Woolcock, Penny

Penny Woolcock (born 1 January 1950, in Buenos Aires, Argentina) is a British filmmaker, opera director, and screenwriter.[1][2][3] She was raised in a British community in Montevideo.

In 1967, she founded a radical theatre group and was briefly arrested; her parents wanted to send her to Europe for safety. Instead, she fled to Spain with a man from the theatre group and had a baby in Barcelona.

In 1970 she moved to England as a single mother. She did factory work and other jobs. In her thirties she enrolled in a filmmakers' workshop, borrowed film-making equipment, and sold the resulting feature to BBC Channel 4. She was then hired as a director and editor of a current affairs program originating in Newcastle. From there, she went on to feature making. Her first feature as a writer and director was Women in Tropical Places in 1989. Since then she has directed and/or written seven films. She adapted and directed Macbeth on the Estate in 1997.

Her breakthrough film was Tina Goes Shopping, which was a collaborative piece with the real residents of the Gipton estates in Leeds, which was part of what is now known as the Tina Trilogy. Her projects include a production of the John Adams opera Doctor Atomic which she directed for the Metropolitan Opera's 2008–2009 season. She had previously filmed Adams's The Death of Klinghoffer as a feature film. Her most recent film is 1 Day.[4]

In 2013 Woolcock's released "Storyville: From the Sea to the Land Beyond - Britain's Coast on Film" which has been broadcast twice on the BBC. History buffs and people-watchers will find this an evocative and very entertaining piece, based on archive movie footage from early cinematography to recent times, revealing much about how primitive life was for the working-class in the early 1900s, and yet how little changes in the way people behave.

In 2014, she directed a documentary for Channel 4 called "Going to the Dogs", investigating inner city dog fighting in the UK.[5] She has also directed the documentary film One Mile Away which dramatised the gangland "postcode wars".[6]

In 2014, she staged Georges Bizet's opera The Pearl Fishers at English National Opera in London (English translation version), then recreated as original French version at The Metropolitan Opera in January 2016 (showing at Live HD).

In 2016, she was invited by Streetwise Opera to direct a production of the Bach St Matthew Passion, performed predominantly by the formerly homeless. Sir James MacMillan composed a new finale for the occasion, which was broadcast on BBC4 on Sunday 27 March 2016. [7]


  1. ^ "Film Network - Features - Case Study: Penny Woolcock". BBC. Retrieved 2013-09-02. 
  2. ^ Berwick, Isabel (2013-03-15). "Gang of one: Penny Woolcock's new documentary". FT.com. Retrieved 2013-09-02. 
  3. ^ British Film Institute (2013-03-29). "Penny Woolcock talks to gangsters | British Film Institute". Bfi.org.uk. Retrieved 2013-09-02. 
  4. ^ "1 Day the movie - an interview with Penny Woolcock". BBC. Retrieved 2 March 2010. 
  5. ^ "Going to the Dogs – Channel 4". Channel 4. June 2014. Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  6. ^ Clark, Ashly. "Penny Woolcock talks to gangsters". BFI. 
  7. ^ "The Marxist at the Met". The Times. Retrieved 2016-03-23. 


  • Katrina Ames, "The Surprising Career of Penny Woolcock," Opera News, October 2008, pp 38–39.