Why is the media ignoring the victims regarding institutional abuse and Elm Guest House?

Over the past couple of days I’ve been sucked into the scandal regarding Elm Guest House, and the very famous and important people who are alleged to have abused children there during the 1980’s.Yesterday I mentioned that a cover up was underway, and over the last few days it’s clear there’s a full fledged attempt in a lot of the media to obscure the subject.

For example, here’s Brendan O’Neill in Spiked, talking about how ‘society obsesses about child abuse’.There’s no mention of the very real victims, or how in many, if not most cases, it goes unpunished but that would get in the way of O’Neill’s swaggering libertarianism and the assumption that this is just another witch hunt. I do agree there are those turning this into some sort of overarching conspiracy theory but the testimony of victims is being ignored, and the reason why Jimmy Savile, Rolf Harris and Cyril Smith got away with it for so long is that nobody listened, or indeed, they were protected and even defended by people positions of power.

When Elizabeth Butler-Sloss was appointed head of the child abuse inquiry by David Cameron most people who did even a minutes’ worth of research cried foul, apart from The Guardian which ran an astonishing article saying her choice was a natural fit, even though there’s a massive conflict of interest with her heading up such an inquiry.

Then there’s this extraordinary piece at the Daily Telegraph by Neil Lyndon which says that everyone was fucking everyone in the 1970’s and that if someone like him did fuck someone under the age of consent then hey, he wasn’t a paedophile but it was what people did. This is of course, nonsense, and again, this avoids dealing with the victims and survivors of child abuse.

Over and over again the victims are ignored, and also, the suggestion is that these sort of institutional abuse cases are in the past, and could never happen in the 21st century, except right now David Cameron’s former aide, Patrick Rock, is facing trial for making and possessing images of child abuse. Rock was one of the government’s advisors in relation to it’s policy of porn filters for ISP’s that I’ve mentioned in the past as being unworkable, but it’s quite clear the victims aren’t being considered and that’s why people are angry. It’s not a witch hunt going on now, but a wave of public anger at what is clearly a cover up and obfuscation from people who were, or are in powerful positions.

All people want is transparency, honesty and a respect for the victims but we’re getting none of this. There’s been so many things which have seen people’s faith and trust in the establishment corroded and this is probably the final straw. This is why we have to continue to put pressure not only on government, but the media to ensure the full story is told, not just the version being spun by those who only have a voice in the media

The media’s hindsight in regards Rolf Harris…

There’s a couple of articles in The Guardian about Rolf Harris today. Both contain amazing amounts of hindsight, though this first article by Jonathan Jones contains not just amazing amounts of hindsight but Olympic sized swimming pools full of middle class smuggery that he could see Harris’s ‘dark side’ as if he was some sort of Jedi Warrior.

Long before Rolf Harris was convicted of 12 counts of indecent assault, including one against a girl aged seven or eight, I got a minor glimpse of his now notorious dark side.

I was sent to the press unveiling of his portrait of the Queen at her Buckingham Palace art gallery in 2005, at the height of his success when his Rolf on Art programmes had become the flagship of popular art history on the BBC (“Can you see what it is yet? It’s Monet’s waterlily pond …”)

The press conference was a sickening display of fawning over Harris and his fatuous painting, and something in me snapped. I asked him if he seriously believed that his portrait was a good work of art.

Anger suddenly crossed his previously beaming face. That dark side … The BBC’s senior person there – its head of factual television – spoke up to assert how “popular” Harris and his art were. How dare I criticise an artist so loved?

 

I didn’t think Harris was a Great Artist, but he was a great cartoonist, however Jones here isn’t interested in either a critique of Harris as an artists (which to be fair, isn’t ever going to happen now) but is instead trying to use his power of hindsight that he indeed, was clever and smart enough to see the ‘dark side’ because Harris and his press officer seemed annoyed at him. Jones uses this amazing power of hindsight to then launch a quite amazing attack upon what he sees as ‘worthless’ art, or anything popular in pop culture that he disapproves of.

In the case of Harris, I would be happy to see all his art destroyed, but I already felt that way back in 2005. Even as a child, I found his art on television soporific. He was never a good artist and it’s too late for collectors of his work to say they feel duped now – they were suckers to fall for such worthless cultural detritus in the first place. Collectors may even have a happy ending: some speculate that the notoriety of the artist will enhance his prices. People pay for paintings by Hitler – I can image Rolf’s similarly vacuous images becoming cult items.

