The Diary in its first draft form was performed in December 2002 at the Joogleberry Playhouse in Brighton. Vanessa was played by Heather Cairncross ( with the Big City Cabaret Band. Further revisions and expansion followed and the new work, with another singer, larger ensemble and considerably re-written score and libretto, was completed in 2006. Tête À Tête: The Opera Festival presents an opportunity for the piece to be fully explored ahead of a possible 2009 national tour.


Synopsis – It is the 1960’s. Vanessa sits alone in her bedsit, knitting and thinking. Her diary tells us the story of her isolation from the changing West End around her. Drug-fuelled orgies to which she isn’t invited, music that she can’t groove to, fashions that she can’t afford; all conspire to cross her stitches. Knit one… Purl one… With a needle in one hand, yarn in the other, there is only one way to cast off this confusing world.


“This opera was always intended to leap from the page, to have sharply-characterised characters and music. It is a combination of high-Romantic opera and the modernist satire of Weill and Stravinsky. Universal themes of loneliness and isolation are contrasted with moments of black humour, and my music mirrors this in diversity of style and expression.”

Matthew Pollard


‘Matthew Pollard’s The Diary is a sophisticated, unusual, sardonic chamber opera with a wonderful Roald Dahl-like sting in the tail.’ Composer and Director of The Shout vocal ensemble, Orlando Gough

Composer Matthew Pollard

Director Sebastian Harcombe

Producer James Turnbull


Heather Cairncross (Alto)

Lawrence White (Baritone)

Thomas Norrell (Piano)

Adam Swayne (Percussion)


Matthew Pollard – Composer


Born in Yorkshire, Matthew studied composition and conducting at the University of Huddersfield and holds a Doctorate in Musical Composition from the University of Sussex, where his supervisor was Prof. Martin Butler. He now works on a freelance basis as a composer, arranger, conductor and teacher. His works have been performed nationally, by ensemble such as Lontano (conducted by Odaline de la Martinez), Paragon Saxophone Quartet, RNCM Brass Band, London Gay Symphony Orchestra, and Adam Bushell / Tom Norrell percussion duet. He has also worked with vocalists including Heather Cairncross and Hazel O’Connor, for whom he arranged backing vocals. His conducting appointments include Musical Director of both Rainbow Chorus and Hangleton Brass Band, and conductor of Tacet contemporary music ensemble. In education, he has worked as a lead composer for the SPNM/Sound Inventors project and as an associate tutor at the University of Sussex. In June this year, Matthew was crowned the NABBC UK Conductor of the Year and will compete on an international scale in 2009.


Sebastian Harcombe – Director


Sebastian grew up in Rhondda, South Wales and studied as an actor at RADA and later Royal Holloway College. As an actor he has performed on a national stage for various companies such as RNT, RSC, Donmar Warehouse, Lyric Hammersmith and the Royal Court. His operatic directing experience has included productions for Hampstead and Highgate Festival and Hampstead Garden Festival. Sebastian is the course director at Drama Centre London for MA European Classical Acting. More recently he has set up music-theatre company Liederkreis ( where he directed DreamLives in the Opera Festival last year.



The company would like to thank Wayne Ashman, Penny King (Arts Council England) and the artists who have given their time, advice and support to The Diary’s development. It is so important for emerging artists have a home to explore, present and play with work in a welcoming environment. The work of Tête À Tête to facilitate this event is highly valued. Our thanks go to the team for their support of new opera in this way – Bill, Anna, Marius, Toby, Mark and the rest of the festival company.