|11 Oct 2022|
How many years did you teach at Hymers College?
Sixteen years, from 1990 – 2006. I was in illustrious company when I retired at the same time as John Morris, Mary Chorlton, Neil King, Geoff Wilson and Elizabeth Powell.
What did you teach at Hymers College?
I taught English.
How did things change while you were at Hymers?
Full co-education developed while I was at Hymers and in the late 1990s I was delighted to be able to introduce a feminist English literature course in Year 12!
There were some exciting new buildings; the Judi Dench Theatre, the new Staff Room, the Junior School and the swimming pool were all completed while I was at Hymers. I also remember the disappearance of the Library and the creation of the English Suite along with an improved Sixth Form common room.
What are your favourite memories of teaching at Hymers?
It’s hard to pick favourite memories, because I was very happy all the time I was at Hymers, teaching lively, intelligent (sometimes challenging!) students and working with so many colleagues whom I liked and respected. I particularly enjoyed those GCSE Oral English lessons where I could listen to the talks given by Year 10 pupils. I loved their enthusiasm for everything, from cheerleading to ’cello, from netball to Norway, from snakes to Stereophonics. I learnt a lot!
I have happy memories of writing and directing ‘Around the World in Sixty Minutes.’ This was the first production to be staged in the newly-built Judi Dench Theatre, taking place some months before the official opening in 1995. I also loved working with Janet Kelsey to present ‘Smike’ (staged in the dining room in 1992) and ‘A Christmas Carol’ in the late 1990s and ‘Oliver’ in 2003. These musicals were special events because they included the whole school, with casts ranging from some of the youngest Juniors to students in Year 13. They can still be seen because they were videoed by our respected colleague, the late Alex Sutton.
Do you have any favourite tour/trip stories?
I wouldn’t call it a favourite, but I remember that Mary Chorlton and I had to search the pubs and clubs of Sheffield one evening when some Sixth Formers had decided they’d prefer finding alternative amusement rather than watching a Shakespeare production at The Crucible.
The Stratford and Lake District visits for A level students, organised so enthusiastically by Neil King, were always memorable, enjoyable – and exhausting!
If you hadn't been a teacher, what would you have done instead?
I would have liked to be a theatre director or a writer.
What have you done since you left Hymers College?
A lot! My husband, Mike and I spend as much time as we can with our sons, their wives and our five grandchildren in Edinburgh and in Sussex, where our youngest son, ‘Chiff’ (OH 1990–92) lives. We have also run an antiques business in our spare time for about thirty years.
Mike and I used to live for part of each year in remote, rural France but in 2018 we settled permanently in Cherry Burton, where I did voluntary work at the local primary school. I am a regular reader at Mass at the North Bar Without Catholic Church of St. John of Beverley.
Retirement has given me the opportunity to concentrate on writing. I’ve completed two radio plays, three historical novels, a novella, Simple Dame Fairfax, which was published in 2015, and a number of short stories. I was surprised and thrilled to win the King Lear Short Story Prize in 2020 with "The Lengthened Shadow of a Man".
I have been proud and privileged to serve as a Trustee of the Brontë Society for the last three years. Being a board member, overseeing the literary society and the Haworth Parsonage and Museum (a National Portfolio Organisation) has kept me very busy. Covid restrictions brought unprecedented challenges and the Society has gone through an exciting time of modernisation and global development. I quickly had to come to terms with digital technology and was surprised to find that I soon learnt how to host Zoom meetings!
During lockdown in 2020 the pianist, Ann Airton, Fiona Newbould’s (OH 1989-96) mother and I devised an entertainment celebrating the life and work of Anne Brontë in words and music, which we have recently performed to enthusiastic audiences in East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. At present I’m working on a biographical novel, recreating the lost letters and diaries which Anne Brontë might have written during the 1840s.
Happily I am still in touch with a some students and a number of colleagues from Hymers and I really enjoy keeping up to date with all that is happening through the lively and interesting Hymers website.