I suppose that a lot of early musical influence came from my
being of the age that can still remember Time and Tune
whilst sitting around the school radio. Programmes like The
Good Old Days and endless supplies of Hollywood musicals
must also have had their effect, since I love that whole period
When I was 4 or 5 my parents bought me a toy piano, which
eventually led to my having piano lessons with Miss Ivy
Stribling. Thanks to her endless patience and perseverance I had
done grade 8 by the age of 14 which eventually led to three years
at Keele University studying music and maths.
After graduating, I moved to London, acting in a theatre company
and performing on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral as well as
more recognised venuse such as the Donmar Warehouse.
I was also playing piano in London's Soho in lots of seedy bars
and nightclubs (there was a lot more live music then!) until a
chance conversation with a friend in 1986 convinced me to pack a
bag and move to Paris. Not only did I learn French, but I also
earned a living for over two years, singing and playing piano in
hotels, jazz clubs, restaurants, etc.
On my return to London in 1988 I met tap dancer Tobias Tak, and
we toured Britain and Europe in a show which we co-wrote, we are
still working together. Numerous sessions with bands including
Miss America (voted one of ten bands likely to make it in 1989,
but didn't) and Bal (who cut a CD at Abbey Road, and also didn't
make it) as well as bits of TV and radio work, filled up the rest
of life at the time.
In 1989 I began working for Musicworks, a community music
organisation in Brixton. Aside from being the administrator for a
while, I taught piano to adults and children, ran band workshops,
taught songwriting, theory, etc.
I also began a drugs
awareness project for year 5/6 primary school children called
It's up 2U in which the children wrote songs
based on what they knew about drugs and the issues surrounding
In this project, apart from loads of music making, we also
talked about the implications of drug taking, and tried as much
as possible to encourage the children to think about making
informed choices in their future lives. This project turned out
to be very successful, visiting over 35 schools in south London
and was featured on the BBC's Children In Need Appeal programme.
In 1994 I began to write Orpheus,
for schools after getting fed up with being asked to accompany
the same handful of schools' musicals that had been performed
since the 1960s/70s. Teachers confirmed that they had problems
finding new music that was challenging and fun to perform,
especially for the older children. A CD Extra of the musical with
Johnny Morris narrating was completed in 2003 produced by
musicnow in collaboration with Boosey & Hawkes available via
Boosey & Hawkes.
My aim eventually is to produce a series of musical shows that
can be put on by any class teacher, no matter how developed (or
not) their musical skill. It was with this in mind that Kate
Stilitz and I founded Balagan Theatre
Company. Kate has now moved on but the theatre company works
with groups of children aged between 9 and 13 on a regular basis.
I am currently finishing a CD of a new musical called
The Magick inspired by the painting "The Death
of Alexandrina" by the Argentine/Brazilian artist Carybé,
due for release in 2006. While another musical, Chalk
Circle is also in the pipeline.
Other things on the To Do list include going back to Brazil
during part of the winters to get away from the cold, covering a
waistcoat in mother-of-pearl buttons and developing Balagan