Science advice for policy

Since 2018, I have led science communication for the European Commission’s Scientific Advice Mechanism as Head of Communications for SAPEA. It’s a very lively and challenging role.

It’s not just about communicating the science behind our advice — it’s also about raising awareness and stimulating debate in society about the roles scientific evidence can play. Not that the debate has needed much stimulating since the COVID pandemic!

Philosophy

My PhD examines conscientious objection by doctors, a topic at the intersection between public policy, religious belief and medical ethics.

I have a professional interest in the philosophy of science and an ongoing amateur fascination with the philosophies of religion, language, cognition and games.

EU politics

Mostly through being in the right place at the right time, I’ve had the opportunity to lead high-profile public communication campaigns on European issues in Britain — including conceiving and developing a widely-used mythbusting app during the EU referendum campaign, advising the Remain campaign for the UK Labour party, and serving as Head of Communications to a senior British MEP.

I’m now a post-Brexit Brit, living and working in Belgium.

Choral music

I’ve conducted choirs and trained singers for more than 20 years. I’ve been lucky to be involved with some very exciting ensembles, ranging from really top-rate chamber choirs (and associated chamber orchestras) to community and youth groups in the north of England.

I also arrange and compose, mostly for choirs, mostly unreliably and inconsistently. Some of what I produce is worth listening to.

Read More
Deep Dive video screenshot

Deep Dive choral music

I’ve done a lot less music since 2017, when I switched from semi-professional conducting to full-time work in a non-musical field. So I’ve been diverting my choral energies elsewhere, creating some in-depth tutorial videos to help beginning choir conductors explore some of the classics of the repertoire.

Read More
Podcast guests

Podcasting

I produce and present an ongoing podcast for the European Commission’s Scientific Advice Mechanism. It’s a series of long-form interviews about the interface between science and politics, focusing particularly on science advice and evidence-informed policymaking.

I’ve interviewed some big names (big in the science advice world, that is!), but also a range of early-career researchers and off-the-wall guests. The show has become pretty well known in science advice circles in Europe, and it’s a lot of fun — if you’re into that kind of thing.

Read More
Microplastics

Communicating microplastics

In an extremely unlikely turn of events, I was the lead author for a paper about microplastics pollution published in the journal Environment International, and subsequently cited in Nature. I don’t think this is too bad an achievement, given that my highest science qualification is a school certificate from the age of 16.

Read More
Bruges cathedral

Choral evensong in Bruges

The many Christian churches of the Belgian city of Bruges hold an annual massed service in the spectacular Sint-Salvatorskathedraal. In 2019, the Anglican community hosted a service of full choral evensong with more than a thousand people in attendance. I directed it.

Read More
All Saints North Street

The Clerkes’ mass

In the Anglican choral tradition, there are lots of interesting unaccompanied settings of the evening canticles, but very few interesting unaccompanied mass settings. This is my attempt to fill the gap. It was premiered in 2019 by the Clerkes of All Saints, directed by Chris Hamlett.

Read More
Antwerp cathedral

Flemish Evensong Tour

I directed a major choral singing tour in Belgium in 2019. Through public marketing and personal contacts, we assembled a choir of around 40 singers, mostly British, to rehearse and perform in spectacular venues in Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp and Leuven. The tour was conceived and organised in its entirety over the course of a year by my partner and me, and received overwhelmingly positive feedback in our follow-up questionnaire, including 100% of attendees saying they would recommend it to a friend!

Read More
Clerkes of All Saints

The Clerkes of All Saints

In the UK, I founded and directed the Clerkes of All Saints. We performed high-quality music, mostly in cathedral and church settings. I led the choir for six years, during which time we quickly established ourselves as Yorkshire’s leading liturgical chamber choir and developed a reputation for musical and liturgical excellence. We made our first studio recording in 2013, and were in residence at Gloucester cathedral in 2015.

Read More
Skipton Choral Society

Skipton Choral Society

Skipton Choral Society sings a wide variety of works, large and small, including the traditional repertoire of English choral societies and a lot more besides. Sadly I could only work with them for a couple of years before moving abroad, but it was a very rewarding experience.

Read More
Libricini

Libricini

Libricini is an upper-voice chamber choir based in Norwich, UK. They perform a wide variety of music, much of it very challenging, and rehearse intensively for just two days before each performance. I was fortunate enough to direct the group from 2009 until I moved to Brussels in 2016, during which time we commissioned and premiered several new works.

