This weekend, along with colleagues, I’m finishing off two submissions to the government taskforce on sexual violence in universities. The taskforce was set up in September 2015 and is due to report back in September 2016. Both of these submissions are on staff sexual harassment of students, rather than the student-to-student sexual violence which was the initial remit of the taskforce. One of these is a co-authored submission through the Centre for Feminist Research at Goldsmiths, following on from the conference we organised in December 2015 on staff harassment of students. The conference felt like a moment of breaking the silence, against the usual pattern of ‘missing women’, as Sara Ahmed described it: graduate students (usually women) experiencing harassment or inappropriate sexual behaviour from supervisors, getting ignored or fobbed off if they complain to the university, then quietly dropping out, with no institutional recognition or recording of the reason why they dropped out. The talks from the conference are very much worth reading. Continue reading “Staff-to-student sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse in higher education”
Ed Vaizey, the culture secretary, has just tried to give the classical music sector a wake-up call, in a speech to the Association of British Orchestras conference, saying that it needs to diversify itself. I haven’t found the full speech online yet, but the media reports quote him suggesting that established musicians should mentor those who are excluded due to issues of cost or culture, and singling out the work of the In Harmony project for praise.
I have written about In Harmony elsewhere; suffice to say here that a programme that spends millions to benefit only a few thousand children a year is problematic (I estimate around 3000 children in England take part in In Harmony, given that there are eight programmes with between 200 and 500 children each). I’d need to hear more about Vaizey’s ideas for mentoring to make a judgement on those, but this idea alone would be far from sufficient to overcome the barriers of cost or culture in gaining access to the sector.
Instead, I want to say something about how classical music’s particular history contributes to its lack of diversity. To be fair, as regards diversity, classical music has a lot in common with other creative industries – publishing, film, literature – which are all getting noticed for their whiteness and middle-class-ness at the moment. And I hesitate to confirm the exceptionalism of a sector and a tradition that already regards itself as different and special. But having said that, classical music’s particular history plays an important role in its lack of diversity today. The history has shaped the repertoire, the instruments played, the ideas of beauty, and the ways of playing together that have become normal in classical music. These historical ideas have sedimented to form the way the music is learnt and played and experienced now. Continue reading “The challenges of diversifying the classical music profession”