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Past Event – Charlotte Mew: Reluctant Icon

Julia Copus
£20; £10 student concessions. Join us for a very special evening of poetry and music at the Asylum Chapel, North Peckham, to mark the paperback publication of This Rare Spirit: A Life of Charlotte Mew by Julia Copus.

24 in stock

7:00 pm
About the Event

Join us for a very special evening of poetry and music to mark the paperback publication of This Rare Spirit: A Life of Charlotte Mew by Julia Copus. Described by Siegfried Sassoon as ‘the only poet who can give me a lump in my throat’, Charlotte Mew was highly regarded in her day and counted Virginia Woolf, Thomas Hardy and Walter de la Mare amongst her admirers.  Biographer Julia Copus will introduce Mew’s life and work. Actor Pippa Haywood will read key works by Mew, followed by a performance of settings of the poems for voice and string quartet, introduced by Kate Whitley, their composer. The evening takes place in the atmospheric Asylum Chapel in Peckham –  two of Mew’s poems have Peckham titles: In Nunhead Cemetery and On the Asylum Road. The evening will end with a drinks reception and the chance to purchase a copy of This Rare Spirit: A Life of Charlotte Mew and have it signed by Julia Copus.

This performance is presented jointly by the Michael Cuddigan Trust and Faber Members.

Photograph of Julia Copus by Caroline Forbes.

What to Expect
  • Students can buy concession tickets for £10: use code Student10 at the checkout. I.D. required on the night
  • The running time of the event is approximately 70 minutes
  • Your email confirmation serves as your ticket
  • This event is taking place at The Asylum Chapel, Caroline Gardens, Asylum Rd, London SE15 2SQ
  • The nearest station to the Asylum Chapel is Queen’s Road Overground
  • The Asylum Chapel’s entrances are both step access, but movable wheelchair ramps for easy access are available at the back doors
  • Unfortunately, the location does not have accessible toilets. Please contact The Asylum Chapel for more details or to arrange access assistance:

Julia Copus, Poet and Biographer
Kate Whitley, Composer
Pippa Haywood, Actor
Héloïse Werner, Singer
Eloisa-Fleur Thom, Violin
Jeremy Isaac, Violin
Lydia Lowndes-Northcott, Viola
Bozidar Vukotic, Cello


Kate Whitley is a composer and pianist. She runs The Multi-Story Orchestra, which performs in car parks around the UK: “forget fusty concert halls, the future of music is emerging in a municipal car park” (The Times). She writes music for orchestras, choirs and instrumentalists. Her music has been broadcast on Radio 3 and performed as part of the BBC Proms. Her pieces for choir and orchestra include Alive to words by poet Holly McNish, which won a 2015 British Composers Award and was described as “a remarkable feat” (The Telegraph), and I am I say to words by Sabrina Mahfouz: “a tremendous work” (The Times).

Her piece Speak out to words by Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai was commissioned by the BBC for International Women’s Day 2017 in support of the campaign for better education for girls: ‘a powerful statement, full of kinetic energy’ (Wales Arts Review) and has been performed by orchestras around the world. In 2018 she wrote Sky Dances for the London Symphony Orchestra, which was performed by an orchestra of over 100 in Trafalgar Square conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. Winning a 2018 Critics Circle Award, she has been described as a composer with “a strong, distinctive voice who, without compromising, communicates directly to a wide audience, within the concert hall and beyond”.


Actor Pippa Haywood trained at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. She has an extensive television career which includes portraying the much put-upon Helen Brittas in the BBC One comedy series The Brittas Empire (1991-1997), Julie Chadwick in the 2007 BBC Two comedy Fear, Stress & Anger and the hot-tempered, sex-mad human resources director Joanna Clore in Green Wing (2004-2006), for which she won the “best comedy female performance” award at the 2005 Rose d’Or television festival in Lucerne, Switzerland).

Other dramatic roles include Jenny Thorne in the 1988 ITV drama serial The One Game, and Mrs. Upjohn in the 2008 Agatha Christie’s Poirot episode Cat Among the Pigeons, as a guest star in the first series of The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, Veronica Gray in Lewis and also had a guest role in a 2009 episode of Kingdom, and portrayed the disgraced Miss Bunting in Mr Selfridge (2013). Since 2012 she has played one of the lead roles, Harriet, on the BBC One drama Prisoners’ Wives, and costarred as Detective Superintendent Julie Dodson on the ITV drama series Scott & Bailey. In 2015 she appeared in the BBC TV adaptation of E.F. Benson’s Mapp and Lucia, as Susan Wyse.

