Our PhD student and friend Maria sadly passed away this October. She was a valued member of the Media Discourse Centre, Leicester Media School, Doctoral College community at DMU, and a superb PhD student. Maria had made significant progress towards completion of her PhD entitled “Queer Women of the Left Bank: Channelling Natalie Barney and her Sapphic Circle – Creating biographical narratives via transmedia technologies”.
Maria grew up in the Salvation Army church and from 1988 studied at the University of Warwick, completing a BA in Theatre Studies and Dramatic Arts. After a Postgraduate Diploma at the Courtyard Theatre, Maria travelled the world with a troupe of actors performing in Ireland, Spain, and New York. One of her most memorable roles was as Yeat’s muse, Maud Gonne. Maria then trained to teach English as a foreign language, working in Prague, Paris, and the United Arab Emirates.
Their daughter Iris was born in 2011. Maria studied to be a drama teacher at the Central School of Speech and Drama going on to work as Head of Drama at Walthamstow School for Girls, 2008-2014. She also did a Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics with the Open University.
Her novel Girl was published in 2015 drawing on her experiences of love, travel and adventure and was shortlisted for the Cinnamon Press Novella Award. Her poetry collection Afeto was published in 2018, for which she was a Ted Hughes Award nominee 2019.
Maria was an exceptional performer and writer and combined this with a unique intellectual curiosity. Maria will be sorely missed by her friends and family and is a great loss to our research centre, school, faculty, and university. She was inspired by the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca and lived out his words: “Every step we take on earth brings us to a new world.”
Maria saw possibility in everyone and everything. Her vivacity for life, love and freedom of expression drew her deeply into this project. It was a privilege to immerse ourselves in the rich tapestry of these women’s lives, so full of colour and adventure – much like Maria’s own life. Tragically, we can only wonder at what Maria’s final piece of writing would have been, but I have no doubt it would have been a genius reflection of these women’s lives that would have enthralled us all and fulfilled her desire to reclaim the female narrative. Natalie Barney’s self-composed epitaph reads, “I am this legendary being in which I will live again”, and therefore, in honour of Maria, and the women by whom she was so fascinated, we will travel to Paris and re-enact the salon. The legacy she leaves behind is huge: her extraordinary book, ‘Girl’, together with a collection of incredible poetry, her beautiful daughter, and a love of empowering women and a friendship we will always be grateful for.
Rachel Sutton, friend, and actor working with Maria
“As a person she exuded positivity, kindness and goodness.”
Dara Hanley who runs the Exceptional Academics where Maria worked as tutor.