Connor PR working promoting Shirley Oaks Survivors Association’s latest campaign
SHIRLEY OAKS SURVIVORS ASSOCIATION REUNITE AT THE CARE HOME SITE FOR CANDLELIT VIGIL
MUSIC VIDEO TO LAUNCH AS FINAL CAMPAIGN LEGACY
INVESTIGATION PREPARES TO PUBLISH FINDINGS
LONDON, 27TH NOVEMBER 2016: 180 members of the Shirley Oaks Survivors Association (SOSA) reunited this weekend at the site of the former children’s care home situated in Croydon and run by Lambeth Council, South London, currently at the centre of the troubled inquiry into allegations of child sex abuse. The former residents, part of the 700-strong survivor group – the largest represented within the inquiry – met to record a candlelit vigil at the site for a music video created as part of a legacy for the campaign, which has identified over 60 paedophiles and this year has seen a number of convictions for those who worked in Lambeth homes or looked after children in Lambeth in past decades. The music video, entitled ‘Looking For A Place Called Home’, will be released in early December at a press conference where the findings of the two year-long investigation will also be unveiled.
Despite the traumatic memories, the reunion at the site marked the start of a healing process for the victims. The candlelit vigil symbolised facing demons, unearthing the lies and resurrecting the truth. Written by Tanika and conceptulised by SOSA spokesperson, Raymond Stevenson, a music mogul who discovered and nurtured Jessie J, which features X Factor finalist (2015), Max Stone and a Gospel Choir put together from MOBO winner ISAIAH RAYMOND FROM RAYMOND & CO ‘Looking For A Place Called Home’ will be available from iTunes from in DECEMBER and go live on YouTube. All funds will go towards SOSA.
Raymond Stevenson, SOSA spokesperson, said: “SOSA made contact with the Shirley Oaks Village Residents Association and we explained to them that, despite the physical and sexual abuse, Shirley Oaks was a special place that kindled a spirit and has enabled Shirley Oaks ex-residents to unite once again in order to right the evils that were committed by these people. The memories of friendships formed and now reunited have also been an important part of the healing process. Having spoken with a few of the residents it’s clear that they are the right guardians to create new memories whilst respecting the old ones. Despite the negative publicity they have allowed us to hold a candlelit vigil at Shirley Oaks Village for SOSA members who are ready to face the demons, unearth the lies and resurrect the truth.”
Of all the scandals covered up by the child abuse inquiry, currently chaired by Professor Alexis Jay, the story of Shirley Oaks care home is among the most shocking and disturbing of all. Alongside the crisis-hit public inquiry, currently on its fourth chairwoman in just two years with a number of senior lawyers resigning in recent weeks at a cost of over £100 million, SOSA has compiled its own independent report, taking testimony about abuse from 400 of its members.
The report features witness testimony, extracts from official documents that have been leaked to them, as well as former staff and “house parents” who now support them and will prove that Shirley Oaks was infiltrated by paedophiles from the mid-1950s until its closure in 1983. They have identified 60 suspected paedophiles and the investigation has led to a number of arrests outside of official police investigations.
On Friday 18th November, SOSA officially withdrew from the public inquiry branding it an ‘unpalatable circus’ and stating that it has lost confidence in the leadership.
The inquiry, set up by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary, has repeatedly stressed that the confidence of victims and survivors in the inquiry is paramount. Yet Professor Jay has not contacted or met with the SOSA since her appointment in August. The inquiry has been beset by difficulties since it was set up in July 2014 to investigate allegations made against local authorities, religious organisations, the armed forces and public and private institutions in England and Wales, as well as people in the public eye.
Three chairwomen – former president of the High Court Family Division Baroness Butler-Sloss, her replacement, leading lawyer Dame Fiona Woolf, and Justice Goddard, a New Zealand High Court judge – have already stood down before Prof Jay took her place.
Following the resignation of four barristers over recent weeks who resigned over the handling of the inquiry, QC Michael Mansfield says there has been a “dismal failure” to work with survivors groups when picking candidates to lead the inquiry. In an interview with BBC’s Newsnight he said the inquiry has “crumbled” adding: “What has gone seriously wrong here is a dismal failure to consult with the survivors’ groups from the beginning, about appointments and about the substantive materials that have to be assembled.”
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Shirley Oaks Children’s Home
Shirley Oaks children’s home was based in Croydon, Surrey on a 70 acre site with 52 houses which catered between 8-14 children. Complete with its own school, swimming pool, works depot and a doctor’s surgery it was the only world most of the children would know. It opened in 1904 to glowing reports with the Southwark Annual stating how Shirley Oaks was a model village created for children whose parents had died or were unable to look after them. The mission statement was to train the children in a career away from the physical disadvantage of the crowded districts and also from the morally injurious influences which are powerfully demonstrated in the streets of the great metropolis. Tens of thousands of children passed through the gates of Shirley Oaks. For most vulnerable children aged between 2 -10 years, it was easy to believe they had been sent to an outpost of heaven. Lush green fields surrounded the village style setting with houses branching off the enclosed ring road which would end up being a road paved to hell. Sadly for most of the children they would have been better off to fend for themselves on the streets than being left in the hands of the state controlled children’s homes.
