Peter Viney

Peter Viney

I was born in Bournemouth, Dorset which was the biggest centre of ELT teaching in the UK outside of London, so it was inevitable that I would eventually get involved with ELT. I studied American Studies at Hull University with a Drama subsiduary. My first job was as a first year university student teaching eight German teenagers in my mother's front room. I used to call the material 'English for Zookeepers' because it consisted of lists of things like 'an ass brays',  'an ape gibbers' and 'drake, duck, duckling'. I had the sense to toss it in the bin and evolve strategies for teaching Beatles, Paul Simon and Bob Dylan lyrics instead and soon doubled my class size. This was highly beneficial, because you were paid per student per week.

I went on to do a research MA in English and American Studies with Malcolm Bradbury at the University of East Anglia, and then briefly worked as a road manager with a well-known rock band. I re-entered ELT at the Anglo-Continental School of English in early 1971, where my first supervisor was Colin Granger. I sat next to Guy Wellman in the staffroom, and Leo Jones was just upstairs.

Anglo-Continental produced much of its own teaching material, and we were encouraged to write and record from an early stage. There was a weekly stage show for students, run by Colin Granger, and the restaurant converted to a 400 seat theatre, which was always full. I was soon taking part with Colin and Guy, and met my wife Karen when she was brought in to do shows.

When Colin left, he bequeathed me the role of producer, for which I am eternally grateful. Roy Kingsbury joined us on piano, and sometimes when we did serious plays John Curtin would join in. I started co-writing seriously with Karen, turning out new stage sketches on a weekly basis, as well as an annual pantomime for host families and students. We split duties between production (me) and direction (Karen).

By 1975, I was Head of Elementary Studies at ACSE and was also writing with John Curtin on new material for ACSE London. That became a very early precursor of  Survival English and was published by Mary Glasgow.

Streamline English with Bernie Hartley followed in 1978, and I started touring the world doing teacher-training and seminars. The rest of the Streamline series and American Streamline followed. In the mid 1980s, I started writing videos and working with Karen again, as well as developing the Storylines Graded Reader series. We specialized in video for several years, then co-wrote Grapevine (with an integrated video component) and its American version, Main Street. This lead to the Only in America video filmed in New York, which was Edward Norton's first professional film role and it was a thrill to work with someone whose work was so stunning that the crew applauded after takes.

In the mid 1990s we did one of the first ELT books with a communication skills syllabus, Handshake. Around the same time Heinemann approached John Curtin and me with a proposal to write a new course with the title and general approach of  Survival English. To this I added Basic Survival, working on my own. I recently rewrote both and they were republished by Macmillan in 2004.

Karen and I have kept up our position of switching between work in British and American English, visiting the USA, where our oldest son lives and works, frequently. Karen and I still work heavily in video, and we adapted the three Wallace & Gromit animations into ELT versions, as well as writing the English Channel video series and then IN English for OUP.

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