TOM ROBINSON'S FINCHDEN
Before going on with my own personal account of Finchden, I want to tell you about the extensive Finchden website run by BBC radio presenter, Tom Robinson, who spent time as a boy at Finchden in the final years before George Lyward’s death in 1973. Surprisingly, it gives no inkling as to what Finchden was really like or the creative and deeply spiritual dynamic which brought Finchden into existence in the first place.
I remember the first time I met Tom Robinson. It was probably in the summer of 1966. - A rather self-conscious public school boy with cute curls, John Lennon style spectacles, acne and a Dutch type cord hat. He walked into the Finchden dining room where I was practising a Chopin etude on the Finchden Bechstein and paused at my shoulder. I said “Hello – who are you?” He said “I’m Tom”. I said “Do you play?” He nodded and so I got up and sat him down at the piano. After making the usual excuses in advance for any wrong notes he might play (we all do it) he gave me a very accomplished impromptu concert of Beatles songs. Since then I have, on and off, had a fair bit of contact with him.
Like many other Finchden alumni, I am truly grateful to Tom for his efforts in keeping the Finchden story alive. In fact, if he hadn’t done it, maybe no one would have and then there may have been be nothing.
Tom Robinson has a reputation amongst his friends for being extremely generous, charming andvery helpful to young musicians struggling to find a way into the music business. Nevertheless, it has to be said that his motives for taking on the role of explaining Finchden to the world at large seem complex to me.
I say this because the site confines itself to carefully selected eulogies, “on message” personal interpretations and “respectable” opinion. This censored version of Finchden: The written documentation – the cautiously phrased appraisals - the already published material and the more recent journalise, seem to conspire in avoiding the true reality – the controversial nature of Finchden and the fantastic place it was.
At the time of writing there have been no personal accounts from the boys, save his own; and as far as I know, he hasn’t asked for any – yet there are still those of us alive who would be in a position to make substantial contributions if asked to do so.
So - although informative in its way, Tom has clearly aimed his Finchden website more in the direction of the chattering classes –“intellectuals”, “pyschologizers”, “professionals” and “programmers”.
I suspect that his excuse would be that he is protecting George Lyward’s reputation, and by association, his own, from being characterised as “cranky”.
Thus the “visionary” and the “mystical”; spiritual and religious; - the elements so important to a balanced understanding of GAL’s life, are essentially sidelined as an embarrassment whilst the very things that GAL dismissed as largely irrelevant to understanding Finchden are given undue importance; things exemplified by words like therapeutic, behaviourism and educationalist together with all the academic rubbishy jargon produced by modern educationalists, social scientists and commentators.
GAL often said how much he disliked "isms". - The tidy labelling of human misery as a substitute for deeper understanding. You have only got to look at modern society to realise how barren these over politically correct establishment beliefs are. Have they served us well? No they have not.
In my view, Tom’s website is maybe a little too “media friendly”; framed in such a way as to fit in comfortably with Tom’s celebrity status as a broadcaster and journalist. Personally, I cannot quite avoid the impression that www.finchden.com is, at least in part, a vehicle for his own self promotion when it could be an honest attempt to reveal the full story of Finchden. Pity.
Nevertheless, I urge you to read what is there, because that coupled with what I am telling you will lead to a deeper and more powerful description of what, for me became a small miracle.