The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins has been a huge influence on my reading because it is so well written and constructed, but also because my 15-year-old son picked it up, having previously shown no real interest in reading, and was transfixed. I have also read a lot of 19th-century French and English literature and I love Mrs Gaskell, especially North and South for its intense political and emotional landscape.
The Ladykillers is so dark, yet so comic, and very much about how this ensemble of English actors - Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers and so on - bounce off each other. Films today are so much about individual stars, but this is about the working of a group.
BEST ON STAGE
Two productions of Antony and Cleopatra have stayed with me. The first was with Judi Dench and Anthony Hopkins (1987). I queued for hours to see a production with famous people, and my own children are impressed that I saw Hopkins in the flesh because to them he's Hannibal Lecter (The Silence of the Lambs). The second was with Mark Rylance, artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe, playing Cleopatra (pictured) with an all-male cast.
The performance was so sexually charged. You were left wondering whether Shakespeare's own audiences would have experienced the play with an all-male cast in this same way.
I love singing Verdi's "Requiem" but the most memorable performance I have experienced was at the Royal Albert Hall, the Friday after Princess Diana died. She was supposed to have been there and Sir Georg Solti was supposed to have been conducting it but he, too, had died a few days earlier. It was conducted by Sir Colin Davis and was incredibly emotional: people were crying and hugging each other.
LOOKING FORWARD TO
The Moody Blues at the Royal Albert Hall and getting my pupils involved in a DJ-ing project with the local youth service. I've put on loads of musicals with pupils in the past - Oklahoma, Oliver!, that kind of thing - and want to get more music going at the PRU.
Hilary Dodman, 58, is head of the pupil referral service in the London borough of Richmond upon Thames. She was talking to Elaine Williams. She sings with the Hampton Choral Society and is chair of the Teddington and Hampton music festival