Finnissy between 2000 and 2004, has created a photographic work, continuum simulacrum (2016-17) inspired by The History of Photography in Sound and particularly Chapter 6 (Seventeen Immortal Homosexual Poets). The series will be shown on screens in the department and samples of a book version will be available.

2

Patrícia Sucena de Almeida, from continuum simulacrum (2016-17).

The full programme can be viewed below. This conference also brings to a close Ian Pace’s eleven-concert series of the complete piano works of Finnissy.

A separate blog post will follow on The History of Photography in Sound.

 

 

Click here to book tickets for the conference and/or the concerts.

 

All events take place at the Department of Music, College Building, City, University of London, St John Street, London EC1V 4PB.  

Thursday January 19th, 2017

 09:00-09:30 Room AG09.
Registration and TEA/COFFEE.

09:30-10:00  Performance Space.
Introduction and tribute to Michael Finnissy by Ian Pace and Miguel Mera (Head of Department of Music, City, University of London).

10:00-12:00  Room AG09. Chair: Aaron Einbond.
Larry Goves (Royal Northern College of Music), ‘Michael Finnissy & Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: the composer as anthropologist’.

Maarten Beirens (Amsterdam University), ‘Questioning the foreign and the familiar: Interpreting Michael Finnissy’s use of traditional and non-Western sources’

Lauren Redhead (Canterbury Christ Church University), ‘The Medium is Now the Material: The “Folklore” of Chris Newman and Michael Finnissy’.

Followed by a roundtable discussion between the three speakers and composer and Finnissy student Claudia Molitor (City, University of London), chaired by Aaron Einbond.

 

12:00-13:00  Foyer, Performance Space.
LUNCH.

13:1014:15 Performance Space.
Concert 1: Michael Finnissy: The Piano Music (10). Michael Finnissy, Ian Pace and Ben Smith play Finnissy’s works for two pianos or four hands.

Michael Finnissy, Wild Flowers (1974) (IP/MF)
Michael Finnissy, Fem ukarakteristisek marsjer med tre tilføyde trioer (2008-9) (BS/IP) (London premiere)
Michael Finnissy, Derde symfonische etude (2013) (BS/IP) (London premiere)
Michael Finnissy, Deux jeunes se promènent à travers le ciel 1920 (2008) (IP/BS)
Michael Finnissy, his voice/was then/here waiting (1996) (IP/MF) (UK premiere)
Michael Finnissy, Eighteenth-Century Novels: Fanny Hill (2006) (IP/MF) (London premiere)

max-ernst-deux-jeuns

Max Ernst, Deux jeunes se promènent à travers le ciel (1920)

 

14:30-15:30 Room AG09. Chair: Lauren Redhead (Canterbury Christ Church University).Keynote: Roddy Hawkins (University of Manchester): ‘Articulating, Dwelling, Travelling: Michael Finnissy and Marginality’.

15:30-16:00  Foyer, Performance Space.
TEA/COFFEE.

16:00-17:00 Room AG09. Chair: Roddy Hawkins (University of Manchester).
Keynote: Ian Pace (City, University of London): ‘Michael Finnissy between Jean-Luc Godard and Dennis Potter: appropriation of techniques from cinema and TV’ 

17:00-18:00 Room AG09. Chair: Christopher Fox (Brunel University).
Roundtable on performing the music of Michael Finnissy. Participants: Neil Heyde (cellist), Ian Pace (pianist), Jonathan Powell (pianist), Christopher Redgate (oboist), Roger Redgate (conductor, violinist), Nancy Ruffer (flautist).

 

19:00              Performance Space.
Concert 2: City University Experimental Ensemble (CUEE), directed Tullis Rennie. Christopher Redgate, oboe/oboe d’amore; Nancy Ruffer, flutes; Bernice Chitiul, voice; Alexander Benham, piano; Michael Finnissy, piano; Ian Pace, piano; Ben Smith; piano.

Michael Finnissy, Yso (2007) (CUEE)
Michael Finnissy, Stille Thränen (2009) (Ian Pace, Ben Smith)
Michael Finnissy, Runnin’ Wild (1978) (Christopher Redgate)
Michael Finnissy, Anninnia (1981-82) (Bernice Chitiul, Ian Pace)
Michael Finnissy, Ulpirra (1982-83) (Nancy Ruffer)
Michael Finnissy, Pavasiya (1979) (Christopher Redgate)