Perhaps it all goes to show that the middlebrow is inherently corrupt. What goes on in Tracey Emin’s bed is far more honest, far more decent, than what has gone on in the name of bland entertainment and mild art, it turns out. Chocolate box art is a lie.

 

It’s worth reading the full piece just to read how much of an arsehole Jones comes over as but obviously if someone as diligent, smart and amazingly superior as Jones thought there was something to uncover about Harris then he’d have surely had a word in a journalists ear to see if there was anything worth digging up? Oh, he didn’t. Instead he’s just saying with the aid of 20/20 vision looking back and saying he may have possibly seen something, but he’s better than the plebs so there!

Marginally better is this one from Simon Hattenstone which at least admits some remorse for not actually doing the job of a journalist, but since the Harris verdict large parts of the media are closing ranks suggesting we should never be fooled by the likes of Harris or Jimmy Savile. We should look under the surface at what’s underneath and so on.

The problem is that although most of us believed Harris was a good man (I’d been one of many who’d enjoyed his Glastonbury performances which are memories now ruined), there’s stories flying around that some in the media knew of some stories regarding Harris but never printed or investigated them. They also apparently knew stories about Max Clifford but did nothing and of course the stories about Jimmy Savile are legion, not to mention that he didn’t even bother to hide the fact he was a paedophile but instead let the media obfuscate the matter for him.

I like most other people had no idea about Harris, but if people in the media did, they should have investigated it. Savile was known about and I’d heard stories about Savile going back to being a kid at school in Glasgow in the 70’s but wrote these off as stories until having these stories repeated to me in the 80’s and 90’s. These were stories told in playgrounds, pubs, workplaces and everywhere around the country but no investigative journalist looked into them to prove them, or perhaps clear the name of someone who at the time, was still massively popular?

The hindsight being shown by the media is of course a distraction from the fact they failed to do their jobs. It’s entirely right that the BBC and anyone in that organisation who helped cover up this abuse is brought to justice, but there’s a responsibility that the media failed to uphold so rather than admitting they fucked up, we’re getting these astonishingly self-righteous articles which mainly suggest they knew it all along, which is of course, utter, utter shite.

The abuses being uncovered are because they were covered up not just by people in the BBC, but the media and the establishment as a whole. There’s been a few journalists who have written about these topics and have done some amazing work, with Nick Davies being a very notable example of someone who still upholds the best of investigative journalism on the subject with articles like this.

Ultimately though it’s always inaction that lets abuse continue, be that the inaction of someone in power not listening to a victim trying to tell their story, or the inaction of a journalist who did nothing at the time but feel the need to rub salt in the wound by telling the people off for not being as smart as them, after the fact of course. Perhaps if more journalists actually did their job people like Harris might not have gotten away with it for so long?

A Return to Oz-The Tale of Glastonbury 2010

For reasons I detailed in my last blog, I didn’t go to Glastonbury Festival in 2009, which meant I approached 2010 somewhat refreshed. I’d happily bought a ticket in October on 2009 as it was a way of purging what should have been a fantastic year but ended up being a horrible struggle thanks mainly to the recession. 2010 offered a fantastic lineup as it was the 40th anniversary of the festival, and I’d worked out I’d done nearly half of the festivals held in those 40 years, which was great but dear Jebus, it made me feel old.

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Whether you liked it or not, Glastonbury Festival was now very much an establishment event. In places in was rather like William Hague wearing a baseball cap, but clumps of the festival were still clinging on to the feel of the 1970 festival though it was fighting for space with the Radio One stage and some twats in skinny jeans snorting cocaine while whooping loudly.

