I grew up in York in the north of England then studied at Cambridge University, where I started off in the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and ended up in the Department of Engineering.
I have written poems (mostly fun, satirical or edu-taining) for children and adults for as long as I can remember. My poems have won prizes and been used in projects up and down the country for over 20 years.
Since 2007 (when I set up theBigBuzz) I have been performing my poems in live shows for adults and for children. I have performed in festivals, including the Ledbury Poetry Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe, and in venues ranging from Oxford Playhouse to the UK’s largest planetarium. Since 2008 my agent has been UK Touring.
I have been commissioned by the BBC to write poems for, e.g., the appointment of the new poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy (read these poems), and for the Radio 2 Arts Show to mark World Poetry Day 2010 (listen to the poem). I’ve also been broadcast on Radio 4’s Today programme.
My first CD of poems, was Buzzing!, which became a National Insect Week recommended resource. My Buzzing! book was published in 2012 - with a Foreword from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust - by Brambleby Books. My Buzzing! book is also a National Insect Week recommended children’s book and teachers’ resource, and was nominated for the 2013 Carnegie Medal.
I appear regularly on BBC Radio York, reviewing the papers and performing my poetry. Listen to a clip.
I write song lyrics too, and was a semi-finalist in the 2010 UK Songwriting Contest. I also collaborate with musicians, including acclaimed composer and performer John Rayson, and the early music vocal group The Clerks, who commissioned me to write contemporary lyrics to two Renaissance songs for their ‘Clerks Songbook’.
When not collaborating with other musicians, I write eco-musicals, on subjects such as composting and global warming. My Compost! The (mini-)Musical won the Garden Organic Innovation Award in 2011.
Digital photography opened up a whole new dimension in my work, and so my Buzzing! show is a multi-media event, including projected close-up images of mine. I won a prize in the first photography competition I entered (in 2007), and as a result was invited to become a Volunteer Photographer for the Woodland Trust. My photographs have been published in the media and the scientific literature, as well as by leading natural history publisher A&C Black and by Marks and Spencer. My Buzzing! book contains over 170 of my close-up photos.
Before I turned to performing professionally, my working life always revolved around the sound and meaning of words. I worked as a phonetician for the Oxford English Dictionary, as a translator (e.g. for the High Court in London and for a former French President), and as an editor of academic and educational books. I have also taught a total of four languages in five countries on two continents to people aged 5 to 65.
Now here’s a little known fact about me and children’s poetry: my parents taught the recent children’s laureate, Michael Rosen, when he was at school. And Michael Rosen’s father taught my mum when she was at school! Find out more from Michael Rosen himself here.
I’m very proud to be the first Patron of ‘The Green Heart of York’, St Nicks, which is a centre for nature and green living just down the road from me.
Oh, and English is my second language. My first language was … well, I’ll tell you that another time.