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Head of strings accused of sexual abuse quits the RNCM board

Malcolm Layfield, head of strings at the Royal Northern College of Music, stepped down last night from the college board.

Layfield remains head of strings, but he is on sick leave. He is one of two Manchester teachers who have been accused by former pupils in the Guardian of alleged sexual  molestation, incidents of which the college authorities were aware and did nothing to prevent.

The recently-appointed RNCM principal, Professor Linda Merrick, issued this statement last night: ‘… Following a discussion with the chairman of the board of governors of the RNCM over the weekend, Mr Layfield has stood down from his position on the board of governors.’


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  1. Edmund Coxon says:

    Not before time and long overdue. This particular head should have rolled long ago!

  2. Any comment invited or requested from Edward Gregson or Lord Armstrong about the process of appointment and Martin Roscoe’s correspondence, and others, as documented on the Guardian’s website?

    • Good point. Nothing been forthcoming from that quarter as yet.

      • On Monday he (Gregson) issued a statement via his lawyers defending his appointment of Layfield. He said: “If there had been serious reasons, based on recent evidence, that Mr Layfield’s appointment would have posed any risk to them, I would have had no hesitation in rescinding his appointment.

        “We certainly did not condone Mr Layfield’s past behaviour – far from it – and made it clear that any serious allegations should be reported to the police. We had huge sympathy for those former students who had been affected by his actions and this was expressed to them at the time.”

  3. Abigail Clifford says:

    His career as a teacher is now clearly over. How many musicians are ever going to want to play with him? It sounds like he made a career out of being a bully of the first order. Many people who he trampled on are presumably going to want revenge. Maybe time to sell his instruments to pat for the legal costs.

  4. Norman, you write that Layfield is ‘one of two RNCM teachers who have been accused by former pupils in the Guardian of alleged sexual molestation’, but I can find no reference in the Guardian to any other RNCM teacher being so accused, only other teachers at Chetham’s.

    The goings on at Chetham’s all those years ago were clearly truly awful, and nothing can condone what was happening between some staff and their pupils. However, Martin Roscoe’s tiresome vendetta against the RNCM and two of its senior staff seems to be turning into a witch hunt. He’s a wonderful pianist, and I wish he would stick to that!

    • Tiresome? He has been heroic. More is yet to emerge. The second RNCM suspect is outed here by the diligent Helen Pidd:

    • Martin Roscoe says:

      Tiresome vendetta against the RNCM?..that’s a new one. My motivation was to preserve the reputation of the RNCM from being damaged by Layfield’s appointment and the students being adversely affected by the possibility of him re-offending. A pity that Gregson and his supporters seemed more keen on preserving their own power positions and reputations than that of the RNCM. @Dansker it seems to me that you couldn’t care less about the future of the RNCM yourself. Thanks for endorsing my piano playing however. I seriously object to the word vendetta…nothing could be further from the truth, as you will learn in the coming months

  5. Edmund Coxon says:

    Lebrecht is quite correct in this matter. Roscoe has been tireless in hs endeavour. The sheer ignorance of Dansker’s remarks is no less surprising and depressing than the inaction of Prof. Edward Gregson during his woefully lacking stewardship of the fiasco in appointing and defending the notorious Layfield and quite simply backing the wrong horse. To defend the indefensible is to make one as culpable as other co-conspirators in this debacle! Shame on you sir!

  6. I plead guilty to all sorts of charges, Edmund, but the one thing I am not, on this particular issue, is ignorant! Malcolm Layfield was not appointed by Edward Gregson, he was appointed by his predecessor Sir John Manduell. Some years later, in 2002, after Gregson had been appointed principal, Layfield was promoted to Head of Strings. [The rest of this post has been redacted. If the writer wishes to makes this contentious statement, he will need to have the courage do so under his real name].

    • Edmund Coxon says:

      Not wanting to enter a slanging match – you will find yourself possibly in a minority of just one, unless of course one includes the spineless Gregson and pitiful Layfield. Perhaps you should identify yourself – I don’t hear or see much of it on these matters from those with a guilty conscience? The moral opprobrium is very much agin you sir and any other foolhardy individual who seems to think Layfield, Ling and Brewer are worth their support!

    • Martin Roscoe says:

      Unfortunately the remaining part of Dansker’s post misses the point entirely. There was and is no such thing as a “promotion” at the RNCM. He was in one job and applied for and was interviewed for another entirely different position.