Read More
South Bank Singers

South Bank Singers

The South Bank Singers is a group of about 30 adults who meet to tackle challenging music in a relaxed atmosphere, and perform at venues around York, UK. I was their founding conductor.

Read More
nativity

Myn lyking

I collaborated with John Morgan, another York-based composer, to put together a set of English carols for the Micklegate Singers in York, UK. The other pieces were arrangements; this was my only original contribution.

Read More
PES logo

Party of European Socialists

When I first moved from the UK to Brussels, I spent two years as Senior Communications Advisor to the Party of European Socialists. My particular responsibility was press and media relations, but I also had a role in publications, events planning, campaigns and many other areas.

Read More
Doorstep EU

Doorstep EU

I conceived and created a phone app, Doorstep EU, in the early days of Britain’s EU referendum campaign. Originally intended for doorstep campaigners, it provided daily in-depth analysis and mythbusting of the main EU-related stories in the British media. By the final weeks of the campaign it had over 20,000 active users — including Labour MPs, BBC journalists, politicians and activists.

The app was part of my work for Richard Corbett, the UK Labour leader in the European Parliament.

Read More
Labour In logo

UK referendum campaign

I was closely involved in the 2016 UK referendum on EU membership — on the losing side, unfortunately. Alongside being head of communications to the leader of the Labour party in the European Parliament, I was seconded as a communications advisor to former home secretary Alan Johnson, who led Labour’s campaign.

Read More
European flags (photo: European Commission)

How to talk about Europe

As part of the UK’s referendum campaign in 2016, I was commissioned to write some guidelines for well-meaning political journalists and campaigners on how to avoid traps when discussing Europe.

Sad to say, this stuff is no use to anyone any more. I guess we didn’t avoid enough of the traps.

Read More
Making Tracks, a painting of King Edward VII steam engine

Two Cornish songs

I composed two settings of texts by Cornish poet Maureen Jackett, my grandmother-in-law. ‘The freedom of Cornwall’ won the 2015 prize for composition at the Cornish Gorsedd, which is not an especially exciting achievement since I believe there were only two other entries.

Micklegate Singers

The Micklegate Singers is an amateur chamber choir, well known in the north of England, specialising in contemporary music and little-known older material. Their regular director is Nick Carter, but I was their Associate Conductor from about 2006 until 2015. This meant that I took rehearsals when their regular conductor was away, as well as directing their Christmas concert every year. I also took over as main conductor in 2012 when their regular director took an extended leave of absence, and led the choir on its first international exchange to Norway in 2013.

Read More
Vitruvian man

Fragments

An upper-voice choir in Norwich, UK, is called ‘Libricini’ after the famous notebooks in which Leonardo da Vinci scribbled various sketches and ideas throughout his life. For the choir’s first tour (to the Yorkshire Dales in 2015), I set some of Leonardo’s scribblings to music.

Read More
Oxfam stewards

Volunteering at festivals

Until 2015, I was a supervisor every summer at one of the UK’s biggest popular music festivals. I managed a team of about 60 volunteer stewards, with frontline responsibility for the safety of thousands of music fans.

Read More
Philomela

Philomela

The poem Philomela, by Richard Pomfret, describes what runs through the mind of an audience member during the fleeting moment after a musical performance ends, but before the applause begins. It was first performed in Oxford in 2010.

Read More
Arlington cemetery

Epitaphs

This suite of four short military epitaphs was commissioned by the British Royal Armouries for thier World War I centenary commemoration on Armistice Day, 2014. It remains my only piece ever to appear on national TV (the BBC played about six seconds of it!).

Read More
University of Sheffield

Training for early-career researchers

When working for a collaborative research project in the UK, one of my responsibilities was to train early-stage social science researchers in communications activities, both traditional and new media. As well as providing written training materials, I also put on a series of seminars, plenary lectures and workshops at the Universities of Cambridge, Reading, Sheffield and Loughborough.

Read More
Hull York Medical School

Lecturing

For five years, I taught an elective module in media ethics for medical students at the University of York. The course ran every term and was frequently over-subscribed. It was one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever done.

Read More
3d modelling faces

Shape from shading

I’ve done various freelance science writing jobs over the years. This is an example of a magazine commission I wrote in 2013 — an article about scientists’ attempts to teach computers to understand 3D shapes.