Who are we?

Mark Hewitt – Artistic Director and Composer

Mark was born in Staffordshire in 1970. After studying composition at the Royal Northern College of Music and Manchester University and working for a number of years at Chetham’s School of Music, he moved to the Isle of Skye in the Scottish Hebrides. As a freelance musician, he was active as a music animateur, working particularly with primary schools and also as a choral director with youth and community choirs. Returning the England in 2007 he then trained as a secondary school music teacher subsequently working in a number of secondary schools in Devon and Dorset before becoming course leader for A’ level music at Exeter College. Mark is also an A’ level music examiner for Pearson.

Mark has enjoyed various musical roles in the South West: as musical director of Exeter College Choral Society, Bridport Choral Society, Parnham Voices (Beaminster), the Bridport U3a Singers and Harbour Voices (Lyme Regis). He currently directs ‘Lyme Bay Moonrakers’ – his own shanty group in Lyme Regis. He has been a trustee of the music charity ‘B Sharp’ and is also a co-director of ‘Electric Backroom’. He is active as composer and arranger and his choral works are published by Firehead Editions. See http://www.mark-hewitt.co.uk/ for more information.

The events of Mary Anning’s life are perfect for the marriage of theatre and music: Mary’s struggle to rise beyond her humble origins, her struggle to be taken seriously as a pioneering woman paleontologist in an age when men dominated, the conflicts between religious faith and scientific fact and her personal and professional triumphs and tragedies. The sounds of the sea, folk songs, shanties, hymn tunes, the mysterious and terrifying creatures of ‘deep time’ – all these are such potent musical and dramatic ingredients for an opera! It is irresistible!”

Ralph Hoyte – Librettist


Ralph Hoyte is a Bristol/UK-based poet, writer and mobile immersive media producer (with his 3-man artists’ collective, Satsymph). Hoyte’s practice is firmly based in ‘place’ and he composes in the first instance for the voice (his own and multiple voices) for live-art performance as well as online iterations (audio and video streaming). Commissions / residencies include with English Heritage at Tintagel, with the Mendips, Quantocks and South Dorset AONBs, and, a particular favourite,  an Arts Council travel bursary to spend 5 weeks following in the footsteps of the 17th century haiku master, Matsuo Basho’s ‘oku no hosomichi’ (The Narrow Road to The Deep North) in rural Japan. This resulted in ‘Hana no Kage/Shadow of a Flower’ as a book and performance with a Japanese actress. As Satsymph, Hoyte and partners Marc Yeats (classical contemporary composer) and Phill Phelps (audio-engineer, musician and coder) use spatial audio technologies to sonically augment land- and cityscapes with soundart, contemporary classical music and poetry fusions and dramatized heritage scenarios, discoverable through mobile digital devices such as the smartphone.

Current headline project: Black Star: adapting ‘Memories of an Asante Childhood’ –  the auto-biography of Nana Abena Fosua Agyeman Prempeh, Princess of the Ghanaian Asante royal line, Asantewaa, kingmaker, daughter of the Golden Stool of Asante for the stage

I am very excited to be working with a great team of professionals on a new community opera: Mary Anning. This opera has everything: a strong sense of place (the Jurassic Coast I know so well from family holidays over many years), a strongly resonant theme (will ‘the outsider’ receive recognition due?), working with musicians and singers and the local communities, not to mention ‘being in’ at the start of the disciplines of geology and palaeontology (I was once – long ago – a biologist)!

Mark Helyar – Theatre Director

Mark Helyar is a theatre director, dramaturg, writer and musician. He juggles a busy freelance career with his role as Co-Director of Theatre at Take Art, a Somerset-based arts charity, where he supports the strategic development of theatre across the county. He also lectures on the BA in Performing Arts at University Centre, Weston.

Mark has been artistic director of two touring companies (Proteus and West 28th Street) for which he has commissioned and directed numerous shows across the south. As a composer and musical director, he has worked on many touring productions as well as Christmas shows at the Theatre Royal Winchester. 

He has travelled extensively in India working on various writing assignments, several years ago publishing Rising from the Dust: India’s Hidden Voices

I am thrilled to be part of the creative team embarking on this Mary Anning adventure! This is a tremendous opportunity to bring together local people to produce a brand new opera that celebrates the life, voice and achievements of an incredible, pioneering woman. Her story has huge musical and dramatic potential that I look forward to exploring as we create this show together.

credit Robin Mills

Matt Kingston – Musical Director

Matt Kingston leads a varied musical life, juggling roles as a music arranger, publisher, choral composer and conductor. Over the last two decades he has been one of the UK’s most prolific arrangers of music for brass ensembles, with over 500 published arrangements. His choral compositions (written under the pen name Matthew Coleridge) include Requiem, which is widely performed around the UK and in Europe, and was hailed by the late Sir Neville Marriner as ‘a valuable addition to the 21st century choral repertoire’. He is increasingly active as a choral workshop leader, with recent workshops at Portsmouth Cathedral and Buckfast Abbey.

I’m thrilled to be involved in this exciting project, which will help to animate the life story of one of the most remarkable women in British history. I’m passionate about musical endeavours which can combine the talents of professional and amateur musicians, especially when we can involve (and inspire!) local children and the wider community.

Victoria Pirie – Project Finance

Victoria Pirie works across the arts, heritage and creative industries. She previously a leader of local authority cultural services, was Executive Director England at Creative & Cultural Skills where she led work in regional economic development and higher education. Her background includes strategic management, business planning, funding, learning and skills, archaeology, arts development and museums. Victoria is a co-director of DIVAcontemporary – works in sound and vision through digital technologies.

Marc Yeats – Project Leader

Leading contemporary composer and visual artist Marc Yeats has built reputation over two decades through many commissions and broadcasts, both in the UK and internationally. His works have been performed by leading philharmonic orchestras and ensembles as far afield as New York and Tokyo, with many of his compositions performed to considerable acclaim by the BBC. The late Sir Peter Maxwell Davies was a keen supporter, and key commissions have included concertos, string quartets, ‘sturzstrom’ for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad and a composition to celebrate World Aids Day 2008. Now published by Composers Edition, Marc continues to push the boundaries by using mobile technologies and through a range of polytemporal structural approaches to his compositional work.

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