I grew up in Yorkshire, read English at Jesus College, Cambridge and went on to teach English and drama at secondary schools in Cheshire, Co. Durham and Shropshire, where I became County Adviser for Drama and the Arts. Now I’m back in Yorkshire.
I am not sure where my love of theatre came from, but it started early. I was writing plays and pestering my teachers to put them on when I was still at primary school. Writing stories, poems and novels came a little later, encouraged by English teachers at secondary school.
For four or five years, while I was still at school, I was a member of the Bradford Civic Playhouse, an amateur theatre company with an ambitious programme and a strong track-record in nurturing talent and launching actors on professional careers. Billie Whitelaw, Robert Stephens and Gorden Kaye all started there.
Gorden Kaye (standing) and Neil Rathmell (seated right) in George Bernard Shaw’s You Never Can Tell.
Not long after I left Cambridge and started work as an English teacher, Faber & Faber published two of my short stories in Introduction 4 – stories by new writers, and went on a few years later to publish my first novel, The Old School.
Subsequently, as a drama teacher and youth theatre director, I wrote and directed many plays for performance by young people. One of them, Revenge of the Sea God, is recommended by Youth Theatre Ireland in its youth theatre play list, Playshare, and was performed by Prague Youth Theatre in June 2019.
Now I write mainly for adults. Unspoken – a play about a man and his stammer was written in collaboration with speech and language therapist, Dr Trudy Stewart, with the help and advice of people who stammer. It had its first performance in a production by Leeds Arts Centre at The Carriageworks, Leeds, 5-8 July 2017, and has since been performed by the same cast at an international speech therapy conference in Antwerp and at the John Lyons Theatre, CityLit, in London. A new production by BMH Productions ran for five nights at The Old Schoolhouse, Oxford, from 22-26 March 2019.
Almost exactly a year later, 4-7 July 2018, I directed two of my plays with Leeds Arts Centre at The Carriageworks as a double bill, It’s A Miracle and The Colin Atkins Story. Two more plays, Rough Sleepers and Is There Anybody There? were produced by Leeds Arts Centre at the Carriageworks in October 2019 and 2021 respectively.
Following a talk that I gave to MA English Literature students at Punjabi University, Patiala, in February 2018, I was invited back the following year to undertake a theatre project. The result was Unborn, a play about gender inequality in India, based on the students’ own experience as girls and young women living in a patriarchal society. Unborn had its first performance with an all-female cast of thirty students in late February 2019. None of them had any previous experience of acting and all were a joy to work with!
My short fiction has been published in Ambit, Popshot, Prole, The Penny Dreadful and The Poetry Bus. My versions of two Indian tales, Ramayana and Heer Ranjha, are available in paperback and e-book from Amazon.
I was married on 2 June 2021 to a Punjabi poet, Jaspreet Mander, who was Chair of the English Department at Punjabi University, Patiala, when I first met her in February 2018. I have two married daughters, Beccy and Katy, and four grandchildren, Emily, George, Noah and William.