I grew up in Muswell Hill, north London. From the age of three to 18, I went to King Alfred School in Hampstead. It was progressive, co-ed, non-denominational, I knew my teachers by their first names, there was no uniform or competitive sport or punishment as such, the school buildings were laid out around a green field and a wood with an open air theatre, and goats and rabbits ran free amongst the children of intellectuals, rock stars and actors. It was one of the few schools in England at that time that allowed pupils to mix arts and sciences at A level. I took maths, physics and history.
I went to The University of Manchester, arriving to study architecture. After a year I’d had enough of structural calculations and pretentious musings on the ambitions of a brick and switched instead to American and Spanish-American studies, a mix of literature, politics, history and Spanish which included a year abroad. I spent a semester at Penn State where I undertook an independent study into the history of utopia with the sadly now late Charlie Mann, head of the rare books room and expert on the university’s unrivalled collection of utopian literature. In Chile I took courses at the Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, went to Rio for the Earth Summit and travelled around Ecuador with photographer César Franco.
In my final year at Manchester I was selected to join the English department’s newly established creative writing course on the strength of a piece I’d written for Charlie Mann.
WORKING FOR A NON-PROFIT
After graduating I spent a year with Rights and Humanity – a charity championing the lesser known economic social and cultural rights, with offices in London and at the UN in Geneva. I coordinated the Human Rights Development Forum, whose members included Oxfam, CAFOD and Action Aid, and which pushed for a human rights approach to development.
If I’d have discovered social anthropology at school I’d have saved myself a lot of study time. A unification of arts and science that tackles the most compelling questions about what it means to be human, anthropology is the only subject. My Masters is from University College London. I specialised in environmental anthropology, landscape and ethnographic film. My thesis looked at the relative concepts of time and space amongst the Mexican Chamula.
After leaving UCL, with the notion of becoming the David Attenborough of anthropology, I moved into documentary film. I worked as a researcher with the legendary Roger Graef, in the BBC’s Inside Story Unit and for Channel 4’s Dispatches. The programmes I worked on covered topics as diverse as restorative justice, dieting, submariners and the National Health Service.
JOURNALISM NEWS, FEATURES, PRINT & ONLINE
As banal reality TV swept through documentary land, I decided to move to print journalism and in 2000 enrolled in a post graduate diploma course at London College of Printing (renamed London College of Communication). I took a reporter’s job at weekly architectural magazine The Architects’ Journal where I soon became news editor, features editor for competing title Building Design and then online editor – initiating two successful PPA award-shortlisted campaigns, inventing an alternative architecture prize, launching an AOP award-shortlisted website and experimenting with multi-media content including video reports that I produced and presented.
FREELANCE WRITING & RADIO PRODUCTION
In April 2008, wanting freedom from the 9 to 5, I left my staff job to go freelance. A year later I moved to New York City on an O1 visa (for artists of extraordinary ability).
Before moving to New York I worked regularly on The (London) Times’ arts and entertainments site, contributing arts coverage, news features and multi-media content and covering for the editor. I have written for The Guardian, The New York Times, The (London) Times, The Telegraph, The London Evening Standard, Wallpaper, Crafts Magazine and the best of the architectural press. I am a regular columnist for the Times Educational Supplement. (For more links to articles please go here.)
Books I’ve edited include Michael Sorkin’s collection of essays All Over the Map and Beyond Petropolis: future visions for an Ecuadorian oil town. I have taught writing skills to thesis students in the school of architecture and design at the New York Institute of Technology.
I work with award-winning, London-based production company Just Radio developing ideas for BBC Radio 2, Radio 3, Radio 4 and the World Service and producing commissioned shows. (For more details please go here.) I’ve also been producing a series of illustrated audio monologues by America’s leading architects (interviewees have included Daniel Libeskind, Richard Meier, the Venturis and Peter Eisenman).
I intend one day to play Rach 3 on the piano but can so far just about manage Jingle Bells.