biog



summary
Bidisha is a writer, broadcaster and film-maker.  She specialises in international human rights, social justice, gender and the arts and offers political analysis and cultural diplomacy tying these interests together, usually for the British Council. She writes regularly for The Guardian and The Observer and presents and commentates for BBC TV and radio, Channel 4 news and Sky News. She is a trustee of the Booker Prize Foundation, looking after the UK's most prestigious prizes for literature in English and in translation, and also does outreach work in UK prisons, refugee charities and detention centres. Her fifth book,  Asylum and Exile: Hidden Voices of London, is based on this outreach work, most recently with young asylum seeker mothers. Bidisha was the chair of judges for the 2018 Forward Prizes for poetry (details here). Her first short film, An Impossible Poison, premiered at the Breaking Ground festival in Berlin in November 2017 (details here) and received its London premier in March 2018 at the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall. It has been highly critically acclaimed and selected for numerous international film festivals. s

broadcasting: TV, radio, film
Bidisha is a presenter for BBC TV, Radio 3, Radio 4 and the World Service. She also broadcasts regularly for Channel 4 News and Sky News. She was a regular guest on BBC Two's Newsnight Review (later The Review Show), Sunday Morning Live and The Big Questions. For BBC Radio 4 she contributes regularly to Saturday Review and Woman's Hour, both of which she has guest presented, and Front Row, and has presented Archive on Four, Heart and Soul and various other documentaries and series. Standalone docs have included Texting Andy Warhol, on the role of text in art (R4); An Unofficial Iris, a study of Iris Murdoch's work and legacy (R4); The Red Book, an investigation into Jung's Red Book (R3); and The Countertenor, a highly acclaimed exploration of the countertenor voice for Radio 4. Bidisha was the regular presenter of BBC Radio 3's arts and ideas programme, Night Waves. On the World Service she guest presented the books programme The Word and was the regular presenter of the flagship arts show, The Strand. As of 2015 she has also been a regular Sky News commentator on social justice issues and the refugee crisis, and a regular newspaper reviewer for the Sunrise breakfast show.

  • Recentish: Half-hour TV documentary on Jane Eyre as part of BBC4's Secret Life of Books strand, broadcast on Tuesday September 30th 2014 at 8pm. The other presenters in the series include Simon Russell Beale, John Mullen and Cerys Matthews.
  • Recentish: Hour long radio documentary for BBC Radio 4's Archive Hour on complaining(!) broadcast Saturday January 17th 2015 at 8pm. It's called Mustn't Grumble: The Noble Art of Complaining.
  • Recentish: TV feature for BBC 2's Edinburgh Nights on how artists are responding to the refugee crisis, broadcast Saturday 27th August 2016 at 9pm.
  • Recent: my directorial debut, An Impossible Poison, premiered in Berlin in November 2017 and in London in March 2018.

writing: newspapers, magazines, books
Bidisha began writing for arts magazines i-D, Oyster, Volume, Dazed and Confused and the NME at 14. She signed her first book deal, with HarperCollins, at 16. Her first novel, Seahorses, was published to commercial and critical success when she was 18. During this time she also had regular opinion columns in The Big Issue magazine and The Independent. Bidisha's second novel, the thriller Too Fast to Live, was published when she was 21. Bidisha then lectured in political theory, was a contributing editor of the women's magazine Sibyl and style magazine 2nd Generation and edited the arts magazine The Stealth Corporation. Her third book, the travel memoir Venetian Masters, was published in February 2008.