Raymond Stevenson and Shirley Oaks Survivors Association
Raymond Stevenson attended Shirley Oaks from 1967 – 1978. At 13 years old he was kicked out of Shirley Oaks and was sent to a boarding school in Surrey returning to Shirley Oaks at weekends and school holiday until the age of 15 where he was then sent to another children’s home where child abuse took place . Away from the cold, harsh environment he flourished and pursued the one good thing he remembered from the home which was the acting and dancing classes. From here, he attended the Laban Dance Centre and then won a scholarship at The Rambert School of Ballet. At 26 he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company. After this he started a production company with his business partner Lucia Hinton and staged concerts and ran their own nightclub. Around the same time he developed artists such as Jessie J and produced various government funded campaigns centered around the issues of gun and knife crime. What no one knew during this period is Raymond suffered bouts of depression and he would say his recovery is only now just started. Having spent a lifetime trying to forget the physical and psychological abuse he suffered growing up in the home, Raymond was forced to relive the nightmare when he received a phone call from a person who was in the same children’s home as him. This was the first time Raymond learned about the true horror that happened to other children and that he didn’t suffer alone. The caller exposed what had taken place in Shirley Oaks to their siblings. Joining forces with Alex Wheatle, who also attended the home, themselves and other victims formed the Shirley Oaks Survivors Association. The first demand from the SOSA was that Lambeth council allow all their members and any other children who were in homes in south London to access their files. Reading his own file, Raymond released that along with the beatings and being drugged, the psychological trauma had impacted his life to the detriment. But as he conducted more interviews, he soon realised that his strife was nothing compared to many of his friends who suffered in silence and said nothing even when they played outside together. There were good house parents but they were few and far between and Raymond discovered after speaking to his favourite house parents that those who questioned Lambeth’s failings were quickly moved on.
Connor PR working with Shirley Oaks Survivors Association (SOSA) on the ‘Don’t Touch It. It’s Mine’ campaign
CHILD ABUSE SURVIVORS UNITE IN MUSIC VIDEO TO RAISE AWARENESS OF HISTORIC HIGH POWER PAEDOPHILE RING & CALL FOR A REINVESTIGATION INTO HANGED BOY, PETER DAVIS’, DEATH
LONDON, 24th November 2015: The victims of one of the world’s most horrific and high profile cases of child abuse will today unite to appear in a music video as part of a landmark venture to try and raise awareness of the high power paedophile ring, which included politicians, celebrities, scout masters, members of the Catholic church, that infiltrated more than 20 children’s homes in the Lambeth area from 1950’s – 2000’s. The “Don’t Touch It. It’s Mine” campaign aims to bring justice to the hundreds of victims that suffered at their hands, 12 of whom committed suicide, and lift a 100 year access restriction order on the victim’s files. Award winning author and chair of the Shirley Oaks Survivors Association (SOSA), Alex Wheatle MBE, himself a victim of abuse at Shirley Oaks and now seeking justice, is hoping that the campaign will encourage more witnesses to come forward enabling police to reopen an investigation into 15 year old Peter Davis’ death, who was found hanged at Shirley Oaks in Croydon in 1977.
Written by music mogul, Raymond Stevenson, who discovered Jessie J when she was 15 and was himself physically abused going on to become the founder of SOSA, with input and melodies by X Factor / Alien Uncovered star, Temple Praise, the track is entitled ‘Don’t Touch It. It’s Mine’ and will be released in early December this year. The track features haunting testimonies from the victims. The video will tell the story of the true horror suffered by vulnerable young children during decades of abuse at Shirley Oaks and aims to encourage more people who have any information to come forward and speak out, so that police investigations can be reopened and Government can lift the 100 year access restriction on files for former Shirley Oaks residents. The video will be made available to download from the first week of December 2015 (date TBC) with all funds going towards helping SOSA track down victims from across the UK and around the world.
Raymond Stevenson, SOSA founder, said: “I have done many campaigns and they have always been motivated by personal circumstances and issues that blight communities. Maybe because I survived the hell of Shirley Oaks I believe it’s my duty to help others. I say this not just because I was a victim but there can be no greater crime levied at humanity than paedophillia. Then add that these were abandoned children in the state’s care already unloved and frightened, some already victims and others whose parents died. Then add the lies, the cover-up, the conspiracy and now we learn that this could have all been prevented. This video will enable victims to tell their story through a medium that cannot be tampered with or edited. The chorus in the song simply says, ‘you don’t know what they done to me’. The video will show the fear horror and abuse through art. A line in the song that asks the question, ‘what happens if it was your child?”