Recent stage credits include: House & Garden, Private Lives, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Winter’s Tale, Requiem and Landscape with Weapon at the National Theatre and the lead role in Wanderlust at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs. Film work includes Supernova, Four Kids and It (both 2020) and Tamara Drewe (2010).


Héloïse Werner is a French-born and London-based soprano and composer. The recipient of the Michael Cuddigan Trust Award 2018 and Linda Hirst Contemporary Vocal Prize 2017, she was one of the four shortlisted nominees in the Young Artist category of the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards 2017 and one of BBC Radio 3’s 31 under 31 Young Stars 2020. Her debut album Phrases is out now on Delphian Records. It is Gramophone Editor’s Choice (“extraordinary range, tone and vocal abilities (…) composer of subtle imagination”) and described by Apple Music as “a staggering debut from an imaginative and original voice”.

She studied the cello at the Conservatoire Maurice Ravel and then read music at Clare College, Cambridge, where she was a choral scholar. As a soprano, Héloïse has recently made her debut with the London Chamber Orchestra, the Nash Ensemble and appeared in The Grange Festival’s production of Precipice as the singing narrator. She also premiered Freya Waley-Cohen’s Spell Book (Volume 2) for soprano and string quartet at Conway Hall, written for her and the Tippett Quartet, which they will perform again at the Wigmore Hall in 2023. As a composer, Héloïse has written for musicians including violist Lawrence Power, bassoonist Amy Harman, pianist Mishka Rushdie Momen, mezzo-soprano Marielou Jacquard, pianist Kunal Lahiry, violinist Fenella Humphreys, mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston, The Gesualdo Six, The Bach Choir, CoMA, mezzo-soprano Grace Durham and Miller-Porfiris Duo. Upcoming 2022/23 commissions include new works for Radio France and Wigmore Hall. Follow Héloïse on Twitter.


The Michael Cuddigan Trust was set up in 2014 to support the composition and performance of new vocal chamber music.  Every year the Trust supports a small number of new works by composers with concerts and performances of the pieces by top musicians in the field.  Kate Whitley’s settings of the Mew poems were supported by the Trust.

The Trust was set up in memory of Michael Cuddigan who lived in Aldeburgh for many years and was passionate about music, Including vocal chamber music, and a great supporter of young composers and performers.


Buy the Book
Julia Copus

The first comprehensive biography of this undervalued writer, who was considered ‘far and away the best living woman poet’ in her day.

About Charlotte Mew

The British poet Charlotte Mew (1869–1928) was regarded as one of the best poets of her age by fellow writers, including Virginia Woolf, Siegfried Sasson, Walter de la Mare and Marianne Moore. She has since been neglected, but her star is beginning to rise again, all the more since her 150th anniversary in 2019. Rare Spirit is the first comprehensive biography, from cradle to grave, and is written by fellow poet Julia Copus, who recently unveiled a blue plaque on Mew’s childhood house in Doughty Street and was the editor of the Selected Poetry and Prose (2019).

Mew was a curious mix of New Woman and stalwart Victorian. Her poems speak to us strongly today, in these strangely mixed times of exposure and seclusion: they reveal the private agony of an isolated being who was forced to keep secret the tragedies of her personal life while being at the same time propelled by her work into the public arena. Her poetry transfigures that very private suffering into art that has a universal resonance.

About the Author

Julia Copus has published four collections of poetry and been shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot and Costa Book awards. Her most recent collection, Girlhood, was published by Faber in 2019 and was the inaugural winner of the USA's Derek Walcott Prize for best poetry collection by a non-US citizen. Other awards include First Prize in the UK’s National Poetry Competition and the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. Her 2021 biography of Bloomsbury poet Charlotte Mew, This Rare Spirit, was chosen by Sir Andrew Motion as a Spectator Book of the Year and described by John Carey in the Sunday Times as “a triumph of precise scholarship and imaginative sympathy”. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

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About the Author