2010 was also the first year the festival opened the carparks on the Tuesday night in order to stop the congestion which clogged up large chunks of the South West from Bristol to Shepton Mallet to Glastonbury that had happened in the previous few years. This was going to be a bit of a logistical task for our jolly crew to grab our usual position in Park Home Ground. The plan was for Janet to pick me up late on Tuesday evening from Bristol, and to use the advantage of her disabled front access to jump the queue to get down the front. Sadly this meant kipping in a car for several hours which was something I was never very good at but fortune favours the bold…

Late on Tuesday night Janet met me up in Bristol, we loaded up my stuff and we headed off for the festival, but not before dropping by Cribbs Causeway to do a bit of shopping in the wee hours of the morning as the Asda/Walmart store there. Now this was weird as during the day the place is constantly heaving, but when we turned up there was only another few cars of ‘normal’ late night shoppers, and one, maybe two people obviously going to Glastonbury. Walking around a supermarket the size of that warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark in the wee hours is the closest you’ll get to a post-apocalyptic situation without the apocalypse.

Once fully stocked we headed off for the drive down to the festival in the dark, something unusual to say the least, but coming up on the festival in the dark when it’s all lit up like a Christmas Tree is somewhat spectacular. After some confusion when we arrived as to where exactly the forward parking for disabled access actually was, we found where we should be and this was the excuse to get some kip before the sun come up. Oh, did I mention that the weather for the run-up to the festival had been warm and sunny, with the forecast for the next week being hot, and in fact, it would get as hot as 1993 or 1995 when the entire site turned into a giant dustbowl that would have given John Steinbeck nightmares.

Thankfully I spent most of the time sitting around the carpark either sleeping, or dozing in such a way I wasn’t sure what exactly was going on. Janet in the meantime had found a nice security guard who’d advised her that when he gave the word to grab our stuff and follow him to the entrance some 200 metres away. This meant grabbing tents, sleeping bags and a rucksack so we could travel light for this first trip. This was around dawn, with the plan being that we’d head up at 8am, but by now the sun was coming up and the dew that’d formed on cars and people was being slowly burned off. I tried to doze in the increasing heat but it was hard, and anyhow we’d got the nod to get our stuff together, follow the security man and wait for the gates to open at 8am. Around two dozen people shook themselves up, gathered up their stuff and followed the staff to the pedestrian gate much to the annoyance of some people who thought we were jumping the queue, but most people shut up when they saw the walking sticks and obviously disabled people struggling with what they could to the gate through the very long grass.

Once at the gate we waited for probably ten or so minutes. It wasn’t long but the gates opened and we were among the first people to get in! Except the security guards were searching bags and they’d decided to search mine and Janet’s. One guard took offence at her plastic plates saying that they were somehow ‘banned’ from this year, but as I looked at another guard who was looking at this in some dismay and thought about asking him ‘what the fuck?’, another one gave me a look of ‘it’s not worth it’ so we had to leave plastic plates and cups by the gate in a pile of contraband, well, plastic plates mainly.

Sadly this meant our advantage in getting in early went down the Swanee, so we tried to make up as much distance as possible to get to our favoured camping area in Park Home, but really we couldn’t. So by the time we got there space was becoming scarce, but we managed to grab as much space as possible and convince people we really did have friends coming in. Thankfully Jan showed up with a friend so as they set up I decided to get back to the car to pick up as much stuff as possible, but the flow of people going in was ridiculous. As I got out the gates, I saw the plates were still there sitting around not being noticed which made me think that I’d grab them on the way back if I could but all I could do for the meantime was sit and wait in the sun. As i was sitting around a girl came up and asked what I was doing to which I explained I was waiting to get out to grab some beers, and this made her thrust a beer in my hand and walk off smiling knowing she’d done a good deed for the day!

I managed to eventually get  to Janet’s car, fill up my empty rucksack with stuff, and head back, unfortunately it was now against the flow of people who were heading back out after their first trip in. This wasn’t fun especially as it was now getting very, very hot indeed. Thankfully by the time I got back, Barry and his crowd from Scotland were there, plus we’d got newcomers like Alan, Katie and Wig. In what seemed like a very short amount of time everyone was there which was good as space was tight but we managed to squeeze everyone in.

At this point I need to point out just how busy the site was. In fact something like 80% of people coming were there first thing. It was simply extraordinary to see a sea of people right from the off, rather than the slower burn of previous years. As we’d set up fairly early this meant we could have a full evening of it on the Wednesday night, so a jolly group of us headed off on the evening. Here’s Jan draped over my cumbersome frame.

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And here’s another with Ross, Toni and Jan….

