Safeguarding issues did not ‘go away’ by the exposure of the Saville cases 

Today, the conversations in music are all about inclusion. For music-making to be inclusive it must be safe and welcoming for all those who would like to be involved. Therefore, this conversation should always include reference to safeguarding. Safe, welcoming places are places where openness, transparency and conversation are embraced at an organisational level. At present, this is far from being the case regarding safeguarding.  

There are several reasons for this. Firstly, the subject of safeguarding includes some very distasteful practices such as bullying, sexual abuse and deceit. We do not like to think that these things will happen in organisations to which we entrust children or vulnerable adults. At most times they don’t. There lies the second problem. Most people are well-intentioned and would not dream of harming another so they do not believe others would either. The third problem is shame. Being bullied or deceived and especially sexual abuse are all taboo subjects wrapped in shame. We will do anything rather than the one thing we ought to do, which is talk about them. Thus, the DBS check has been gratefully embraced as a splendidly abstract solution which removes all distastefulness. Conscientious organisations may go one step further and advise staff to undertake a level 1 (or equivalent) safeguarding course (often a 20 minute online session) but there is no real engagement in the subject matter by the organisation itself. The box is ticked but remains safely shut. This is very far from adequate and while we would like to imagine that the post-Saville world is wiser to the facts of abuse, many small organisations have happily swept the issues back under the carpet. 

I shall argue that small community organisations should be offered bespoke training in safeguarding plus clear guidance on the needs to safeguard their staff and service users. I’ll add that training should allow for conversations about real issues because while most training assumes that it is always someone else who is at risk, many of those taking the training will have been affected by some aspect personally. Abusers become abusers for many reasons, perhaps including the fact that they were abused themselves and never spoke about it. Good interactive training is an opportunity for those conversations to start and providing a safe space allows those conversations to develop. 

Surely the authorities have it covered? 

An assumption is made that organisations are part of a bigger picture and therefore are held to account in matters so important as safeguarding. For the past 15 years I have not known where to take my personal experience of when we trusted an organisation which did not consider safeguarding. I was never offered a safe space and instead allowed the process to impact every aspect of my personal and family life. Having been actively involved in promoting safeguarding and an advocate for safe, inclusive places, I now choose to share my story to hopefully allow others to simply talk more openly. 

My Story 

In the late 90s my children and I started to learn to play musical instruments and we joined an orchestra to share this new found hobby with others. How lovely! Except, over the time we were involved with the Soar Valley Music Centre (SVMC), we witnessed incidents of child abuse, bullying and poor practice which eventually led me to call the police. Initially there was disbelief and something akin to a defence mechanism where I thought I was misinterpreting the situation which made me keep quiet. I will always believe I acted too late, even though it resulted in criminal prosecutions. That will be my burden to bear. The incidents that took place and, maybe even more so, the trial, have repercussions which are still felt by us and by many other families, but they are not talked about. Nor is there an official line on this. From my discussions with the office of Jon Ashworth, MP, Penny Rogers, Safeguarding lead at the Devonshire Trust NHS and the Leicester Safeguarding board, it is clear that there are serious gaps in the safeguarding system, which organisations are able to exploit to their advantage.

Why we cannot afford to pay lip service to safeguarding Julie Hoggarth 31.12.2020 

The SVMC has employed, attracted and been associated with at least 4 charged sex offenders between the 1990s and 2018 (see appendix). The chair of its board of trustees Liz Dunn however, denies that any harm has been done to young people in the SVMC organisation. Indeed, when I asked her in 2014 to make a statement about the victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by people connected to her orchestra against players in the orchestra, I received a letter telling me that I would be sued for libel and that Liz was not in charge of the organisation at that time. Given the fact that the prosecutions are a matter of public record (see Appendix), this denial of accountability is a massive concern in an organisation which is taking money from families and has also received public money. 