She currently writes for The Guardian, the Financial Times, Mslexia, The Observer, New Statesman, New Humanist, The List, The Huffington Post, the Times Literary Supplement, Sight and Sound, BBC Arts, Poetry Review and various publications internationally. From the end of 2010 to early 2012 she had a weekly column in The Guardian called Bidisha's Thought for The Day. In 2013 Johns Hopkins University awarded her an International Reporting Project fellowship to report on global health and development for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Bidisha's fourth book, out May 2012, is the acclaimed reportage Beyond the Wall: Writing A Path Through Palestine, published by Seagull/Chicago University Press. For more details click here. Her poetry has been published by Wasafiri magazine, Seagull Books, Saqi Books, English PEN and Young MWA magazine and performed at numerous venues including the Tower of London.  In 2017 and 2018 she was part of the year-long City of Stories writers' residency (details here) for London-based writers

arts and media prize judging
  • 2008 Time Out Write Up Your Street short story prize, alongside Chris Mead, Tobias Hill and Amy Lamé
  • 2009 Orange Prize for Fiction, alongside Kira Cochrane, Martha Lane Fox, Fi Glover and Sarah Churchwell.
  • 2010 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for literature, alongside Claire Allfree and Maura Dooley
  • 2010 BBC4 World Cinema Awards, alongside Christopher Hamilton, Aamir Khan and Sophie Fiennes
  • 2012 and 2013 Bristol Short Story Prize, as part of Bristol Shortstoryville. For more details click here
  • 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 Polari Prize for debut gay and lesbian literature alongside Suzi Feay, Paul Burston, Tom Storey-Scott and Rachel Holmes. For more details click here.
  • 2012 Comment Awards for journalists and commentators.
  • 2013 Bristol Festival of Ideas Best Book of Ideas Prize. For details click here.
  • 2013 Spread the Word short story prize alongside Tania Hershman, Courttia Newland and Sue Lawther. For details click here.
  • 2013 and 2014 Somerset Maugham prize, alongside William Fiennes, Ben Markovits and Naomi Alderman
  • 2014 Wasafiri New Writing Prize alongside Susheila Nasta, Inua Ellams and Monique Roffey
  • 2015 One World Media broadcasting prize for reporting on refugee issues.
  • 2016 Koestler Foundation award for fiction written by offenders and ex-offenders
  • 2017 Koestler Foundation award for best short story and best poetry collection by prisoners.
  • 2018 JQ Wingate Prize, details here. Alongside Toby Lichtig, Maureen Kendler and Amanda Craig.
  • 2018 Forward Prizes for poetry, chair of judges. Details here

patronage/trusteeship/the great and the good
2011- Bidisha has been announced as a patron of the SI Leeds Literary Prize.
2012-2018 - Patron of the PANDA performing arts network until its closure.
2012 - Announced as a matron of the London Feminist Film Festival.
2013 - ongoing Made a trustee of the Booker Prize Foundation.
2016 - Nominated in the Literature category of the Eastern Eye Arts Culture and Theatre awards


journalist/writer in residence/random stuff
2010 - Southbank London Literature Festival writer in residence
2011 - Birds Eye View Film Festival writer in residence
2011-2012 and 2015 English PEN residency working with refugee and migrant centres in London and visiting prisns
2013 - International Reporting Project Fellow focusing on international development, in a project run by Johns Hopkins University and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
2014 - Brief stint in Beijing from August until November as Deputy Editor at Time Out Beijing
2016 - Guest Selector at Edinburgh International Book Festival, producing and presenting a series of events about writing and asylum, refuge and exile.
2017 and 2018 - Writer in Residence for the City of Stories residency for London writers.
2018 - Guest Editor, Asylum issue of Wasafiri Journal of International Literature; writer in residence, Wasafiri magazine (details here). Chair of Judges, Forward Prizes for Poetry.


education 
Bidisha SK Mamata was born in London and educated at Haberdashers' Aske's School for Girls. She then studied Old and Middle English at Oxford University, where she was a college scholar. She ran away from her first day as a Research Fellow pursuing a PhD in Old and Medieval Literature at Oxford University then gained an MSc in Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Economic History and Moral and Political Philosophy at the London School of Economics. 


teaching, lecturing, outreach work
Bidisha has lectured in or taught political theory, moral and political philosophy, journalism, non-fiction (travel writing, autobiography and life-writing) and fiction for Arvon, The London College, English PEN, Spread the Word and as a guest at Birzeit University and in refugee camps in Palestine. She also does outreach work in refugee centres, immigration detention centres, mental health charities and prisons in the UK.