Why we won't be having a Glitter-themed staff Christmas party this year

Stephen Petty

It was just a personal pipedream. There was never any real hope that our staff social committee would agree to an ironic, Gary Glitter-themed Christmas party in the last week of this term. No earthly chance that our esteemed headteacher would agree to round the night off with a karaoke of "I'm the leader, leader, leader of the gang I am" with the senior leadership team all kitted out as the old Glitterband behind him.

Instead our party is going to have a "James Bond" theme. Celebrating gruesome killings and sexual promiscuity is a much safer option these days.

This is not to make light of Glitter's repulsive crimes. The intention of a Glitter-themed party would simply be to send up the denying, "I-never-inhaled" attitude many teachers now feel obliged to display towards a showman they once admired.

Unfortunately, the prevailing attitude would mean that a Glitter Christmas party would be met with unfettered scenes of shock and horror throughout the catchment area. The authority would no doubt suspend us all the morning after - our public departure through the school gates rendered all the more humiliating when undertaken in trademark high-heeled silver boots.

Nowadays we scarcely dare even mention Glitter in school, let alone hum any of his old hits. Just consider the speed at which the panic-stricken exam board AQA removed Glitter from GCSE music.

The outrage over all things Glitter-connected comes despite the fact that thousands now working in education (and beyond) once hero-worshipped the man - or at least mock-hero-worshipped. There will be headteachers out there who now secretly cringe when they recall that their first ever kiss was while swaying to Glitter's "Remember me this way".

We all now feel more comfortable dwelling on our later punk, Genesis, Pink Floyd and Yes periods.

But must we wipe Glitter from our nostalgia tapes and pretend that we never really liked him anyway? And do the often cruel and exploitative personalities of various other former artists, writers, poets, actors and musicians mean that we must never acknowledge and appreciate their work either? If we follow The Sun's logic, then we must similarly banish all these other figures featuring in GCSE and A-level syllabuses.

I once went with some other NQTs to one of Glitter's comeback concerts at the University of East Anglia in the 1980s. I can still remember joining the audience's opening chant of "leader, leader" (today I suspect it would probably be "paedo paedo") as we waited while Glitter's considerable girth remained motionless in silhouette at the back of the stage. He finally skipped towards us, essayed a leap and then disappeared from view. "Leader" had toppled over in those boots. Another five minutes' delay while he was winched back up.

His show that evening was one of the funniest, hammiest performances I have experienced. "Do you wanna hear any of my new stuff?" he asked us at one point. "No" the audience roared.

There should certainly be no return for this awful man. But nor should there be a rewriting of our own personal history, nor of the history of pop music.

Stephen Petty, Head of humanities, Lord Williams's School in Thame, Oxfordshire.

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Stephen Petty

Stephen Petty is head of humanities at Lord Williams's School in Thame, Oxfordshire. 

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