Amongst the alleged abusers are Jimmy Savile, as well as former Lambeth Labour councilors, Toren Smith and Susan Smith, who have been convicted. There have been two major police investigations into abuse at children’s homes in South London and a total of three people have been convicted of offences; one relating to Shirley Oaks, swimming instructor, William Hook, and the remaining two including Michael John Carroll who ran Angell Road children’s home and Les Paul from South Vale Children’s Home.
SOSA is demanding answers for one very specific matter – the sudden death of 15-year old Peter Davis in 1977, found hanged in a toilet with a cord around his neck. Following signs of sexual acitivy, a coroner ruled “death by misadventure“, but friends who grew up with him believe he was the target of paedophiles. Peter was the chief witness in a rape trial at the Old Bailey two years before he died where he gave evidence in regard to both his and his sibling’s rape. When the BBC looked for court documents from the time, they found that in 2003 they had been made secret for 100 years. Former senior detective Clive Driscoll said reopening the case would be a “great opportunity for detective work”.
Chuka Umunna, Labour MP for Streatham, who has constituents who are Lambeth abuse survivors said: “This is an important step for the campaign. I hope the excellent work that the survivors association are doing will help other survivors feel able to come forward and speak out. By the police’s own admission, previous investigations were ‘of the time’ and did not meet the standards we would apply today. The police owe it to the survivors group to reopen the investigation into Peter Davis’s death.”
The Metropolitan Police said officers looked at available material relating to Peter’s death in September 2014. A statement said: “In the absence of further new witnesses or new lines of inquiry, the matter remains closed. If new witnesses are identified who are prepared to provide police with statements that challenge the recorded decision then an assessment of that material will be undertaken.”
SOSA and Urban Concept’s1 research and on-going investigation is focused specifically on 1965 onwards when Lambeth took over the controls of Shirley Oaks. There have been multiple inquiries, most recently by the Metropolitan Police and Lambeth Council from 1998 – 2003, which cost millions of pounds, and resulted in the arrest of one paedophile from Shirley Oaks and two other paedophiles from other south London children’s homes. In the first eight months of interviewing over 300 children who attended Shirley Oaks and other South London Children’s Homes, Urban Concepts1 uncovered more than 16 paedophiles. When they discussed this with the Police their response was dismissive. A few weeks later Urban Concepts discovered a document produced by the Police and Lambeth Council which stated that 16 paedophiles died before or during the Police operation. This included one suicide during the trial in March 2003, 19 cases the alleged paedophile could not be identified and one case where the victim died before being able to give evidence. In some 11 cases the CPS took no further action and one case fell through after the suspected paedopile committed suicide during his trial.
Singers for the “Don’t Touch It. It’s Mine” campaign include 23 year old Millie from Essex, 21 year old Sophie from West Sussex and 21 year old Royal Opera House ballet dancer, Lucy from Stoke. The group known as ETHAMIA were selected based on their suitability to understand the subject matter and to empathise with the victims. When Urban Concepts1 played the track, the girls burst into tears and demanded to be part of the project. Taking their roles as ambassadors for victims seriously, the girls did their own research and went to Shirley Oaks and also accompanied the victims as they made a presentation to Lambeth council.
Principal crew for the music video will include: director, Giles Borg (Flutter, 1234, Home) with over twenty years of experience in music, film and television directing music videos, full length feature films, commercials and TV programmes; Jospeh Crone, a multi-talented fashion stylist and costume designer with a diverse list of clients and credits in the music, commercial and film sectors of the industry, from James Blunt to Dizzee Rascal, Investec to Innocent; and Ryan Jenkins, one of the UK’s most sought after choreographers, recently appointed creative director by UK government to represent and create work for Great Britain National day at Milan Expo 2015.
Choreographer, Ryan Jenkins, said: “This project has opened my eyes to the unimaginable pain and torture these people have experienced. It makes me so angry to know that nothing substantial has been done by those in authority. I want to help bring justice for these people. This is a story that needs to be told and the time is now.”
The Shirley Oaks campaigners are part of a wider phenomenon – a “survivor” activism that is changing the balance of power in relation to child abuse. Where once victims were ignored or silenced, now they are coming together through social media, forming support groups and building a crescendo of noise that the authorities are forced to acknowledge.
Lambeth Council is supporting the Shirley Oaks Survivors’ Association in their campaign to identify further victims and offer counselling to those who have not already received it but feel they would now benefit.
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**CAMPAIGN AMBASSADORS, RAYMOND STEVENSON AND ALEX WHEATLE MBE, ARE AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW UPON REQUEST**
Connor PR working promoting Shirley Oaks Survivors Association’s latest campaign, Don’t Touch It. It’s Mine”