About Ken

Ken plenary

The story so far…

June 2021 update

As is the case for all of us, my life has changed because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Whilst recognising that the virus has had disastrous and tragic consequences for millions of people worldwide, I have found that the new situation has resulted in an interesting change of focus, particularly for people who work in education. The move to online teaching has been arduous for many people in our profession, but personally I have found it very refreshing to connect so easily with teachers all over the world via webinars and other media. It’s been possible to accept invitations to do more online training and conferences than I would have considered if it had been necessary to travel to various parts of the world to carry them out. 

And now, more general information about my working life….

I’m a teacher trainer, an author of ELT materials and until 2002, I was artistic director of the English Teaching Theatre. I’m the editor-in-chief of a Vietnamese primary course, a co-production between Macmillan Hong Kong and Vietnam Educational Publishing House, Hanoi.  

In 2016, I completed a Masters in Creative Writing at Birkbeck College London, and I finished my first novel at the end of 2020. It’s called The Duke’s Portraita comic story set mainly in a grand house in the West of England in 1937. The style is PG Wodehouse with added sex and drugs! I have signed a contract to publish it with Europe Books.

My original plan was that it would be the first part of a quartet about the same people, and their children, stretching to the 1970s, but given that I’m 73, and it’s taken me nearly five years to write the first one, I doubt whether I’ll live long enough to complete the whole shebang. I have, however, started writing the second, King and Country and All Thatwhich is set in London and Berlin in 1938. 

My working life has always centred around English language teaching and training. 

I trained to be an English teacher with John and Brita Haycraft at International House London and taught English in Seville before moving back to IH London, where I worked as a teacher and teacher trainer before going freelance when I was about 30. In the 1970s, I wrote and recorded Mister Monday, the first-ever collection of ELT songs. Since then I’ve written and recorded about 250 language teaching songs.

I also wrote 100 radio and TV programmes for BBC English, including 50 radio scripts for the Follow Me series and 30 TV scripts for the Look Ahead series.  For a while, I worked for the Spanish and Latin American services of BBC World Service, reporting in Spanish on music events in Britain.

I worked as a performer, sketch-writer and eventually director with the English Teaching Theatre, a theatre company which used to tour the world performing stage-shows for learners of English. The company made more than 250 tours to 55 countries, in Europe, Latin America, Africa and the Far East.

With co-director Doug Case, I wrote about a hundred sketches and almost as many songs for the group. Many of the sketches were published in two Macmillan books, English Sketches 1 and 2. Those of you with longer memories may recall that most of the sketches first appeared in books entitled Off-Stage! and Further Off-Stage!

I now mainly write course material. The main ones are the following:

>  Smart Choice (Oxford University Press, now in its fourth edition; co-authored with Thomas Healy and Alice Savage and others; now extended to six levels)

>   Achievers with Jane Revell and Leanne Grey (Richmond) 

>  Just Right Advanced with Jeremy Harmer, Carol Lethaby and Ana Acevedo, for Cengage

In 2008, OUP also published Drama and Improvisation, a compilation of about 50 of my drama activities.

I attend a lot of ELT conferences and usually give workshops on using music and drama.

My wife Dede is a freelance teacher trainer and we occasionally give drama courses together. For ten years, we ran an international course for teachers from many different countries. The course was called Drama Plus and took place in Hungary. Teachers from thirty countries attended this course.

With Dede, doing the ETT Language School sketch at IATEFL 2005 in Cardiff.

In a normal year, we spend time on Prince Edward Island, Canada in the summer, but these are not normal times, and we haven’t been there since September 2019. These photos were taken on Rustico Beach, about three kilometres from the house.

Rustico Harbour beach