I was born to a mother raised amongst dairy cows and bantams on a Sussex farm, and a father raised amongst monkeys and mongooses in the foothills of the Western Himalayas.
The recounting of family history across the generations has had a marked influence on my imagination and curiosity in life’s illimitable possibilities. Notable characters were 6+great grandfather James Lee (1715–95), the nurseryman who first introduced to British cultivation such plants as the China rose, fuchsia and dahlia, translated the works of Linnaeus into English, and is mentioned in Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. 3+great grandfather Dr Charles Thomas Pearce (1815–83), writer, controversial homœopath and anti-vivisectionist, who campaigned tirelessly against compulsory vaccination and for humane treatment of the mentally ill. 2+great grandfather Alfred John Pearce (1840-1923), writer and obstetric specialist, who was celebrated as the astrologer known as ‘Zadkiel II’. And 2+great grandmother Helena Amelia Lindgren (1855-1931), defier of social conventions, who modelled for the likes of James McNeill Whistler.
Other familial inspirations have been such cousins as the English travel writer Robert Byron (1905–41) and the Swedish suffragist and writer Cecilia Milow (1856-1946). Also such relations as Martin Thomas Friend (1843-1934), the chaplain who attended Oscar Wilde in Reading Gaol; and the artist Desmond Macready Chute (1895-1962), co-founder with Eric Gill of The Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic at Ditchling, whose photographs I preserve.
Somewhat eclectic, being spread between Epsom, Lichfield, Paris, Frankfurt, Stockholm, Kalimpong and Bath, where I read Music specialising in collaborative composition.
That of a dilettante by all appearances.
Cabaret, theatre and ballet pianist; English teacher to German bankers; clinical assistant with autistic children; art school life model; assistant to a leading theatrical milliner; translator for the Parisian Professor Alfred A. Tomatis and the National Research Group in London. Also once danced the length of the Champs Elysées, representing Britain in Jean-Paul Goode’s Bicentennial Parade in Paris.
Worked for 5 years as a theatre designer, primarily with Adventures in Motion Pictures, one of Britain’s leading dance companies, for which I was also commissioned to compose original instrumental work. The designs included Matthew Bourne’s Infernal Galop, Deadly Serious, The Percys of Fitzrovia and Drip (BBC’s Dance for the Camera). Also designed the first Italian translation of Bernstein’s Candide for Graham Vick at Batignano, Tuscany.
Subsequently trained in Physical Medicine and for 13 years worked as physical therapist and yoga teacher at Glyndebourne Festival Opera. Also led courses in Shaiva Tantra Yoga at English National Opera in London, for the Jerwood Young Artists’ Programme, and with village groups in various regions of India.
In 2006, co-founded Sarvashubhamkara, a charity that works with ostracised individuals and communities in North India. Most of our projects are with people who are socially excluded because of the stigma of leprosy.
In 2011, returned to the theatre to collaborate with choreographer Ben Wright, composer Alan Stones, and projection artist Dick Straker on a new theatre production, The Lessening of Difference, with the contemporary dance company bgroup.
In 2012, commissioned to write an article for the National Geographic Traveller Magazine.
In 2013, invited to be a representative of the British charity Diversity Role Models, which “actively seeks to prevent homophobic bullying … by educating all young people about differences in sexuality and gender identity.”
In 2015, interviewed for How to Create Kind Schools by Jenny Hulme (published by Jessica Kingsley), which features Martin Sheen, Henry Winkler, Jamie Oliver and others, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the national anti-bullying charity Kidscape.
Since 1993, life’s been spent between the Sussex Downs and the foothills of both the Bengal and Garhwal Himalaya.
In the Shadow of Crows (2009) Reportage Press, London; (2011) Signal Books, Oxford. A percentage of the first publisher’s profits from its sale were dedicated to the work of Sarvashubhamkara. You can buy it here.
Limitless Sky (2014) Rider Books/Random House, London. Also Kuraldisi Publishing, Istanbul (Turkish translation) and Vaga, Vilnius (Lithuanian translation). You can buy it here.