Since 2014 I’ve tried every avenue to seek evidence that anyone is observing and overseeing what happens at SVMC, given its past and recent links with sex offenders. I’ve written to the papers, consulted lawyers and contacted the NSPCC and the LeicesterShire Music Education Hub (LMEH), who have had many close dealings with the SVMC over the years. In 2016 the LMEH hosted a meeting between me and the then manager, James Simpson, in around 2016 about ways local organisations could collaborate to serve Leicester, despite my expressions of concern and distaste. No interest was shown in even acknowledging that there was any kind of problem. Why? It feels to me that the elitist nature of traditional music education has allowed a culture of being ‘above the law’. An organisation working with vulnerable young people must surely be accountable? When I contacted the Department for Education (DFE) and Ofsted to ask why SVMC’s music academy (which it set up as an alternative curriculum CIC in 2014) was not Ofsted-inspected they were vague. Different people gave me different answers. In fact, given that the music academy ran a full timetable it should have been registered but no one I spoke to felt minded to take action. 

When eventually I was able to speak to the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Safeguarding Children Partnerships (after contacting my local MP), about how SVMC could operate without scrutiny, they admitted that private organisations, including private residential care homes for the most vulnerable children, are able to operate outside any regulatory system, and indeed are being paid by public funding to look after those children in our society who need the most care. So no, the authorities certainly do not have it covered. 

Community music – in a world of its own 

Under the current system an ‘unregulated’ children’s organisation (outside the Ofsted system) is responsible only to its clients. This is the market economy at work and generally it does because most people are well-meaning. The thing is, if they aren’t, what do you do? When I took my 3 children to the SVMC and was drawn into a world which was hugely attractive with music, instruments and opportunities I had never been exposed to before, I assumed that I could trust it because others trusted it. All the children loved the orchestra with its weekends away and an atmosphere which was seemingly relaxed to the verge of being chaotic (it was actually heavily controlled by Chris Dunn with the full permission of Liz Dunn, his mother who created and spearheaded SVMC). Alarm bells rang as Chris was ‘going out with’ a very young member of the orchestra (she was 15 when they first started going out and he was in his late 20s). Chris very much treated the whole organisation as his playground, but the general consensus was that this was a reasonable price to pay for a local, accessible orchestra. The alternative was the county orchestras, which required auditions which felt, to me, elitist. 

Ultimately the practices at SVMC allowed two young men, one of whom was Wesley Hawriliu, subsequently jailed for 8 years for child sex offences, to join the orchestra in a position of power. His motives were clear; to form relationships with the younger (11+) female players. They succeeded in their aims beyond their expectations, given the prevailing permissive culture and the fact that Chris Dunn had set a precedent for exactly that kind of behaviour. By then, parents knew things were badly wrong but we felt compromised and trapped as do many in

Why we cannot afford to pay lip service to safeguarding Julie Hoggarth 31.12.2020 

these situations. The abuses in the Saville case took decades to come to light for the same reasons.  

That was a bad time for my family. My marriage broke up and my children suffered traumas of many kinds from the unsafe atmosphere. We left the SVMC in 2007. By 2009 we had been out of the orchestra for 2 years and we were feeling a bit better. Then we heard that Chris Dunn was seeing a 17-year-old girl who was a foster child who lived with the family of one of the SVMC trustees. She had a troubled background and was very vulnerable. I finally took the plunge and complained to the trustees and called the police. Allegations against Chris Dunn and Wesley Hawriliu were investigated. Charges were made and eventually the case reached court. This was not for another 4 years however. As my daughter was called as a witness, we were not allowed to talk about the trial with anyone or with each other. This effectively banished communications between me and my ex-partner or his family. Those relationships have never recovered. 

The trials of Chris Dunn and Wesley Hawrilu took place in 2013. Both were jailed for 8 years for sexual abuse of minors, but the trial itself was at least as traumatic as the events that led up to it. It was halted twice, with witnesses having to be re-examined in front of the perpetrators. As everyone knows, the aim of the defence in such cases is to discredit the witness by humiliation and accusations of lying. To have to undergo this twice was terrible. 

