Last month my social media feeds were flooded with the tale of Mackenzie Fierceton, a University of Pennsylvania graduate who lost her Rhodes scholarship to Oxford after allegations she had misrepresented her background. Fierceton had apparently made much of her status as a ‘first generation, low income’ student, an abuse survivor who aged out of foster care. As an anonymous letter writer revealed, however, she was also the privately educated child of a radiologist, brought up in an affluent suburb. Did she lie? Or was she merely ‘canny’, as the Rhodes Trust put it, in emphasising certain aspects of her personal history over others?
Last October, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) held public hearings on sexual abuse at UK specialist music schools. The inquiry primarily covers what are often called ‘historic’ incidents, from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Allegations of sexual abuse at Chetham’s School of Music, in Manchester, first hit the news in 2013, when Michael Brewer, a choirmaster and former director of music at the school, was jailed for six years for indecently assaulting a pupil. She committed suicide days after testifying against him. Over the following months, a picture emerged of widespread abuse at UK music schools in the 1970s and 1980s.
Day 1: I taste year-still air. Although this is not my home, everything is exactly as it was. Day 2: Secrets fell out of a book this morning. Photos of my father, young. He grins by a statue in some old courtyard, hunches over in an armchair peering at papers. There were love letters dated last year to a woman I didn't know. For the rest of the day I traced clues, dates on receipts, his last path around the apartment. I wore his hat and his shoes.