INTERVAL

‘Mini-Cabaret’: Michael Finnissy, piano
Chris Newman, AS YOU LIKE IT (1981)
Michael Finnissy, Kleine Fjeldmelodie (2016-17) (World première)
Andrew Toovey, Where are we in the world? (2014)
Laurence Crane, 20th CENTURY MUSIC (1999)
Matthew Lee Knowles, 6th Piece for Laurence Crane (2006)
Morgan Hayes, Flaking Yellow Stucco (1995-6)
Tom Wilson, UNTIL YOU KNOW (2017) (World première)
Howard Skempton, after-image 3 (1990)

Michael Finnissy, Zortziko (2009) (Ian Pace, Ben Smith) (World première)
Michael Finnissy, Duet (1971-2013) (Ben Smith, Ian Pace) (UK première)
Michael Finnissy, ‘They’re writing songs of love, but not for me’, from Gershwin Arrangements (1975-88) (Alexander Benham)
Michael Finnissy, APRÈS-MIDI DADA (2006) (CUEE)

 

duchamp-nude-descending-a-staircase

Marcel Duchamp, Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (1912).

21:30  Location to be confirmed
CONFERENCE DINNER

 

Friday January 20th, 2017

10:00-11:00  Room AG21.
Christopher Fox in conversation with Michael Finnissy on The History of Photography in Sound.

11:00-11:30  Room AG21.
TEA/COFFEE.

11:30-12:30  Room AG21. Chair: Alexander Lingas (City, University of London).
Keynote: Gregory Woods (Nottingham Trent University): ‘My “personal themes”?!’: Finnissy’s Seventeen Homosexual Poets and the Material World’.

 

14:00-21:00      Performance Space.
Concert 3:  Michael Finnissy: The Piano Music (11): The History of Photography in Sound (1995-2002). Ian Pace, piano

14:00                     Chapters 1, 2: Le démon de l’analogie; Le réveil de l’intraitable realité.

15:00                     INTERVAL

15:15                     Chapters 3, 4: North American Spirituals; My parents’ generation thought War meant something

16:15                     INTERVAL

16:35                     Chapters 5, 6, 7: Alkan-Paganini; Seventeen Immortal Homosexual Poets; Eadweard Muybridge-Edvard Munch

17:50                     INTERVAL (wine served)

18:10                     Chapter 8: Kapitalistische Realisme (mit Sizilianische Männerakte und Bachsche Nachdichtungen)

19:20                     INTERVAL (wine served)

19:35                     Chapters 9, 10, 11: Wachtend op de volgende uitbarsting van repressie en censuur; Unsere Afrikareise; Etched Bright with Sunlight.

 

What characterizes the so-called advanced societies is that they today consume images and no longer, like those of the past, beliefs; they are therefore more liberal, less fanatical, but also more ‘false’ (less ‘authentic’) – something we translate, in ordinary consciousness, by the avowal of an impression of nauseated boredom, as if the universalized image were producing a world that is without difference (indifferent), from which can rise, here and there, only the cry of anarchisms, marginalisms, and individualisms: let us abolish the images, let us save immediate Desire (desire without mediation).

Mad or tame? Photography can be one or the other: tame if its realism remains relative, tempered by aesthetic or empirical habits (to leaf through a magazine at the hairdresser’s, the dentist’s); mad if this realism is absolute and, so to speak, original, obliging the loving and terrified consciousness to return to the very letter of Time: a strictly revulsive movement which reverses the course of the thing, and which I shall call, in conclusion, the photographic ecstasy.

Such are the two ways of the Photography.  The choice is mine: to subject its spectacle to the civilized code of perfect illusions, or to confront in it the wakening of intractable reality.

Ce qui caractérise les sociétés dites avancées, c’est que ces sociétés consomment aujourd’hui des images, et non plus, comme celles d’autrefois, des croyances; elles sont donc plus libérales, moins fanataiques, mais aussi plus «fausses» (moins «authentiques») – chose que nous traduisons, dans la conscience courante, par l’aveu d’une impression d’ennui nauséeux, comme si l’image, s’universalisant, produisait un monde sans differences (indifferent), d’où ne peut alors surgir ici et là que le cri des anarchismes, marginalismes et individualismes : abolissons les images, sauvons le Désir immédiat (sans mediation).

Folle ou sage? La Photographie peut être l’un ou l’autre : sage si son réalisme reste relative, tempére par des habitudes esthétiques ou empiriques (feuilleter une revue chez le coiffeur, le dentist); folle, si ce réalisme est absolu, et, si l’on peut dire, original, faisant revenir à la conscience amoureuse et effrayée la letter même du Temps : movement proprement révulsif, qui retourne le cours de la chose, et que l’appellerai pour finir l’extase photographique.

Telles sont les deux voies de la Photographie. A moi de choisir, de soumettre son spectacle au code civilise des illusions parfaits, ou d’affronter en elle le réveil de l’intraitable réalité.

Roland Barthes, Le chambre claire/Camera Lucida.