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I’d also utterly fucked up my ankle in the winter and it was still playing up that summer which is why I was still strapping it up, but you can see the sun was turning us all a delightful shade of lobster and no, I have no bloody idea what we’re pointing at. I also apologise for drinking Carlsberg Export but it was cheap at Asda. I also apologise for transforming into Kevin Smith as well. If I could I’d get my younger self (as seen below) to come forward in time and kick my arse for letting it all go to pot…

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Anyhow, Wednesday was enormous fun as we delved into the busiest Wednesday I’ve ever seen at a Glastonbury. It was mental. Everywhere was heaving like a builder’s arse in lycra jogging pants. Eventually we ended up in the Avalon field to see some mates of Katie and Wig play, but we couldn’t get in so we all just drank with merry abandon.

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The chap with the American taste in shirts is Barry, and the man covering up from the evil burning sun is Gregg. They’re from Aberdeen so sunlight to them is like sunlight to vampires. It was simply put a lovely night, and heading off to sleep that night I hoped we’d not get any rain.

Next morning I didn’t need to worry about rain. In fact, the problem was broiling alive in your tent as soon as the sun came up. An early rise was imposed upon you, so up I got and off to the showers I went. Now here’s an admission. I’ve never used the showers at a festival before, unless you count sticking your head under a cold tap in a pub at the Reading Festival in 2002 counts. This was a weird thing for me, but I trundled along to the Greenpeace showers expecting a queue but seeing as it was Thursday morning there was only me and another couple of lads.No waiting, no nothing! In and out in 20 minutes and all the scum and sweat from the night before was washed away. Now I was as fresh as a  newborn whelk ready to swim against the tide of the weekend!

Thursday was simply put, insane. The day started slowly but seeing as every stage was open apart from the main ones, all the wee areas were rammed, so finding the weird and wonderful was a miracle. We’d tried to find the mental chainsaw woodcarvers from 2008 but got lost and Jan and myself found a cocktail bar near the Pyramid which doubled up as a karaoke bar, so imagine the horror when Vanilla Ice came on to perform karaoke of his song, yes, that bloody song. It was very, very clear this was going to be a huge 40th birthday party. There was a visible air of excitement with everyone looking at the lineup excited about what’s coming up but some areas were just simply gridlocked. Shangri La was somewhere we got into on Thursday night, just, but it was rammed, and also Janet was struggling in the crowd so most of us headed back that night, though some of the crowd went off for their own adventures that night.

Friday eventually came. Everyone was excited in a way I’d never, ever seen before at a Glastonbury. Even the fake Hipsters and sad, empty ketamine losers seemed tolerable because the sun was shining and Glastonbury Festival was 40!

There was a plan for the Friday. Get up early. Get brekkie. Head to the Pyramid Stage and see Rolf Harris open up the main stages with an innocent romp through our happy childhood memories.

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What a pity those memories are now trampled over, shat on and ultimately empty.  Moving on….

The plan was to meet up later for Snoop Dogg, so everyone went their own way for the next few hours. This gave me a chance to take the festival in, not to mention take stock of a few things in life. See, there was a mood of somewhat melancholic restrictiveness bubbling under the bunting and sunshine of the festival,  or at least there was with myself. Luckily I was shaken out of my temporary gloom by the return of the dodgy sausage and bacon baguette I had for breakfast, and with cloth being very much touched, I managed to find a long drop of reasonable cleanliness and evacuate my bowels just as the sounds of Snoop Dogg filled the air, although this was not a criticism of his music, it was just a dodgy sausage. Kids, this is why you always carry loo roll around and you always suss out where the nearest bogs are at a festival.

After that I caught some of La Roux, who I think I should like more if she wasn’t trying too bloody hard. She’s got some great tunes, but it’s like watching a fourth generation photocopy at times.

After this, I had to charge my phone so it was a quick nip into a fairly quiet recharging tent to chill out in some shade, not to mention the bizarre sight of watching the execrable Florence and the Machine on the screens in the tent, which was defeating the point of leaving the Other Stage to recharge my phone. Thankfully there was one screen showing the football as this was also a World Cup year, with England’s game against Germany being something that many people were going to watch on the Sunday. They’d even given over an entire field to show the football this year.There wasn’t even that much of the annoying xenophobia and laddishness of previous years when the football had been on. The healing power of sunshine indeed…

We all met up by the urinals at the Pyramid Stage that evening for Gorillaz. Now I like Gorrilaz, and I’ve got previous with Jamie Hewlett so I was very  much looking forward to them, especially as Lou Reed was going to perform with them and I’d not seen Reed since the late 80’s at a gig in London.

