Why Work?

My dogged, deeply un-hip obsession with what happens on page and stage.



I plunged into work as an opera singer and sang in a lot of opera houses all over the world with many singers far more talented than I would ever be. At the start of the new millenium, I decided to do things differently and replace the time I spent singing, worrying about singing, and sitting around frustrated in hotel rooms and rented flats, with time at home spent writing and dreaming up shows in my head. Thanks to leaps of faith by various people, I published my first novel, Long Gone Anybody (Transworld-Black Swan) in 2004, and the second, Cold Comfort (Transworld-Doubleday) in 2006, and directed my first piece of writing for the theatre in 2001, (the regina monologues – Covent Garden Festival). Then I assisted Richard Jones at Glyndebourne (a theatre in which I had last sang Cherubino, and who had helped me by sending me to the National Opera Studio).  From 2004-2012 I ran my own company, The Paddock, and we produced lots of exciting things, large and small, involving theatre, opera and dance, usually in unexpected places, some of which I wrote, or directed or both, and some of which I handed over to other talented people. Meanwhile I began teaching writing at University of Sussex, as well as being a Guest Tutor for the Arvon Foundation, and mentoring online for The Literary Consultancy.

I am currently finishing work on two novels, my third and fourth, which somehow have demanded they be written concurrently, not necessarily something I’d recommend but it has worked for me this time, and I am finally in the last stages with these books.

In the last few years I have directed a new opera, Imago, by Orlando Gough and Stephen Plaice, at Glyndebourne, Chabrier’s L’Etoile for New Sussex Opera, and Harrison Birtwistle’s Down by the Greenwood Side for the 2014 Brighton Festival. In 2015, I was commissioned by the Brighton Festival to create a new show called Being Both, with the singer Alice Coote, and the English Concert Orchestra, led by Harry Bicket, which was then performed in a scaled-down version at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms. In the autumn of 2015, I directed La Liberazione di Ruggiero by Francesca Caccini, for the Brighton Early Music Festival, a production which was selected as one of The Guardian critic Tim Ashley’s Top Ten Classical Music performances of 2015. Mr Ashley also selected for his Top Ten the performance of Zaza, by Leoncavallo, given by Opera Rara, which I semi-staged at the Barbican in November.

Meanwhile, my teaching and mentoring work goes on. In 2014 I reduced my teaching load in order to give myself more writing time, but next year I am back with the Creative Writing Programme teaching on the two-year course, as well as the monthly Advanced Writing Workshop. Have a look at the Writing Coach page, for more information on one-to-one mentoring options, as well as courses with the Creative Writing Programme at New Writing South, and upcoming writing retreats.

10 thoughts on “About

  1. Hello. I’m writing an article about opera singers who quit and I’d love to hear what you have to say about this topic.

  2. Wonderful. The article is for Classical Singer magazine. I’ll send you an email with all of the details shortly.

  3. Pingback: December 2013 – settling (glitter) dust | Pearl Bates

  4. Robin J. on said:

    Happened upon a story about “The Regina Monologues” while surfing tonight. Am wondering if the script is available for purchase.

    • Hello Robin J. A HUGELY tardy reply to this enquiry – I am finally getting back to my intermittent blog, many apologies. RM is not available for purchase, as I never published this script. Are you a writer? What spurred your interest in the show? I’d be happy to share more about it with you. Susannah

  5. Pingback: Down By the Greenwood Side review Birtwistle's opera disturbs as much as it entertains |Parkkar Lifestyles and News

  6. Pingback: On retreat – writing in North Devon | My Mind Bursts

  7. Pingback: Reading and writing with fresh eyes | Mind Bursts

  8. Pingback: Classical Round-Up for May 2015 | Lewes Classical

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Mind Bursts

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the second best time

My dogged, deeply un-hip obsession with what happens on page and stage.

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