Christina Patterson is a writer, broadcaster and columnist. She writes about politics, society, culture, books, travel and the arts. She has interviewed politicians across the party political spectrum, and did the first interview after he left office with Gordon Brown. (He sent her a book afterwards with a note saying “I hope you’ll visit us in the cold of Fife again”. She thought, to be honest, that that was unlikely.) She was brought back from her holiday to do the lead piece on the royal wedding, but managed to finish her pizza before calling the editor back. She has interviewed writers, artists, poets, rock stars, comedians, film directors, actors and musicians: from Diana Athill to Boy George, and from Howard Hodgkin and Philip Glass to Alice Cooper, Camille Paglia, Shane MacGowan and Plan B. Christina was shortlisted for the Orwell prize 2013.
Christina is a regular commentator on radio and TV news and cultural programmes. She has been on Newsnight, Channel 4 news, BBC news, BBC 1’s Sunday Morning Live, Al Jazeera and Sky News and was, until it ended, a regular guest on BBC 2's The Review Show. She’s a regular guest on the Sky News press preview, Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show and LBC’s Nick Ferrari Show, and an occasional contributor to Radio 4’s Today programme and Radio 3’s Night Waves. She has contributed to TV documentaries in France and Sweden, made two programmes for Radio 4 about nursing, contributed to an ITV Tonight on the NHS and presented a short film about nursing for The One Show.
After reading English at Durham, and doing an MA in “The Novel” (with Malcolm Bradbury, Angela Carter and Lorna Sage) at the University of East Anglia, she worked in publishing before moving to the Southbank Centre to organise and present literary events. Writers who took part in the programme ranged from Gore Vidal, Susan Sontag, Salman Rushdie and Umberto Eco to poets hardly anyone had ever heard of. (“The strongest stay the longest” said one Slovenian poet after one long night. She said, a bit coldly, that it depended on what time the strong had to get up.) She left to run Poetry Places, a lottery-funded scheme of poetry residencies at the Poetry Society, and to work as an arts consultant and freelance journalist for the Observer, the Sunday Times, the Guardian, the New Statesman, and the TLS.
From 2000 – 2003, she was the chief executive of the Poetry Society, the first woman to run it since Muriel Spark. After going on a two-day “how to write a business plan course”, she managed to get a 42 per cent increase in its Arts Council grant. She started the Respect poetry slam (now called SLAMbassadors) and helped organise a Golden Jubilee poetry competition for the Queen. She loved the job, but ended up agreeing with what Muriel Spark said in her autobiography, Curriculum Vitae. “I have never,” she said, “worked with such strange people. I think poetry does something to them.”
She has judged the Whitbread (now the Costa) prize, the Northern Rock and Forward prizes, done advisory work for the RSA, NESTA and the Society of Authors, and been a trustee of The Poetry School and The Poetry Archive. She has chaired, and taken part in, hundreds of events at literary festivals around the country, and is often invited to talk about issues she has raised in a column. She has, for example, talked about multiculturalism, faith schools, hate crimes, freedom of speech, gangs, the employment of older people, compassion in nursing, the Leveson inquiry, and the future of the health service, at conferences, universities, festivals and the House of Commons. Christina is a Distinguished Supporter of the BHA and a Fellow of the RSA.
After ten years on the staff of The Independent, Christina now writes mostly for The Sunday Times and The Guardian. She is currently a trustee of Shaw Trust, a charity helping people at disadvantage, or with a disability, into employment.