Sunday, 21 August 2016



Brian Rix has died. Such a positive life, such a sad end:

It was in late 1986 or early 1987, I think, at the height or the UK's national Conductive Education furore, that I met Brian Rix, at the London headquarters of Mencap. I had asked to see him to inform him and Mencap what Conductive Education was about.

The image of Conductive Education imported from Hungary was already that it was highly selective and that children with mental disabilities were not 'suitable'. The experience of the first British parents who were then taking their children to Budapest was, however, quite to the contrary. It was already apparent that any future for Conductive Education in the United Kingdom would include children with complex intellectual and motor disabilities, so the interest and involvement of Mencap would be important. My hope was that they would wish to join the campaign that has already attracted the concrete support of major non-profits Barnardo's and the Parkinson's Society – and Jack Ashleigh..

Their participation would have also have helped neutralise the Spastics Society's opposition to establishing real Conductive Education,

I went down to London in good spirits to state my position to Brian Rix and significant figures in Mencap.

Brian Rix welcomed me pleasantly and put me at my ease. Then to my surprise a door opened and about half a dozen ladies filed in, under the leadership of Esther Cotton. I had not been forewarned of this. I do not know how this intervention had come about.

I gave my account. Then Esther Cotton pointed out forcefully that there was no need to import Conductive Education as I proposed, though slowly reconstructing the system as developed in Hungary, along the way creating a UK profession of conductor – because the job has already been done and Conductive Education was already here, as witnessed by the work of Esther Cotton and her 'multidisciplinary' companions (with the moral backing of the then highly respected Spastics Society).

What could one say in that context? There was no contest. I heard no more from Mencap, or Brian Rix.

What a sad might-have-been. His moral support alone would have made an important contribution to the cause, never mind other possible backing from Mencap – then and subsequently as the client group of Conductive Education in the UK overlapped increasingly with Mencap's client group.

I recount this sad little tale because it happened so and merits going into the public record. Brian Rix's death presents an opportunity to do so. This represented a small but significant turning point in the story of Conductive Education in the United Kingdom. It reflects no discredit on Brian Rix. He seemed a nice bloke, he attended to what I said with interest and courtesy, and asked sensible questions. As for myself that day perhaps I could have handled things better. But it really was a lose-lose situation...

So farewell Brian Rix. Over your lifetime you made life-enhancing contributions that affected more people than have any of the rest of us us who were present that day.

Such a shame, what happened. Everybody has ended the poorer for it.

Vale et requiesce, Brian Rix.

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Blogger NormanP said...

You write: "The image of Conductive Education imported from Hungary was already that it was highly selective and that children with mental disabilities were not 'suitable'." Something of that persists even now in the view held by some that CE is "suitable" for such-and-such percentage of children with CP/motor disorder.

Sunday, 21 August 2016 at 20:44:00 BST  
Anonymous Andrew said...

So many misunderstandings persist. There are just no mechanisms for flushing them out of the system!

Sunday, 21 August 2016 at 21:14:00 BST  

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