 

muybridge

Eadweard Muybridge – A. Throwing a Disk, B: Ascending a Step, C: Walking from Animal Locomotion (1885-1887).

 

 

base-7

Patrícia Sucena de Almeida, from continuum simulacrum (2016-17).

Click here to book tickets for the conference and/or the concerts.

 


Mac’s cartoon in the Mail, the symbolism of the rat, and Der Ewige Jude (1940)

The cartoon by ‘Mac’ (Stanley McMurtry) in today’s Daily Mail, showing migrants entering Europe, visibly Muslim people, carrying a rifle and accompanied by rats, crosses new lines in its appropriation of imagery previously used for anti-semitic propaganda.

Mac cartoon with migrants and rats

Various people on social media have pointed the resemblance to a cartoon in the Viennese newspaper in Das Kleine Blatt, published on February 2nd, 1939, depicting a group of rats, literally swept out from Germany, being denied entry to ‘democratic’ countries. This resemblance has been reported on in The Independent.

Das kleine Blatt 1939

 

But the rat association has a long history in anti-semitic and Nazi propaganda. Cosima Wagner wrote in her diary in January 19th, 1879:

At supper yesterday he [Richard Wagner] talked about an article in the Illustrirte Zeitung, ‘The Elk Fighting the Wolves,’ and said it had taught him some very curious things – how in Nature even the most heroic must perish, men as well as animals, ‘and what remain are the rats and mice – the Jews. (cited in Richard H. Bell, Wagner’s Parsifal: An Appreciation in the Light of His Theological Journey (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2013), p. 9, n. 50)

In December 1927, Der Stürmer printed a picture of a tree surrounded by dead rats, which are labelled ‘stock exchanges,’ ‘the press,’ and ‘trusts’, while the branches of the tree, labelled ‘Germany’ are industry, agriculture, commerce, the arts, business, the sciences, social welfare, civil service, and workers. The rats have been pumped with poison gas by a Nazi stormtrooper – the implications of this are obvious. The text says ‘Wenn das Ungeziefer tot ist, grünt die deutsche Eiche wieder!’ (If the vermin is dead, the German oak grows green again!)

Der Stürmer 1927

Julius Streicher, the editor of Der Stürmer, would write the following in the journal in 1938:

The Jews are a people of bastards, afflicted with all diseases, They are a people of criminals and outcasts. They are the carriers of disease and vermin among men . . . A rotten apple cannot be assimilated by a basketful of healthy apples. Mice and rats cannot be acknowledged as useful pets and live within the community     . . . . Bacteria, vermin and pests cannot be tolerated . . . for reasons of cleanliness and hygiene we must render them harmless by killing them off . . . Why should we repress our feeling for cleanliness and hygiene when it comes to the Jew?

In occupied Ukraine, the Nazis attempted to divide Ukranians and Jews, using a propaganda poster superimposing a rat on a star of David (which I think may be the image below, though this needs confirmation), whilst at the same time the NKVD, spying on Jews in New York, would refer to them as ‘polecats’ and ‘rats’ (Makubin Thomas Owens, ‘Divide and Conquer: The KGB disinformation campaign against Ukranians and Jews’, Ukranian Quarterly, Fall 2004).

Ukranian rat propaganda 2

The image of the Jew as rat, or lower than rats, was also exploited by T.S. Eliot (‘The rats are underneath the pile/The Jew is underneath the lot’) and Ezra Pound (writing of ‘importations ancient and modern from the sewers of Pal’stine’ and how ‘Christianity is verminous with semitic infections’), as has been traced by Anthony Julius (in his T.S. Eliot, Anti-Semitism, and Literary Form (London: Thames and Hudson, 2003), pp. 102-3).

But the most notorious use of this metaphor is in the 1940 Nazi propaganda film Der Ewige Jude (The Eternal Jew), directed by Fritz Hippler. In this a scene juxtaposes a passage about Jewish migration, especially from Eastern Europe, with rats emerging from a sewer, spreading disease wherever they go. The film explicitly says that ‘Parallel to these Jewish wanderings throughout the world is the migration of a similarly restless animal: the rat. Rats have been parasites on mankind from the very beginning. Their home is Asia, from which they migrated in gigantic hordes over Russia and the Balkans into Europe’. Watch the film from around 13’40” on here, especially the section at around 16’55”.

I cannot believe this resemblance is merely coincidental. What have we come to when a leading British newspaper is describing Muslim migrants and refugees to Europe using imagery and associations lifted directly from Nazi anti-semitic propaganda?


Addendum: Whilst I do not share the view of the cartoon presented here by Dave Brown, I would not advocate censorship, for reasons laid out in another blog post from last year.