Royal College of Music hit by more sex abuse allegations

Former student claims teacher and janitor ‘lunged’ at her in the 1970s

Paul Gallagher@PMGallagher1
Friday 10 January 2014 17:13
The woman was also a student of Ian Lake, pictured, who the Independent revealed last month had abused pupils since the 1970s
The woman was also a student of Ian Lake, pictured, who the Independent revealed last month had abused pupils since the 1970s

A former student of the Royal College of Music has spoken out against another predatory former teacher whose attempts to assault her “tarnished” her four years at one of the world’s leading conservatoires.

The woman, now a professional musician who wishes to remain anonymous, was also a student of Ian Lake, the professor of piano at the RCM for almost 30 years who the Independent revealed last month had abused pupils since the 1970s. Lake worked at the RCM from 1967 until 1995 when he was quietly removed from his position following his conviction of sexual offences.

Dame Janet Ritterman, RCM principal from 1993 until 2005 and now Chancellor of Middlesex University, declined to respond when asked by the Independent whether any RCM staff had been aware of any abuse allegations against Lake prior to his arrest.

The former student, who was at the Kensington-based college in London from 1971 until 1975, said she endured two terrifying incidents, neither of which involved Lake.

She named her singing teacher, Hervey Alan, as one of the men who she claims tried to attack her. The woman says that following an attempted assault by Alan, former Fellow at the RCM who died in 1982, she spent four years in fear.

She told The Independent: “One day I was practising in the evening as one did – there were rooms downstairs for this - and as I was finishing one of the college porters entered the room to tell me to stop as everyone had left and he made a lunge for me. I was terrified as then I realised I was on my own but managed somehow to run.

“The next day I reported this to my singing teacher Hervey Alan who also tried to lunge at me.”

The woman said she reported the incident and that she was immediately moved to a different singing teacher, but no action was taken in connection with her allegation about the porter.

She said: “I couldn’t believe it. For four years I had to see him every day and absolutely nothing was done. For me it tarnished my years in college not to mention trying not to bump into either of them.”

The woman said she came forward following the Independent’s story on Ian Lake and his victims. She said she was “frankly shocked” at the discovery and said she did not have any similar problems under his tutelage. Following his conviction, Lake continued to perform in public until his death in 2004 aged 69.

She said: “I wanted to show he was not the only one. From then on [after the attempted assaults] I only had female singing teachers.”

Allegations of widespread sexual abuse at the UK’s elite music schools have grown over the past year. More victims have come forward following the conviction and six-year sentence for Michael Brewer, the former director of music at Chetham’s, the Manchester-based elite music school that along with the Royal Northern College of Music is at the centre of an investigation into sex abuse.

Four present and former teachers remain on police bail as part of Operation Kiso, which is expected to conclude in the next few weeks.

The musician told The Independent it was “such a shame” that only after several teachers accused of sexual abuse have died that people felt brave enough to come forward.

She said: “Why has it taken so long? Why weren’t these victims listened to in the first place? I don’t understand the point because now you can’t prosecute them and their families will have to suffer on their behalf which doesn’t seem fair.”

The musician said that after she graduated in the 1970s, many of her contemporaries guaranteed themselves plenty of work by “hounding stars just to get on in the business”.

She added: “I was not given as much work as I should because I wouldn’t give into this. I was also approached by a well-known fixer who put singers into all sorts of work but I wouldn’t comply so I didn’t get the work. Instead I ran out of his house. However since that occasion I have met people who did comply and they did get the work. That’s life.”