After the trials, we all believed the SVMC would either change hands or close. But Liz Dunn sidestepped the issue of having been in charge of the organisation by resigning from the board of trustees. She re-joined a year later as the Chair. She also opened a sister organisation: Leicester Academy of Music and the Arts which offered alternative curriculum music activities. This presumably brought in significant funds from arts funding bodies. It also put vulnerable children who had been excluded from mainstream education alongside staff and pupils of the junior and senior orchestras. One teacher who worked there complained of the complete lack of organisation and said that safeguarding vigilance amounted to Liz walking into rooms at random. 

It should not be possible for the SVMC to have continued but it did, and it still does. Their poor standards which led to criminal activity with regards to safeguarding are evident in other areas of the organisation. Their poor organisation has meant that they do not pay their rent or their staff. They have been ejected from the Claremont Centre building, owing the church a large amount of back rent and now operate from the Mayflower Church in Evington. There is a continuing wall of silence about its history. Families and musicians involved feel shame and betrayal and they do not wish to revisit those experiences. Leicester is littered with victims and when we meet, there is an uncomfortable atmosphere and a strained silence. Teachers do not speak out against the organisation because some of them are owed thousands of pounds in unpaid wages. They believe that speaking out will put them at ‘the bottom of the list’ if payment is ever made. This was the story put out by long-time manager James Simpson, who has now left himself. The SVMC is still fully operational and went swiftly online during the lockdown so clearly has some organisational skills. 

And the most terrifying thing is that there is nothing to stop them doing just that. No regulation and no weight of public opinion. Given how much we now know about online grooming and the dangers of the internet, allowing parents to willingly give SVMC access to their children’s online life is chilling. What’s the solution? In cases of taboo, the answer is not to tick boxes but to open them up and talk about what’s inside and that should not be left to individual clients but dealt with by the organisations. 

Solutions? 

I’ve held onto the belief that playing music together is life-enhancing. However, the grip of institutions such as ABRSM and Trinity on deciding what is ‘acceptable’ standards and material

Why we cannot afford to pay lip service to safeguarding Julie Hoggarth 31.12.2020 

have long since taken community music-making out of the public domain and created a private elite. Examinations, competition and mystique hold sway and where these values prevail, negative practice flourishes. Elitism breeds exclusivity and secrecy. Myths develop to fill the gaps in knowledge and aspiration encourages those myths to be embraced at the expense of common sense. Read this way, SVMC is a natural consequence of this culture. 

Drum and Brass was formed in response to this elitism. From the start we decided to follow the safeguarding practices of publicly accountable and accredited institutions where possible. I had learned from my previous experience of leading a band that it is best to address the issues early on and at an organisational level. And it is unfair to rest all the responsibility for accountability on the client. Parents need to be able to trust us. People see music as being pleasurable and as a hobby and will be wary if, for instance, on joining they are reminded of their responsibility to report any wrongdoing to the safeguarding board (which is effectively the official line at present). As organisations it is up to us to do that work and prove it to clients; they should not have to ask. 

Need for more clarity 

As a response, we want to train staff and offer supportive guidance. We want to set the standards. But where do we find information? Voluntary Action Leicester (VAL) has no clear guidance on its website. Indeed, when we asked VAL about adult safeguarding their safeguarding lead recommended that we just make it up. I hope/think he did not mean that, but it serves to illustrate the confusion in this area and was not particularly helpful to us as a small organisation wanting to take safeguarding seriously. 

The Leicester Leicestershire and Rutland Safeguarding Children Partnerships offers no guidance for small organisations either, being aimed at public bodies. The NSPCC does provide more practical support. They offer for instance a safeguarding policy statement here and are probably the most reliable source of information for small organisations at present. They also offer training sessions; a lot of them, but to be honest, small voluntary-style organisations do not have the time or money to carry out the research necessary even to decide what course they might need. No wonder small organisations rely on DBS checks and crossed fingers. 