  7. I will not post under my real name, Norman, such is the sensitivity of this issue here in Manchester, and the fact that I know all of the individuals involved. However, I am pleased to note that you have now amended your post and withdrawn the incorrect allegation that another RNCM teacher has been suspected of sexual misconduct.

    The remainder of my post, which you have deleted, is not the slightest bit contentious, and is common knowledge. Layfield taught at the RNCM for several years before being promoted to Head of Strings in 2002. Roscoe never objected to his teaching at the College, only to his promotion to Head of Department. He called on the College to rescind the appointment, on the grounds that Layfield’s sexual relationships with some pupils at Chetham’s many years before disqualified him from it. Trouble is, Layfield had already been teaching at the RNCM, without any problems, for some years, and if the College had withdrawn the appointment they would have ended up on the losing side in the Employment Tribunal. But there again, why should an outstanding pianist understand that – he’s not an HR lawyer, after all!

    This is the truth. If you post it, fine. If you do not, I shall draw my own conclusions as to whether you are interested in the truth, or merely in getting on board the bandwagon [redacted].

    • Martin Roscoe says:

      I repeat seeing as you don’t take the point “Dansker” that Layfield had a position as violin tutor prior to 2001. The position of HOS was a completely different one so he was not promoted.

      I was never in any position to object to him teaching at the RNCM as a violin tutor as he was in that position for many years before I took up my post as Head of Keyboard. However, if you look carefully at the correspondence published by the Guardian, you will see that some of the incidents I referred to did indeed take place at the RNCM with RNCM students.

      Also you need to become more acquainted with employment law (as if that were the most important feature when discussing the sexual abuse of schoolgirls), as any appontment can be rescinded within 6 months without any recompense. So that was no defence as far as Gregson’s support was concerned, as if that were in some way relevant here. Unfortunately for you the “outstanding pianist” seems to be more cognisant with employment law than yourself.

      Finally it is indeed a pity that you are so spineless that you are unable to reveal yourself …your comments just might be a little more credible…

  8. Martin Roscoe writes ‘There was and is no such thing as a “promotion” at the RNCM. He was in one job and applied for and was interviewed for another entirely different position.’

    Martin, this is called ‘promotion’. [redacted]
    Edmond Coxon writes: ‘The moral opprobrium is very much agin you sir and any other foolhardy individual who seems to think Layfield, Ling and Brewer are worth their support!’

    Edmond, have another look at what I have written above. I have at no point supported any of those three people. My only interest is in the truth.

    • If your interest is truth, be bold enough to state your name. Martin Roscoe has risked his career in the interests of truth. And you? No further comments will be published from you under a pseudonym.

      • I think your attitude is wrong, although it’s your blog. I suggest you allow Dansker to comment if you, and you alone, can verify that he has reason to remain anonymous. Cutting someone off just because they do not wish to be public is too robust and risks stifling debate.

        • I agree, Peter. A desire to remain anonymous within a debate such as this is perfectly reasonable. I imagine you would not impose the same ban on other anonymous posters who comment in support of your article.

    • Martin Roscoe says:

      @”Dansker” you can call it promotion if you like but it was not….separate interviewing process…

  9. Edmund Coxon says:

    Dansker’s belligerence is opportunistic. His reluctance to reveal his pseudonym is understandable but not in any way linked, as he pompously and patronisingly suggests, to the ‘sensitivity’ of the subject. I have known most of the key players in this torrid and tragic affair (save thankfully for Gregson) for many, many years and having been educated entirely in a specialist music establishment, know well the frailties and whimsical nature of teaching staff and the brilliance and vulnerabilities of some of their charges. Dansker’s refuge seems to be in the politic of employment law and insistence that his bosses would’ve lost face had they altered tac! To risk losing an employment tribunal hearing is to risk personal reputation – that and only that, was Gregon’s concern! He understood and had affinity with Layfield’s desire to fulfill personal gratification, not the welfare of a student. This simple fact distinguishes his like and the integrity and nobility of those such as Roscoe (whom I would stress, I have neither met nor known of since these stories broke). I knew Fran and Levine, numerous others and met Brewer and many of his fans being contemporary as I was with them. It is inconceivable, in my opinion, that Layfield would have changed his ways – he may have desisted from the alleged predatory manipulations of unwilling innocents – but the damage is done and the passage of time makes no odds as has been appallingly demonstrated in the death of Frances Andrade.

