Wednesday, 11 June 2014


I took the train to the documentary festival in Sheffield today, where I talked on a fascinating panel about musical documentaries. It was a great event; lots of interesting opinions floating around and a good selection of musical documentary practitioners including the Daddy of the movement, Brian Hill, who made the iconic Feltham Sings.

We went for dinner afterwards and then out to a club. Imagine me going to a club and actually dancing?!

You might rather expect a documentary festival to be filled with people who'd seen our wedding on telly but I'm not sure I was quite prepared for the sheer number of people who came up to me in the club to offer their heart-felt congratulations. The funniest was a little Japanese girl whom I could barely understand. She kept saying "you? Composer? Wedding?" And then something I couldn't fathom which I subsequently realised was her asking where Nathan was. More than one person came up to me and said the wedding had made them feel proud to be British. What an astonishing, astonishing compliment. It's almost worth the tinnitus-like ringing in my ears that the loud club music has left me with!!

I read in the paper on the way up that Ronan Keating is making his acting debut in the musical Once.  How lucky is the West End to have a man of his calibre gracing its boards? I'm sure he'll prove to be a subtle actor with endless depth and maturity.

Ronan has said on record that he never saw himself starring in musicals but "now I see it as a play with music that sits better with me." One word. Tosser. I hope he gets nodules!

I'm eternally amused by how little pieces of one's life can often be knitted together in a single journey, in today's case, a walk from the train station in Sheffield to the hotel I'm staying in tonight. On the journey I passed locations from A Symphony for Yorkshire and a little film I made almost ten years ago about the floods in Sheffield.

More surprisingly, when I arrived at the hotel I realised I'd stayed here just after it opened in 1998, when I was working as the Resident Director of a tour of Madam Butterfly.

It was the first leg of the tour and I couldn't believe how fancy the hotel was. We all had double beds and the rooms had amazing city views. It was so fancy that I immediately called my partner at the time, Stephen, and said he had to come up to the next leg of the tour in Manchester so he could see how well treated we were all being. I told our bitch of a company manager that he was coming up, so imagine my horror, when we reached Manchester, to find I'd been placed in a single room which smelt of smoke and had no window!

I was so upset. At the time I was very conscious of being poor, and the fact that Stephen always ended up paying for everything. I'd really wanted to show him how well I was doing! And there we were, sharing a single bed!

The land of opera was such a back-stabbing, horrifying world, which thrived on cattiness and cruelty, and the most intolerable treatment of those who weren't the divas. Some of the most miserable times of my life were spent being bullied by a stage manager called Annie, whose nose I managed to put out of joint at one stage. She used to have me monitored in the Albert Hall to make sure I was doing my job properly. The moment I left the building she'd call me and ask me what I was doing. A lot is written about the aggressive behaviour of men towards women in the work place, but that cow made my life a living nightmare!

Still, the hotel in Sheffield was, and remains a rather lovely place, and I'm as happy to be here today as I was almost 20 years ago. Back then, I remember having to take a really early train back to London without the rest of the company. It was probably another little punishment from the tour manager. Whatever the reason, I was up pre-dawn and remember walking to the train station in a thick mist, over the strange tram bridges, the sound of factory sirens going off around the city; a call to work, one assumes, for steel workers.  It felt so other worldly.

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