Neil Rathmell – writer

100+ essays on literary topics


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 am back in Yorkshire.

I’m 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 group 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 a production of G.B.Shaw’s ‘You Never Can Tell’ at Bradford Civic Theatre, c.1964

Not long after I left Cambridge and started work as an English teacher, Faber & Faber included two of my short stories in Introduction 4 – stories by new writers. My first novel, The Old School, was published by Faber & Faber in 1976.

“Integrity and exactness shine forth from every page.”  The Sunday Times.
“A nice line in the manic.”  New Statesman.
“Sweetly funny, kind, perceptive, unpretentious.”  The Guardian

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.

prague youth theatre 01

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.


“Realistic… enlightening and wholly engaging.”

Almost exactly a year later, 4-7 July 2018, I directed two of my plays at The Carriageworks as a double bill, It’s A Miracle and The Colin Atkins Story.

“Brilliantly written, great energy. Really enjoyed it!”
“An excellent evening’s entertainment.”

This was followed by a new play, Rough Sleepers, which was produced by Leeds Arts Centre at the Carriageworks from 23-26 October 2019.


My short fiction has been published in Ambit, PopshotProle, The Penny Dreadful and The Poetry Bus. Longer works of fiction, published under my own imprint, are available in paperback and e-book format from Amazon. The script of Unspoken is available there too.

“Neil Rathmell’s Peter [in Prole 19] is an unflinching tale that sweeps through an entire life.”

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. I went back to the university in January 2019 for five weeks of rehearsal.

Unborn had its first performance with an all-female cast of nearly thirty MA students in late February 2019. None of them had any previous experience of acting and all of them were a joy to work with!

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