  10. Edmund Coxon says:

    Again – utter nonsense and arrogant at that from Dansker! His stated belief that Roscoe has pursued a ‘vendetta’ directly implies a support for the opposing view thus leaving one in little doubt as to where he thinks the truth lies. Dansker cannot have it both ways Mr. Lebrecht unless I have completely missed a third viewpoint? The allegations against Layfield are very serious and have apparently (given the dossier of correspondence released by the Guarduan) until now, not been taken as such. GMP will doubtless look into them assiduously and naturally we must apply a sense of proportionality, reason, moral responsibility, fairness and merit within the framework of law. All persons are innocent in the law courts until found otherwise. However, the context of your initial input suggests that the civil standard of proof of a balance of probability, has perhaps been met when it comes to Mr. Layfield. The moral and political context as to whether he should remain or even should have ever been there in the first place, is clear. It is good, save for Fran’s terrible end, that these things have come to pass and as I said in my first comment, not before time and long overdue!

  11. Martin Roscoe says:

    Mr Coxon I congratulate you for your posts here and thank you for your support. I hope we can meet some day. Dansker is clearly deluded and has some warped view of what is right and wrong…I suspect that he(? ) is one of those who thinks it is NEVER appropriate to challenge the decisions of authority no matter what….one can think of several analogies in Europen history in the last century

    • Susanna Kemp says:

      Mr Roscoe. I admire your stand against Malcolm Layfield’s appointment enormously. It was and is a true example to follow. It was also an important thing to do and makes a difference to those of us who were impotent schoolchildren at Chet’s in the 80s.

  12. Edmund Coxon says:

    It is often said that argument can descend or revert to periods in history where inescapable truths reveal themselves but usually when the argument is not going so well in one’s favour. There isn’t an ounce of doubt in my mind about this particular topic. It may well herald the advent of a new culture and environment for relationship between teacher and student – one which serves both interests – and both have interests which need serving. I know for example that in a very well known specialist school a recent appointment demanded a room where staff could be visibly seen teaching the student by anyone who happened to either walk by or wish to ensure welfare of either party. This has been facilitated where previously the room was below ground level with no windows or proper ventilation – uncomfortable, unprofessional and not really appropriate. There is much to discuss, learn and re-learn and change must come. Many good thing will stem from your inspiration and determination and students will thrive whilst age old demons and cultures will and rightly should, dwindle and die. For amusement in the meantime and in the absence of the truth, all I could find was this:,d.d2k.

  13. John Humphreys says:

    ‘Dansker’ – Billy Budd/Britten. Some detective work under way here….

  14. [redacted] no further posts will be accepted from this anonymous source

  15. Rosemary Hamblett says:

    As an ordinary piano teacher with no particular connections to Chethams or the RNCM apart from the occasional student who has gone on to attend one of them, I find it almost impossible to believe the vicious and baffling comments of “Dansker” about the courageous stand taken by Martin Roscoe in this matter. It is so obvious, reading the correspondence, that his principal concern was the welfare of the young women such as Frances Andrade who had confided their stories to him, and after that the reputation of the college and its responsibilities. His treatment at the hands of Edward Gregson and the governors beggars belief, and I can only imagine at what personal cost he made this stand against the guilty individuals at the school. We hear regularly about the difficulties that people experience when they attempt to become “whistle blowers”, or just to expose wrongs in the establishments where they are employed. This exchange of letters is a graphic example of the way such attempts can be suppressed by unscrupulous people who do not wish their own careers or reputations to be damaged. One to one instrumental teaching, as I know, is a position of extreme vulnerability for both the student and to a lesser extent the teacher – the privileged person in charge. Personally, I am extremely grateful that this appalling story is coming to light – I am sure there will be more – and I watch with interest to see where it takes us in our profession. Thank you Martin Roscoe – a pianist of sublime talent – and deep shame on your small minded anonymous detractor

  16. maureen Morrison says:

    Sadly, this state of affairs has been rife in specialist music schools and colleges for many years.
    Impressionable girls, seeking attention and approval from their revered teachers / professors. Flattered by the attention received and craving ever more. Working hard all week, longing for the lesson, what to wear ……
    When I was invited to my professor’s home for an extra weekend lesson I coudnt wait to see his home, meet his family. I didnt expect sex, I didnt want sex ………… I had a crush, he was the same age as my father.
    Im now an oap, but I remember that day as if it were yesterday, and it still makes me feel sick.