Clarity and guidance are needed here, including about what the different safeguarding levels mean and why levels are not always used (confusing!) and about what training a named safeguarding officer requires, or even that organisations working with children must have a named safeguarding officer. 

For these reasons, Drum and Brass set up our own Level 3 and 4 online safeguarding courses. Level 3 is essential for those working one to one with children and vulnerable people and is equivalent to designated safeguarding lead status. Level 4 are for those working closely in areas where safeguarding is particularly relevant such as those children in care or looked after or adults subject to mental capacity checks. These were primarily for our staff, but we offered them out online. So far, we have facilitated 4 high-quality interactive training sessions with an NHS safeguarding lead who regularly trains people up to level 10 and worked with over 100 practitioners from the music sector. The Zoom platform is great because it allows for those desperately needed conversations to start to happen. We have been able to have close discussion of issues, thoughts and concerns and we have also been able to support individuals for whom the training brought up issues (it nearly always does, for someone). We have had really good feedback from those who have taken part: one quote states: “I really appreciated the opportunity to take part in such comprehensive training at a time when so many vocations have ceased. I tuned in from London and feel that the information was communicated in a clear and concise manner, thanks to zoom as well” 

Music-specific safeguarding

Why we cannot afford to pay lip service to safeguarding Julie Hoggarth 31.12.2020 

Participants in our courses have mainly been music therapists, who are well aware of the need for safeguarding, and for whom the training is prescribed. Other local music organisations have not taken up the offer. Why would they? It is not mandatory and people don’t want to engage in something that will make them feel uncomfortable. But it will continue to be uncomfortable 

unless we allow people to talk about it openly. And training needs to be bespoke. A generic course cannot address to specific issues involved in music. The relationship e.g., between a child and a music teacher is very different to that in a classroom or hospital. It is long term and often one-to-one. It requires a different kind of understanding of safeguarding. We feel that every single person involved with music teaching and ultimately society, need to participate in bespoke and interactive safeguarding training. 

Plus, the SVMC and similar organisations will continue unless bottom lines are set and families are fully aware that the world of music is not a protected crystal bubble but is a children’s service with huge responsibilities and which must guarantee the safety of children and families as well as the staff they employ. 

I do believe that music and music making is a human instinct and a human right. Making music with others within communities increases individual confidence and social wellbeing. And I’ll reiterate: when the sector is looking at making music more inclusive, safeguarding needs to be a central part of the conversation. 

As a trustee of Brass Bands England, I’m proud to say that their BandSafe programme is a great model for good practice. I would go further however and say that our users need to know what we are offering and why. They need to be able to see good practice at a glance. Would we benefit from a star system, like the one used for food hygiene by the council? For that kind of shift change we need the support of national and regional organisations. Hopefully this article can go someway to prompt action. 

For more information about our safeguarding courses or about Drum and Brass, see www.drumandbrass.co.uk 

The appendix below itemizes the arrests of people connected to the SVMC. The fact that the most recent was in 2018 is alarming. 

Appendix: 

Chris Dunn (former conductor of the The SVMC orchestra, son of Elizabeth Dunn, jailed in 2014 for 6 years for child sex offences (Elizabeth Dunn is the sole director of the organisation)), https://theukdatabase.com/2014/05/07/christopher-dunn-leicesterthurnby/ Wesley Hawriliu (23 year old attracted to the orchestra by its ‘permissive’ culture, jailed in 2014 for 8 years for child sex offences ), https://theukdatabase.com/2014/11/22/wesley hawryliw-leicester/ 

Andrew Goff (jailed for indecent images on computer, given positive reference by Elizabeth Dunn at his court case) https://theukdatabase.com/2014/02/09/andrew-goffjack-steadman-nr coalville/ 

and most recently in 2018 

Nick Tanner, the landlord of the Harrow Pub who set up Glastonbudget with Chris Dunn and favourite haunt of the Dunn family (whose narrow boat was moored nearby) https://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/news/leicester-news/glastonbudget-founder-indecent images-young-1462658