My undergraduate degree was in English and Art History with the Open University, where I then did a Masters in the Eighteenth Century Novel. My PhD was supervised by Professor Jacky Bratton in the Department of Drama and Theatre Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London. I researched provincial popular entertainment during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
I worked from Royal Holloway as Assistant Editor on Nineteenth Century Theatre for four years, and on a major AHRC project, 'An Alternative History of Victorian Entertainment,' for three years following that.
I joined the Drama Department at Manchester as a part-time lecturer and then full time, teaching introductory courses on theatre history, Shakespeare, melodrama and, my favourite, Gags, gaffs and geeks: an introduction to popular entertainment in the 19th century. I supervised a range of historically based PhDs.
When the jointly-authored book, The Victorian Clown (CUP, 2006) was published in 2006, I appeared on Richard and Judy and gave many radio interviews. It seemed everyone was interested in Victorian jokes! Since then I've appeared on The One Show, The World's Greatest Joke and Who Do You Think You Are, where I got to meet my teenage hero, Sir Ian McKellan.
I retired from teaching in 2014, and was granted an Honorary Research Fellowship.