Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Jimmy Savile sexual harassment cover ups

I never thought that the problem that has now arisen over the covering up of the sexual harassment and possible abuse of young girls by Jimmy Savile would ever effect me. All my life I have lived with this unseen problem and I just had to get on with it.

I chose to work in the theatre  in the 1960's and 1970's and for young women sexual harassment was part of the job. You couldn't complain for if you did no one would believe you and you lost your job. You just had to put up with it.

Girls of my age, think Lady Di at 19, had no formal sex education, we were not taught about homosexuality or pedophilia or plain ordinary sex and had to sort of learn as we went. It was not really an ideal situation. The one thing going for young girls is that many of our male colleagues were not interested in women or girl children and the ballet and musical theatre was almost as safe as a convent.

I spent many years being chased around the wings by leading men,chorus boys and stage hands ready for a quick grope. I learned quickly to obtain an imaginary fiance fast. This did not stop the groping but did put a stop to sexual propositions. Fortunately I did not appeal to lesbians and I have never had one offer in that direction. I do not know whether to be flattered or insulted.

But Jimmy Saville has changed all that for me mainly because of the failure of the BBC to broadcast an investigation into Savilles's alleged abuse because two tributes to his philanthropy were to be shown at Christmas. In hindsight this was a mistake. That nobody felt able to actually to say anything is disturbing. They must have known.

I am in a similar position with a famous composer Benjamin Britten. Next year is his centenary and the arrangements to celebrate this are already in place. Just by chance I was part of that milieu as I was employed in two of his works. It is well known that this composer had a penchant for young boys and a male partner which at the time was a criminal offense which thankfully it is no longer. But today the problem of suspected of pedophilia  must still be there and that is a more serious question.

Parents and those in authority over us just shipped children off into situations that would be unthinkable today. At 15 I was just delivered to men's flats and left there admittedly for auditions and coaching but I should never think of doing that to a child today. Anything could have happened. I was just sent off to Aldeburgh with no questions asked even as to where I would be staying.

When I was there I saw nothing at all unusual but then I was sexually ignorant. I can only recall one occasion when I was 15 when some remarks by one of the favorites gave me cause to think that's strange! The conductor Charles Mackerras was hauled over the coals for mentioning the problem.

Britten's relationship with me was totally above board, I was 19 at the time, but it does cause me some concern today. Is a scandal of Saville proportions about to explode or is this penchant for boys even if only as a voyeur, perfectly acceptable as it happened 50 years ago? I don't know! A book 'Britten's Children' by John Birdcut has lists of boys who were befriended by Britten. None of them ever complained but his behavior seen in today's climate it does appear unacceptable. It would not be allowed now.

It is difficult with composers as one is forced to distinguish between the music and the man. Beethoven was a monster. His treatment of his nephew and his brother's wife was brutal and would not be tolerated today. Wagner too with his vicious anti semitic views would be condemned. Britten it as is known liked young boys and yet their music is among the finest ever written and must remain so even if we despise the writers.

I liked the man but then I was a girl and in no danger. Britten hardly spoke to me before I was 19 but I knew he liked me a lot. Does one praise or distance oneself from the scene? I can't ignore it.

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