Gorillaz were utter pish. The crowd voted with their feet after three or four songs It’s not that they were awful, though at times they were, but that they’d turned up for a wake and we were all wanting a party. They’d utterly misjudged the mood and feel flat on their arses.

Still, we had a chance to record the fun…

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Look at us, the lobster red is slowly turning brown for some of us!

Friday night was a long, hot sweaty night that slipped itself eagerly into Saturday. By this point sleep was a luxury and some of us including myself, had taken to sleeping half out of the tent until it got too hot to sleep. The heat in direct sunlight on the Saturday was extraordinary for this country.It felt like Australia.

Saturday, like many other years, was a blur. I remember sitting in a tent waiting to see a mate from work’s band, Central Spillz, and realising half of Bristol was watching them with me. After that it was a dash to the Pyramid Stage to watch Scissor Sisters with Janet and Jan’s friend.

Don’t remember much more of the Saturday. It seemed to glide by in a blur. I do remember watching George Clinton at the Jazz stage (now renamed West Holts and a nominal third main stage) but I think the lack of sleep, sunburn and beer had an effect which wiped me out but til now it’d been a brilliant festival but the heat was wasting however something weird happened to many of us: we all felt, well, healthy. Knackered, yes, but it’s amazing what a lot of sun can do for the soul.

Sunday at festivals is normally a day when people start leaving, and indeed, this happened this year but is what was to me, vastly less numbers. This was probably down to the hours of unbroken sunshine, England playing Germany in the World Cup and Stevie Wonder closing the Pyramid Stage. That however was in the future. Sunday morning is all about grabbing a few beers for breakfast, and this year, another shower to wash away the three days worth of sweat and filth that had built up since Thursday. Of course it was still boiling hot, not to mention a dustbowl so it’s be quickly replaced but at least I felt better for a while.

There ended up being a horrible choice. Do I see Slash on the Pyramid Stage or watch England go out of the World Cup in humiliating fashion against Germany. Being a Scot who has lived in England for years and past all this mindless poking of England and the English of course I went to watch England being humiliated by the Germans.

I had to feel sorry for the English. They at least have world class players unlike Scotland, but they self destruct like a cassette tape from Mission: Impossible once they’ve been given their mission at a World Cup, but unlike previous exits there wasn’t the oppressive black mood that would normally hang over the festival. Instead there was a grim realisation and then people just bloody got on with the task of having a great time.

After the game was a quick bite to eat, and then I legged it to the West Holts stage to see the peerless Toots and the Maytals before meeting everyone else for the final evening blowout that would be Stevie Wonder. Here we all are by the men’s urinals waiting for Stevie Wonder.

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To say there was an anticipation crackling in the air for Stevie Wonder is an understatement. Everyone in that field was pumped up from the young kids who probably never realised what Wonder did over his career to the old hippies who’d secretly been fans. to people like us in between.

After what seemed like hours waiting as the daylight drifted away into dusk, Stevie Wonder came on and the gig was fabulous…

People were desperate to get a view, and our viewpoint by the urinals was perfect as long as you stayed the right side of the wind. A few of helped a young girl climb on top of the wire fence of the urinals. People were on each others shoulders. It was mental but it was brilliant. A perfect way to end a 40th birthday party.

As we all slowly streamed back to the campsite that night we were knackered but it’d been a brilliant festival none of us really wanted to end. If you’d said to me ‘I’ll give you a couple of hundred quid to do this again next week’, I’d have said yes apart from the fact I wanted some kip and it rained the following week. On the Monday morning we all packed up, said our farewells, and Janet drove me back to Bristol to drop me outside my flat on a lovely summer’s morning and thus ended the festival for another year…

Glastonbury Festival 2010 was immense. It would be astonishingly hard for any future festival to top it, and to this day none have. That’s not because they’ve been crap because as you’ll find out next time 2011 was far from crap, it’s just that 2010 set such an extraordinary standard.

Which leads me to tell you to come back next time for the story of 2011………