Christina Lamb

We’re delighted Christina Lamb will be taking part in CIJ Well Told 2019. Below, Catarina Fernandes Martins, the Christian Science Monitor Southern Europe correspondent, who will be speaking to Lamb at the festival, writes of what makes her such a compelling reporter.


Catarina Fernandes Martins

“When I think of Christina Lamb, the first image that comes to mind is that of a schoolgirl, kept in detention for refusing to give way on a point of principle. “Kept after school writing lines, I would gaze out of the window conjuring up far-off worlds,” Lamb writes in Small Wars Permitting, reminiscing of a time when she dreamt of being a poet or a novelist.

That restless teenage girl became one of Britain’s leading foreign correspondents and is well-known all over the globe for her bravery as a war reporter in all those far-off worlds she dreamed about growing up. Lamb has been arrested, kidnapped and deported. Four days before her son’s seventh birthday, she was almost killed by Taliban in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

“I have had far more than my nine lives,” she says in a short video piece the Sunday Times did about their Chief Foreign Correspondent.

Her bravery is remarkable and admirable, and yet, what really fascinates me about Christina Lamb is that she brings the same schoolgirl curiosity and imaginative powers to her writing.

That curiosity and imagination seem intact after an almost 30-year career, in which she has delivered intrepid, high-quality reporting in the most sophisticated literary form. Lamb has traveled all over, boarded Benazir Bhutto’s bus when it was bombed, competed in a Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro, had tea with Pinochet days after she gave birth, written about war, poverty and crime, interviewed warlords and royals. Still, every description of a new scene she enters is drenched with so much detail, her readers can’t help but care about the world she brings to them. They can’t help but feel they’re right there with her, tasting the “fruits and almonds dipped in silver and gold” at Bhutto’s wedding, marvelling at the kites flying from the rooftops in Kabul after the Taliban had been driven out. Some of those details stuck with me because they made me open my eyes with wonder, made me dream of far-off worlds, made me care more.

“If I see something that’s really shocking that’s happening I want people outside to know about it… because I hope that will change,” Lamb says in the Sunday Times film.

Maybe that’s every reporter’s hope, but only a few of them can look past the bang-bang, pass the tiresome headlines and tell stories that latch onto the imagination the way poetry or novels do. Christina Lamb is one of the very best doing precisely that.”

* Christina Lamb will take part in CIJ Well Told 2019 on 1&2 March 2019. You can get tickets here.

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