biog

summary biog:

Bidisha is a broadcaster, presenter and journalist.  She specialises in the arts and culture as well as current affairs, international relations and human rights and provides cultural diplomacy, arts critique, chairing, interviewing and political analysis for TV, radio, page and stage. She writes for the main UK broadsheets (currently as a critic and columnist for The Observer and The Guardian) and presents and commentates heavily for BBC TV and radio, ITN, CNN, Channel 5 and Sky News. Her fifth book, Asylum and Exile: Hidden Voices of London, is based on her outreach work in UK prisons, refugee charities and detention centres, and her most recent publication is the essay The Future of Serious Art.

She is also an artist creating films and stills. Her first short film, An Impossible Poison (2017) has been highly acclaimed, widely screened and selected for multiple international film festivals. Her latest film series, Aurora, ran from 2020-2023. Her stills are in numerous private collections and commissioned projects internationally while curated commissions include Vital Arts' NHS Rooms project and the Art on  Postcard auctions. 

Bidisha was born in London and educated at Haberdashers' Aske's School for Girls, Oxford University and the London School of Economics. 

More detailed breakdown below..... 


TV, radio, film, art

Bidisha is a longtime (...decades long...) presenter for BBC TV, Radio 3, Radio 4 and the World Service. She also broadcasts regularly on politics and current affairs for Channel 4 News and Sky News, where she has been a regular since 2016. She was a regular on BBC Two's Newsnight Review (later The Review Show), Sunday Morning Live and The Big Questions. For BBC Radio 4 she contributes frequently to Saturday Review and Woman's Hour, both of which she has presented, and Front Row, and has presented Archive on Four, The Arts Hour, Heart and Soul (featuring Anne Rice and Imtiaz Dharker) and various other documentaries, regular programmes and series. Standalone documentaries 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 (now Free Thinking). On the World Service she presented the books programme The Word and was the regular presenter of the flagship arts show, The Strand (now The Arts Hour). As of 2015 she has also been a regular Sky News commentator on social justice issues and the refugee crisis, and since 2016 has been a fortnightly newspaper reviewer for the Sky News breakfast show on Saturday mornings. Extra stuff below:
  • Presenting TV documentary on Jane Eyre as part of BBC4's Secret Life of Books strand, broadcast Sept 30th 2014 at 8pm. The other presenters in the series include Simon Russell Beale, John Mullen and Cerys Matthews.
  • 2015 to present:  regular Sky News commentator on social justice issues and the refugee crisis, and since 2016 a fortnightly newspaper reviewer for the Sky News breakfast show on Saturday mornings.
  • Presenting the hour long radio documentary for BBC Radio 4's Archive Hour on complaining(!) broadcast Jan 2015 at 8pm. It's called Mustn't Grumble: The Noble Art of Complaining.
  • TV feature for BBC 2's Edinburgh Nights on how artists are responding to the refugee crisis, broadcast Aug 2016 at 9pm.
  • Directorial debut, An Impossible Poison, premiered in Berlin in November 2017 and in London in March 2018. Selected for 8 international film festivals.
  • As a director - the film series, Aurora, launched October 2020 and ongoing.
  • From August 2020 until now I have worked with Channel 5 (via Rogan Productions, Viacom Studios and ITN) as a regular cast member commentating in the following feature length TV documentaries: Gyles Brandreth's series on Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy (4 episodes); Hollywood Icons Season 1, 5 episodes on Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Clint Eastwood, Jackie Onassis and Tom Cruise; Diana: The Interview that Shocked the World; and 9 additional royal documentaries on Paul Burrell, Grace Kelly, Grace Kelly's descendants, Prince Charles and Prince Harry, Princess Michael, Prince Charles, Edward VIII, Kate Middleton, Kate Middleton as Queen in Waiting and Princes William and Harry. I will be appearing throughout Season 2 of Secrets of the Royal Palaces in 2022.
  • Nov 2021: royal documentary contributions for NHK (Japan's main broadcaster) documentary on Meghan Markle and Global Media Rights' Royals in Colour series on the same topic. 
  • Sept-Nov 2021: Cast member for the six-part CNN original series Diana: The Person Behind the Princess.
  • Nov 2021: Presenting In The Studio for the World Service, looking at the work of Dutch design company Drift. Listen here.
  • Aug 2021 - Feb 2022: Presenting the Hello Happiness audio series for the Wellcome Collection. Five episodes. Listen here. 
  • 2022 AND 2023: Presenting for the arts series In The Studio for the BBC World Service, broadcasting in March 2023. 
  • Broadcast across late 2022 and 2023: cast member on BBC 2 TV series episodes of Rock Family Trees (the 90s - watch it here) and BBC2 TV arts series What Makes Us final episode - watch it here; For Channel 5 you can watch the Hollywood Icons series 2, four episodes; Secrets of the Royal Palaces, 2 series, 8 episodes each; Abba: 40 Missing Years; Neighbours Made Me A Star and a bunch of other stuff out in spring 2023, including Charles and Camilla: Against All Odds, Harry: Californian Prince and Meghan and Harry,
  • Art, 2022-2023:As a multimedia artist her first piece to be exhibited was in the group show 000 zerozerozero at Whitechapel Gallery. Her more recent exhibited works on paper have been a large mural painting and two other large-scale pieces for permanent display for the 2022 Vital Arts 100 NHS Rooms  project and a series of pieces for the 2022 Art On A Postcard Winter Auction, as well as the Art on a Postcard auction for International Women's Day in March 2023. 
  • October 2022: Guest presenting on Loose Ends for Radio 4.
  • March 2023: Presenting the latest edition of In The Studio arts series, BBC World Service. Listen to In the Studio: Faig Ahmed, which focuses on one of Azerbaijan's most celebrated contemporary artists.
  • 1st April 2023 - present: Guest co-hosting Loose Ends on BBC Radio 4
  • April 2023 - present: Guest presenting Arts Hour, BBC World Service, from the Oxford Literary Festival. Listen here.

