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’s recent show ‘The Pull of the Tide’ for Lyme Regis shanty group Harbour Voices, was received with acclaim in 2019.

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. http://www.mark-hewitt.co.uk/

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. http://www.ralphhoyte.com/

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.

Darrell Wakelam – Set/Prop Design Workshop Leader

Darrell Wakelam is a professional artist who has spent almost thirty years working in schools and other educational establishments as a workshop provider, project leader, consultant and trainer. During this time he has delivered art projects in over a thousand Primary and Secondary schools and has also led workshops in Museums, Theatres, Libraries and as a part of Festivals or Events. Being involved in projects nationwide has given Darrell the experience of working with children and young people from a broad range of backgrounds, cultures and abilities and he has gradually built up a strong reputation as an innovative and highly skilled arts educator. https://www.darrellwakelam.com/

I can’t wait to be a part of the Mary Anning opera team, what a fantastic way to bring this amazing and hugely influential woman to a wider audience. I can’t wait to get stuck in making all sorts of Jurassic creatures and maybe a statue of Mary herself!

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.

Carmel Gardner – Community Liaison

With over 20 years’ experience running a Learning and Development company both in the UK and abroad Carmel has developed her influencing and negotiating skills both with clients and with participants on workshops.  Wanting to keep her German Language skills alive and combine that with her love of the Jurassic Coast Carmel has also delivered tours to German tourists visiting Dorset and South Somerset.  Goal-focussed and highly organised, Carmel loves engaging people to be curious about themselves, their relationships and the world around them.

I’m really pleased to be part of this fantastic project.  Conducting tours for Tourists along the Jurassic Coast necessitated lots of research into the life of Mary Anning and I’ve become convinced that everyone should know about this remarkable woman.  This is a wonderful opportunity to tell people about her achievements in an engaging and creative way.  I’m looking forward to working within the community and seeing Mary Anning brought to life through music.

Victoria Pirie – Project Finance

Victoria is an extensive finance and project management experience. Her financial management includes Local Authority cultural service budgets of up to £3M and capital projects of a similar value. More recently as a consultant, she has planned and delivered programme budgets for Lottery-funded projects, including the South Dorset Ridgeway. Financial management review forms part of her work with individual culture organisations. As an experienced Company Director and Charity Trustee, she is familiar with financial accountabilities and management from that perspective. Project management experience includes Lottery-funded capital redevelopment, for example, the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery Museum, Bournemouth and work for Bristol Museums. Also, programme delivery and as a consultant work with clients developing and delivering research, learning and community programmes and evaluation. Victoria is also a very experienced project and programme evaluator. Much of her consultancy work is focussed on assessing impact, whether of individual Lottery-funded arts and heritage programmes or strategic funding initiatives for national cultural agencies. Current work includes, for ACE the Evaluation of the Museum Development 2015-2022, for Hampshire Countryside Services the evaluation of Staunton Country Park’s Parks for People programme, and the evaluation of Bournemouth Emerging Arts Festival in 2018, 2019 and planned for 2021.

I am very pleased to be involved in this wonderful project celebrating Mary Anning and her work. The time is now to acclaim her pioneering achievements and to do this through music, song and performance is exhilarating.

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.

Marc also has extensive project management experience. He has managed projects such as, for example, the Sonic Coast Concert Series (2014-15), a series of 5 concerts of contemporary classical music in rural Dorset with funding from Sound and Music and Grants for the Arts on behalf of DIVAcontemporary, managing a £16,000+ budget in a project that dealt with musicians, venues, documentation, evaluation, audience development and marketing. Marc has also managed SATSYMPH LLP’s participation in the South Dorset Landscape Partnership Scheme as Artistic Director, delivering the building of 7 heritage apps for mobile phones and managing a budget of £76,000+, working with multiple partners from other organisations and managing a three-man staff team as well as submitting LLP tax returns to HMRC and Companies House. Skills include project reporting, negotiation, partner liaising, presenting, outcome assessment, budget management and evaluation. https://www.marc-yeats.com/

Fossils, Geology, an exceptional women who’s life-struggles and contribution to Palaeontology are only now capturing the popular imagination; music, singing and dancing, monsters and the ancient seas. What’s not to like! I’m proud to be part of this fantastic project and excited to help bring to life a story that must be told, and told by the modern-day communities who tread the same streets, explore the same cliffs and walk the same beaches as Mary Anning over 170 years ago.

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