profile image


Writer and broadcaster specialising in social justice, human rights and international affairs

Bidisha is a writer and broadcaster who also does outreach work in UK detention centres and prisons. She has been a 2013 Fellow for the International Reporting Project, reporting on global health and development together with Johns Hopkins University and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Her fourth book was the internationally acclaimed and bestselling reportage Beyond the Wall: Writing a Path Through Palestine (May 2012). As of spring 2013 she is a trustee of the Booker Prize Foundation. Her fifth book, Asylum and Exile: The Hidden Voices of London was published in March 2015 and based on her outreach work with asylum seekers and refugees.

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 and art directed the style magazine The Stealth Corporation. Her third book, the bestselling 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, Arise and various publications in the Middle East. From the end of 2010 to early 2012 she had a weekly column in The Guardian called Bidisha's Thought for The Day.

Bidisha is also a presenter for BBC TV, Radio 3, Radio 4 and the World Service. She is a regular guest on BBC Two's Newsnight Review (now 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 as well as 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); an investigation into Jung's Red Book (R3); The Countertenor, a highly acclaimed exploration of the countertenor voice for Radio 4; The Secret Life of Books: Jane Eyre for BBC4 and The Noble British Art of Complaining 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 presenter of the flagship arts show, The Strand.

She has judged the following arts prizes: The Orange Prize (2009), The John LLewellyn Rhys Prize (2010), BBC World Cinema Awards (2010), the Comment awards (2012), Bristol Short Story Prize (2012 and 2013), Polari Prize (2012-2015), Foyles Book of Ideas Prize (2012) the Somerset Maugham Prize (2013 - 2014); the Wasafiri prize for new writing (2014) and the One World Media Prize for journalism (2015). She is a patron of the SI Leeds Literary Prize, the Panda Performing Arts Network, the London Feminist Film Festival and, as of 2013, a trustee of the Booker Prize Foundation.

Bidisha is represented by Kelly Falconer. Her formal name is Bidisha SK Mamata but she has always written, spoken and broadcast under her first name only.

Can Smart Optimism Cure Climate Change?

Smart optimism puts innovation, joy and creativity back into the way we look at the future and sees the challenges of today as opportunities, not obstacles.
13/02/2016 22:17 GMT

Deconstructing the Miliband Myth

This is how the myth goes: two brothers vie throughout their youth and at the first contest the younger wins. The elder flees in humiliation, but the younger ultimately fails. The elder returns and at the second contest he triumphs, or, if you like your myths bleak, he too fails. Karma complete.
04/06/2015 13:04 BST

Dear Internet, I'm Just Going For A Walk. I May Be Some Time.

At the end of 2013 I will be stepping away from blogging until June 2016, by which time I'm sure blogging will be obsolete. It feels excellent to discard a cultural practice which sounds and has begun to feel like a combination of bragging, slogging, slobbing, blabbing, blubbing, gobbing, gagging, dragging and blagging.
14/11/2013 13:49 GMT

When It Comes To Global Health You Need Human Resources To Save Human Lives

The World Health Organisation is making a strong move to tackle a common and vital theme in all its global health initiatives, an issue which, if ill-managed, would jeopardise even the best intentioned and best planned projects: human resources for health. The effective recruitment, education, support, deployment and distribution of human resources is a key factor in achieving the goal of universal health coverage.
08/11/2013 11:10 GMT

Walking to Promote Global Development and Girls' Education From India to Indonesia

A little over a year ago I highlighted the work of PAWA, the Pan Asian Women's Association, which focuses on global development and girls' and women's empowerment across multiple territories. By raising and carefully apportioning funds for credible, manageable-scale local charities, PAWA's work covers 30 countries from Iran to Japan, Indonesia to Kazakhstan.
06/10/2013 19:35 BST

Meet Kanchi Tamang, Nepalese Waste Picker

Kanchi Tamang is a waste-picker in Nepal. A mother and a grandmother, she works long hours in unsafe and unclean conditions for a pittance. After contracting Hepatitis C, then developing painful gallstones, she faces the prospect of medical treatment that will require her to be absent from work and hospital bills that, together with the loss of work income, might mean that she loses her home and cannot support her family. Yet if she does not receive treatment, she might lose her life, not just her livelihood.
03/10/2013 15:13 BST

Making Home: The Legacy of Ugandan Asians in the UK

The story begins in the 19th century, when Indian labourers were put to work in British East Africa by English colonial rulers. This rule, and it exploitation and appropriation of peoples and lands, continued for a generation and was followed by the fight for liberation from dominance and for independence.
09/09/2013 15:56 BST

Cutting Us Down To Size: Working to End Female Genital Mutilation

Was it to do with the control of women's and girls' bodies? Was it an older generation demonstrating that they had the ability to show authority, to violate their young? Was it about traumatised women visiting the same pain on girls, using custom as an excuse, in some subconsciously re-enacted cycle of abuse?
03/09/2013 14:23 BST

Doctors Without Borders Issue an Urgent Press Release About the Humanitarian and Health Crisis in Syria

According to the latest update from Doctors Without Borders/ Medecins Sans Frontieres, three hospitals in Syria's Damascus governorate that are supplied by Doctors Without Borders reported that they received approximately 3,600 patients displaying neurotoxic symptoms such as convulsions, excess saliva, pinpoint pupils, blurred vision and respiratory distress, in less than three hours on Wednesday.
27/08/2013 17:24 BST

The Saudi Women Laughing in the Face of Inequality at Home and Ignorance Abroad

A great deal of fascination with a vaguely defined 'Muslim world' and 'Muslim values' has been sparked by the Arab revolutions and, before that, by the 9/11 Twin Towers attacks. One can critique this interest as unsophisticated or reactive - 'Who are these strange brown foreign people and why are they angry?'
14/08/2013 17:48 BST