Christina Patterson is a writer, broadcaster and consultant. A former columnist at The Independent and Director of the Poetry Society, she now writes for The Sunday Times and The Guardian about society, culture, politics, books and the arts. She has been described by Clive James as “a wonderful, gutsy” writer, and by the poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy as “a clear and important voice in British journalism”.
Born in Rome, she was wrenched away from the sunshine at nine months old and brought up in suburban Surrey. 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, Seamus Heaney, 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.)
From 2000 – 2003, she was the Director of the Poetry Society, the first woman to run it since Muriel Spark. 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 left to join the The Independent, first as deputy literary editor and later as one of the lead interviewers and columnists. During her decade on the paper, she interviewed writers, artists, poets, rock stars, comedians, film directors, actors and musicians:
from Diana Athill to Boy George, and from Daniel Radcliffe and Howard Hodgkin to Alice Cooper, Camille Paglia, Shane MacGowan and Plan B. She also interviewed politicians across the party political spectrum, and did the first interview after he left office with Gordon Brown.
She was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize in 2013 for her campaigning work to raise standards in nursing, which included a week-long series in The Independent, two programmes for Radio 4 and a film for The One Show.
Her time at The Independent ended dramatically. This forms the opening scene of her book The Art of Not Falling Apart, which is a mix of memoir and interviews about how we cope when life goes wrong. It was picked as an editor’s choice in The Bookseller and described as “brilliant, poignant, but also very funny”.
Christina now has a portfolio life – and is quite relieved not to have a boss. She reviews fiction and non-fiction for The Sunday Times. She writes columns for The Guardian. She does interviews and features, for The Sunday Times magazine and The Daily Mail, and essays for think tanks. She’s a regular commentator on radio and TV news programmes and a regular guest on the Sky News press preview. She is one of the writers to feature in Beneath the Skin: great writers on the body, published by Profile Books and the Wellcome Collection.
She’s a trustee of Shaw Trust, which offers support into employment, skills, education, learning, care and disability services, and is now one of the top 25 biggest charities in the UK. She does writing and consultancy work for businesses and charities, speaking and running workshops on communications and change. She has certainly learnt a thing or two about dealing with change herself.