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Royal Academy of Music takes action over 'casting couch' student complaints

Craig Simpson
More than a dozen students at the London institution are understood to have complained of impropriety f - PA Archive

The Royal Academy of Music has taken action over “casting couch” sexual harassment claims at the conservatoire.

More than a dozen students at the London institution are understood to have complained of impropriety from some teachers, including allegedly being told to “get used to the casting couch”, a term synonymous with offering sexual favours for advancement. 

After reported frustration at a lack of action over student concerns, the Royal Academy of Music (RAM) yesterday announced an independent review of its safeguarding. 

It follows reports of complaints from male and female students about certain teachers, with one student allegedly being told “a blow job would be a good start” in order to please their tutor. 

Another was reportedly advised to spend a year out to “go and work in a brothel”.

Complaints of harassment and impropriety were first reported to classical music website Slipped Disc, along with calls from the student body for a fuller investigation.

The RAM has confirmed it is now taking action in the the wake of sexual harassment claims.

A spokesman said: “The safety and wellbeing of students is of paramount importance to the Royal Academy of Music and we strive to create an atmosphere of respect, dignity, inclusivity and equality. 

“Our student welfare provision is at the heart of what we do, as demonstrated by the exceptional team of tutors and professional staff working hard to ensure its delivery.

"The Governing Body of the Academy decided at its recent board meeting to commission an independent review of our safeguarding policies and procedures, including how we deal with complaints.

“The review provides an opportunity to further strengthen measures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and also to address any areas where more needs to be done. 

“The voice of students will play a critical part during this process.”

The spokesman would not confirm the details of the alleged behaviour within the Academy. 

The RAM has appointed a chair to carry out the review, but the scope of the action is yet to be finalised.

The complaints follow the suspension  of its head of Royal Academy Opera, Gareth Hancock.  This suspension came after Mr Hancock had his contract withdrawn by Glyndebourne opera company following a complaint of inappropriate texting by a singer he was coaching.

In a statement issued in November, Glydebourne said: “During the investigation, clear evidence of inappropriate behaviour from Gareth Hancock came to light, and Glyndebourne took the decision to withdraw his 2020 contract.”