In my eyrie in the heart of London, home to blackbirds and squirrels and wonderful Russian paintings, I write books and songs, plays and poems, and spin tales.
Over two decades I’ve written hundreds of nonfiction books, many of which have been bestsellers everywhere from Korea to Canada, on subjects from geology to genetics, India to Iran, including Do Not Open and Do You Think You’re Clever? and The Atlas of Oceans. I’ve been shortlisted four times for the junior Science Book Prize and I’m now grandly titled a Royal Literary Fellow which basically means mentoring students in writing. This year I’ve been telling non-fiction stories for children with live music and video for the Moscow Polytech Festival and for Wrocslaw’s new multimedia Hydropolis. I’m also now translating a major contemporary novel by Kazakh author, to follow up to my translation from Russian of Ravil Bukharaev’s Letters to Another Room, and verse translations of Lope de Vega’s plays from Spanish, which are soon to be staged in Texas and Prague.
I’ve written many plays: High Risk Zone (Almeida), The Naked Guest (Pleasance, Edinburgh), Numismata (Bridewell); musicals: In love and War (Wyllyots), Anya (Donmar) and Dreamweaver (Donmar); and librettos for operas including Mozart’s Escape from the Seraglio (Plymouth Theatre Royal, Salisbury Playhouse, Riverside). My very contemporary libretto for Puccini’s La Boheme was acclaimed at the Grimeborn Festival at the Arcola in August 2015.
Over the years I’ve written many songs, mostly for others to sing – from Russian folk group Koleso to west-end stars. Now I’m also performing them myself. This began in 2013, when author Rebecca Stott and I started hosting the Cauldron events at our local pub mixing all genres of music, poetry, books and idea, and have brought in such rising music stars as Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Eliza Shaddad and Kelly Oliver. I began reading poetry and headlined the Lyra International Poetry festival in Belgium but also perform as a singer of my own songs. The song I wrote and performed for the Christmas Cauldron Diamonds in Her Eyes has now over 10,000 hits on YouTube, and my song ‘Peace in My Heart’ which I performed with Dave Swarbrick and Kelvin Thomson was on Folkstock’s Christmas Present album, selected as one of the Sunday Times best albums.
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