Peter Donohoe
- Piano -

Sexual abuse at Chethams and RNCM

 

Even though I have had no direct contact with any of those involved in the scandal that has engulfed the reputations of both the Royal Northern College of Music and Chetham's School, I have written a document expressing my feelings on the matter. Apologies if it seems like some kind of lecture - I started by trying to write a short statement, and it expanded to well over 6,000 words.

It is important to remember that by far the majority of people who work at music colleges and specialist music schools bring to their students an ability to help them develop and flourish in the world of music. Their work and reputation are severely undermined by the behaviour of the few. The actions of Martin Roscoe and those who have supported him in his campaign have been primarily aimed at the prevention of such things happening again, and at some kind of closure for the abused. But it has also been to try to retrieve the reputation of the schools and colleges within which this behaviour has taken place.

I hope my longwinded document goes some way towards demonstrating my support and respect for those who have tried to right the wrongs. Now that the crisis has arrived, the momentum of the support is gathering even as I write this.

As well as Martin Roscoe, I am sure I speak for everyone who cares about this issue in thanking Ian Pace, Paul Lewis, Timothy Horton and many others who have contributed to the gathering of that support.

HERE is the link to the document.

Finally.....

Due to an administrative mishap, my reply to Linda was deleted, so here is a paraphrase (from memory): I want to thank Linda for her kind contribution. As she was a victim herself, it must take a huge amount of courage to face the life-changing memories that all such victims must live with. I am very aware of not having been directly involved with anyone - culprit or victim - in this whole sorry episode. It is Martin Roscoe we all have to thank for his determination and his sticking to his principles for so long. I cannot say what I would have done myself if I had been in a more powerful position; it would be very easy to claim that one would have done what one feels one should have done in retrospect - the benefit of hindsight is a luxury we should keep to ourselves. Regarding "Anonymous" : along with Linda, I felt anger at what he (I feel fairly confident of its gender) had to say when I first read it. However, I guess he was speaking from the point of view of someone who did not realise that I had never had a job at the RNCM or at Chetham's. I do understand how that could happen, even though it indicates that he didn't read the original document properly. That he hasn't since replied or identified himself is unfortunate, but perhaps he will.

Chethams RNCM abuse scandal final thoughts

I am still having trouble coming to terms with the scandal that has stained the reputation of my old school. The blot on the landscape that is the sexual abuse of pupils that has taken place there is something that we must condemn, rather than minimise. It must be completely separated from genuine relationships forming between teachers and pupils - sexual or otherwise - as the latter, although unwise (and now illegal), is at least not based upon favouritism, bullying and a power-trip on the part of the teacher. At the risk of repeating myself, I will say again that good reputations are gained through doing the right thing, and not by covering up the wrong one. A disingenuous public relations or damage limitation exercise will not restore the school's reputation. Admitting to the past and ensuring that it will not happen again is the only way that the school can put the episode behind it, and resume being the great establishment it has been for centuries. It is imperative to prevent any re-occurrence, be that to install cameras or to bring to an end the tradition of one-on-one lessons by law, or some other solution. Music specialist schools are obviously by no means the only places in which these appalling things have allegedly taken place. It is just that music lessons provide, perhaps more than any other circumstance, an easily abused situation between adult and child, or teacher and pupil. Chetham's is one of the best and most famous musical institutions. It is in a very vulnerable position, the issue has become a media story, and its reputation has been badly scarred. Let us all hope that the school's future is clear of such a stigma, which is only going to be achieved by acceptance of what happened and total openness. The tendency of some people to react as if the school was rife with abuse is unfortunate. It seems that there has been a lot of it, but it is not as if everyone on the staff has been guilty, and neither is it as if all pupils have been exposed to it. It isn't rife, and it never has been. To tar the whole establishment with the same brush is to undermine and smear by association the reputation and character of those teachers at Chetham's who have been honourable. However, for ex-pupils to put the shutters up and deny that it ever happened on the basis that they themselves never encountered it is equally misguided. I have heard both of these responses in recent weeks. I have also come across another misguided notion - that an abuser's brilliance as a teacher and musician somehow lessens the seriousness of the abuse. The phrase, "Yes, but he was a brilliant choir-trainer", is as absurdly irrelevant as saying that Hitler was a good painter. Let us just accept that it happened and that it was utterly wrong and unacceptable - as it would be wrong to try to cover it up or to minimise it. Outside of those cases Chetham's is a great school, and its reputation, along with that of those who work there, must not be brought down by a minority.