    • Edmund Coxon says:

      Ms. Morrison – your comment is a profoundly sad one. I hope I may have misconstrued your meaning behind it but I fear not. I know well this conduct was rife in schools and existed in my own. I was not only aware of it from some of the female pupils, I can bear witness to the occasional humour it brought to certain staff members and the ‘banter’ that existed between them as they shared their frivolity and personal amusement as though we were play things. I also speak to the inaction and attempts to cover and gloss over the earliest and worst episodes by persons in power and the sense that it was their inalienable right to do so. It has without doubt been a culture endemic within the systems across the UK – the time for permanent change is now! Never has there been a better time nor greater opportunity – to those that can – I urge you, implore you to take the reins for the greater good of all our young musicians.

  17. What a shame that there aren’t many others like Martin Roscoe: his championship of the right of musicians to learn unhindered shows great integrity. Those without professional integrity have no place in educational establishments – Layfield’s head should not be the last to roll.

  18. geoff miles says:

    It doesn’t seem to me that “Dansker” is working too hard to hide his identity.. A quick google search reveals that aren’t so many Danish string instructors at RNCM that would have had an intimate knowledge of this story… Surely anyone with something to say here owes it to the victims (and the few that have had the moral courage to risk their own names and reputations to stand up and challenge these things) to declare their own personal interests.

    My partner is a Chets alumnus from this time. I won’t speak for her, apart from affirming that she wasn’t physically abused. I am professionally interested in the psychology of musical performance.

    I couldn’t agree more when I read of Ian Pace and Martin Roscoe encouraging a wider debate here. If there is anything positive to be gained from this it might be an opportunity for the industry to examine some fundamental issues, and to give quieter, more perceptive voices a chance to be heard. It seems to me that this would be most likely to succeed if there was an element of reconciliation to the process. I’m not suggesting that abusers are offered a way to escape justice, but this was so widespread that it touches not just those directly abused, but many fellow students, and their parents and families. From our own experience I’d say that the emotions aroused are complex and unsettling, and that what is required is for people to be able to talk freely and confidentially (if they wish) without fear of further exploitation.

    I was recently much taken by a quote of Vasily Grossman’s (soviet author and war correspondant) he says:

    “Human groupings have one main purpose: to assert everyone’s right to be different, to be special, to think, feel and live in his or her own way. People join together in order to win or defend this right. But this is where a terrible, fateful error is born: the belief that these groupings in the name of a race, a God, a party or a State are the very purpose of life and not simply a means to an end. No! The only true and lasting meaning of the struggle for life lies in the individual, in his modest peculiarities and in his right to these peculiarities.”

    It seems to me that this wisdom should apply equally to our musical institutions. It is our “modest peculiarities” that mark us out as human beings, and as musicians. Once the right to these small individualities becomes secondary to the survival of “the orchestra” or “the academy” as much as to “the state” we’re pretty much lost. Somehow, over the last few decades we’ve lost sight of this. If we want to look at the root of the problems with our industry this is a good place to start.

    • Geoff, thank-you at last for a voice tempered by wisdom. There is a palpable danger that in the melee of a media led witch burning excercise, the more subtle and important issues surrounding the exploitation of power in institutions like the RNCM will be dealt blunted blows with unfortunate consequences for not least the victims themselves. Martin Roscoe’s deserves our respect for taking a principled stand against the abuse of power at the RNCM, but the underlying issues of abuse will not be solved in an atmosphere of “mob hysteria”.

      • Geoff Miles says:

        Grossman’s wisdom came from his witnessing of the abuse of power on a massive scale. His firsthand experience of both soviet and nazi atrocities is difficult to imagine. He seems to have been able to deal with his experience through attempting to understand the actions of the perpetrators in human terms. He never demonises – and he draws parallels between our tolerance of small instances of cowardice or abuse in our personal relationships, and our ability to construct and inhabit a system which is institutionally abusive. In some ways he seems to have found a form of “closure” through his writing and in so doing developing a deeply profound understanding of humanity.

        The victims here are unlikely to find closure in the revenge of a witch hunt, and those that drive the process for whatever reason should be extremely wary of pursuing this on their behalf. I would have thought that the abused require firstly our respect for their courage in building careers and families in spite of the past, our support in pursuing justice, and our affirmation that any weakness lies not with them, but with their abusers and the wider structures that allowed the abuse to continue unchallenged for such a long time.

  19. Who cares when or how he was employed, RNCM have never denied that they knew of Layfield’s past, and as a result should never have hired him at all, as a teacher or head of strings! This whole subject makes me very angry, as an ex-student of RNCM I can safely say that Layfield was an appalling head of department and his resignation from the department cannot come soon enough!

  20. Inappropriate behaviour and abuse of positions of authority was rife in the music department of one of the London University colleges in late 70s and early 80s.

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