Sue Van Colle

The Poetry of Sue Van Colle

read by Oscar Jones and the author

Sue has been involved in the creative arts all her life, apparently singing the ends of musical phrases while lying in a pram.  Her musical parents organised piano and ballet lessons for her when she was four years old and shortly afterwards Sue began writing songs, and poems, eventually organising the latter as an ‘anthology’ in matching notebooks.  Despite the enthusiasm and praise given by various teachers of art, piano and composition (and these included Harold Craxton, and later Phyllis Sellick and Joseph Horovitz) Sue felt depressed and not only opted out of school when 14, but walked away from developing any of her talents.

When 17, however, some University-bound friends were astonished she hadn’t applied to do a degree and gave her a pin to stick in a map while blindfolded.  The pin hit Berkshire so she went to the University of Reading where she gained a BA (Hons) in music.  She floated off afterwards doing an assortment of jobs including driving a milk-float and selling a musical device called ‘PIANOMATE’.  From 1975 onwards, almost by default, Sue worked as an MD in Fringe Theatre notably for Entertainment Machine (David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin Junior) and ‘Green Fields and Far Away’ run by Roland Jaquarello.

Briefly at the Royal College of Music studying electronic music with Tristram Cary, one lull in theatre work saw her undertaking a diploma course in Music Therapy at Southlands College, Roehampton.  After gaining her professional qualification, she worked as a Music Therapist from 1985 to 2010 in diverse clinical fields.  The reactions of severely and multiply disabled young people to interactive music therapy was so amazing to Sue she embarked on original research to investigate what prompted their active involvement, gaining a PhD in 2003.

Health problems that affected Sue’s mobility resulted in her needing knee replacements, toe and spinal surgery.  While recuperating from these operations, she decided it was time to ‘come out her teapot’ as she called it and allow some of her compositions and songs to be heard.  In a rather Zen and naive way she put together her material as a quasi musical with the help of John Heath, an ROH chorus opera singer.  It was called ‘LOOKING FOR YOU’ and was performed at Burgh House, Palmers Green United Reformed Church and Pentameters in Hampstead.  Sue is currently working on developing its story so it can be a full-length musical.

During all these years – 1951 to the present day – Sue constantly wrote short stories and poems.  They were part of her personal world, and only one was ever submitted for publication in the early 60s at the instigation of a friend of her parents.  It was actually published in a poetry journal called Unicorn, who paid a guinea for it.  Sue received a similar amount for a song called ONE SUMMER that Jimmy Phillips bought in the early 70s.  She is overflowing with lack of money from her creations…

Since the age of 70, Sue has had a re-think about life and is at last relishing being alive.  So when by chance, in the Autumn of 2019, Sue met a well-known figure in the theatre world who asked if she wrote poetry (after hearing and reading the lyrics of her songs) she nodded her head and fished out her crumpled pieces of paper on which her poems were written.  Within a short space of time, the actor/director Oscar Jones booked her in at The Gatehouse Highgate for a poetry reading.  Now to see what impact her ‘new’ poems will make!

Saturday 23rd November at 3.00pm 

£15 (£13 concessions)

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