Reply to comment | Peter Donohoe

Your article definitely initiated a helpful discussion.

Sexual abuse at Chethams and RNCM

I have read your blog very carefully Peter and I wholeheartedly commend you, on many levels: for your courage at writing so candidly yet movingly about such controversial, emotive and difficult issues; for your evident and clear understanding of the many complex issues surrounding sexual abuse / misuse of power and trust; for your passion and total commitment to supporting those people, in particular Martin Roscoe, who have been in a position to act upon the appalling events at Chethams and RNCM and, not least, for taking the time out of your incredibly busy schedule to share your thoughts in such an honest, well thought out and sensitive manner. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse myself and having worked in a professional capacity with many child and adult survivors over the last 30 years, I can relate to your words and observations very closely. For me, you have encapsulated many aspects of the experiences of victims and demonstrate a thorough understanding of how deviously perpetrators operate and sadly, so often, succeed in silencing their victims. Both your passion and compassion are truly admirable. Please keep up the good work and thank you so much. Finally, I was dismayed to read the comments from "Anonymous". In my opinion, these demonstrate a failure to read Peter's document properly and a total misunderstanding of any of the issues involved. Most concerning to me is the complete failure to grasp the legal complexities and subsequent powerlessness of someone in Peter's position to intervene directly with any of the students or staff concerned or to instigate any form of legal action. If you are so certain of your opinions, why remain anonymous? Linda Smith

Martin Roscoe

Anyone wishing to contact Martin directly can find him at martin@martinroscoe.co.uk

Anonymous

Your comments would carry more weight if you had the courage not to remain anonymous, but nevertheless, thank you for them. I was going to write that you seem to have missed the part where I mention that the reason I didn't comment publicly eleven years ago was that I didn't have any first hand knowledge, and was therefore not a viable witness. But then I realised that you had written it yourself! No, I did not "look at the unsuspecting students assigned to him and wonder how long it would be." I was in no position to do anything, because I did not have a job that connected me directly to any of the people involved. I had nothing to do with the RNCM other than being an alumnus. What exactly, under the circumstances, would you have done? What, in fact, did you do, and what have you done since? I did not enter into this discussion in order to compete with Martin Roscoe for the position of 'hero'. I was, however, very concerned for him at the time, as, again you seem to have missed. I did not "avert my eyes". Martin was in a position to do something, and he did it, and we have him to thank for the fact that the whole sorry saga has now been exposed. The reason it took so long is because those to whom it was reported, and could have solved the issue there and then, did nothing. So do not dare try to pass the blame for their turning a blind eye onto someone who was completely outside the system, had nothing from which to avert their eyes, and no position from which to resign. Try to think straight. "Too reasoned"...?" Grow up. And while you are about it, admit to who you are.

I found your comments

I found your comments difficult to read. Given that as you say you did not know the people involved I wondered why you had commented. Your remarks about Mayfield, and knowing what he was up to were really uncomfortable. Did you used to look at the unsuspecting students assigned to him and wonder how long it would be? Was there not one of these girls that you felt inclined to protect? I'm afraid I felt extremely annoyed with you and felt that you sit on a complacent edge, knowing what was going on yet doing nothing. Perhaps if more support had been offered to Martin at the time, his action of resigning would have had a more successful outcome. He is the true hero in this saga, principled to a fault. You do not come over well at all in your long essay - too reasoned, dispassionate - you averted your eyes.

Thank you for your sane and

Thank you for your sane and well reasoned words, Peter.

Chethams

Dear Peter I was at Chethams and became 'involved' with a teacher. It has undoubtably affected my personal and professional life. I am so grateful to you and Martin Roscoe. I was sad to realise how much it has affected Martin's health; he truly is a hero to have continued. I have no way of contacting him but please let him know how grateful I and others are