Melissa Benn is a writer, journalist and campaigner. She was educated at Holland Park comprehensive and the London School of Economics where she graduated with a first in history. Her early jobs included working at the National Council for Civil Liberties as an information assistant for Patricia Hewitt, later Secretary of State for Health, and as a researcher, under Professor Stuart Hall, at the Open University.
Benn worked on the co-operatively run London magazine City Limits and her journalism has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, The Independent, The Times, Marxism Today, the London Review of Books, Cosmopolitan, Public Finance and the New Statesman. She is a regular contributor to The Guardian and a columnist for Public Finance magazine.
Benn has written six books, including two novels: Public Lives (1995) – described by writer Margaret Forster as ‘remarkably sophisticated’ for a first novel – and One of Us (2008) which was widely praised and shortlisted for Waterstone’s New Writer of the Year award at the British Book Awards in 2008 and chosen by Richard and Judy as one of their best reads of the year.
Her non-fiction works include Madonna and Child: Towards a New Politics of Motherhood (1998); Education and Democracy, co-edited with Clyde Chitty (2004), a collection of essays on education, and A Comprehensive Future: Quality and Equality For All Our Children, a specially commissioned pamphlet for the influential pressure group Compass co-written with Fiona Millar (2006) which provoked widespread discussion and political controversy at the time.
She is a regular speaker and broadcaster. She has written and presented several Radio Four programmes including a series on the history of divorce, a three part study of forgiveness in personal and political life and a one off programme on the historic Grunwick Strike. She has spoken at the Hay, Edinburgh, Bath and Cheltenham literary festivals, among many others.
In the last couple of years Melissa has been a guest on the Today programme, Woman’s Hour, Saturday Live, A Good Read, RIchard and Judy, the Sky Book Show and Sky news programme, and was one of several writers featured in a one hour special on the representation of politics in the arts and fiction on Radio Four presented by Mark Lawson.
In 2011 she published School Wars: the Battle for Britain’s Education, which has been widely reviewed and provoked much discussion. In the months after publication, she travelled around the country discussing the book’s arguments with various audiences; an account of this ‘road trip’ was published in the New Statesman.
In September 2013 she published ‘What should we tell our daughters? The pleasures and pressures of growing up female’ – a discussion of young women’s lives today.