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, represented by Jonny Geller at Curtis Brown. Her first novel, Seahorses, was published to commercial and critical success in May 1997 when she was 18. During this time she also had regular opinion columns in The Big Issue magazine (monthly, 1995-1997) and The Independent (weekly, 1998). She was then a contributing editor of the women's magazine Sibyl (1998-9) and multicultural style magazine 2nd Generation (1996-1998) and edited and published the arts magazine The Stealth Corporation. Bidisha's second novel, the thriller Too Fast to Live, was published by Duckworth in 2000 when she was 21. Her third book, the bestselling travel memoir Venetian Masters, was published by Smmersdale in February 2008. Her fourth book,  Beyond the Wall, is a reportage from the Middle East (Seagull Books, May 2012) while her fifth, the bestselling Asylum and Exile: Hidden Voices (Seagull Books, March 2015), is based on her outreach work in London.

She writes for The Guardian and the Observer (full archive here), the Financial Times, Mslexia, New Statesman, New Humanist, The List, 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 granted 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, was the acclaimed reportage Beyond the Wall, 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 and the latest news is....
  • 5th book, Asylum and Exile: Hidden Voices of London, published on 3rd March 2015 by Seagull/Chicago University Press. Based on Bidisha's outreach work with asylum seekers and refugees.
  • The Future of Serious Art, published 12th November 2020, is a bound, essay length manifesto/memoir commissioned by Tortoise Media, looking at the future of the arts. 
  • For a clear list of books I've written and contributed to, click here. I write fiction, non fiction and occasionally poetry. 

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 Prizedetails here. Alongside Toby Lichtig, Maureen Kendler and Amanda Craig.
  • 2018 Forward Prizes for poetry, chair of judges. Details here
  • 2019 Collyer Bristow Prize for debut fiction. Other judges included Suzi Feay and Houman Barekat.
  • 2020 JQ Wingate Prize judge alongside Anne Sebba and AD Miller.
  • 2020, 2021 and 2022 Koestler Foundation award judge for non fiction written by offenders and ex offenders
  • 2022 Chair of Judges for The Moore Prize for literature about human rights. This year's winner was Nury Turkel. 
patronage/trusteeship/the great and the good

2011-  Patron of the SI Leeds Literary Prize.
2012-2018 - Patron of the PANDA performing arts network until its closure.
2012 - Matron of the London Feminist Film Festival.
2013 - 2022 Trustee of the Booker Prize Foundation (full term served - 9 years!)
2016 - Nominated in the Literature category of the Eastern Eye Arts Culture and Theatre awards
2019 - Nominated in the Media category of the Natwest Asian Women of Achievement Awards.
2019 - 2021 Trustee of the Forward Arts Foundation for poetry. 


education 

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

writer in residence/mentor/random fun 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 working in women's prisons
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 - A 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). 
2021 - early 2022 - Writer on The Bloc writer in residence appointed by Writing on the Wall festival, teaching, lecturing, workshopping and mentoring emerging non fiction writers.
2022-2023 - Genesis Emerging Writers' Programme mentor, non fiction. Other mentors include Charlotte Mendelson, Anne Sebba and Philip Hensher.



....and that's it!