Caitlin Davies was born in London in 1964, and from the age of 11 she wanted to be a writer. She didn’t tell anyone however, until she was much, much older. Both her parents are writers, but her mum never believed in such a thing as a ‘writing gene’, because she said she’d grown up in a household that didn’t read books, let alone write them.
After leaving school Caitlin sold door-to-door double-glazing and worked on a badge stall at Camden Lock. She then did a Foundation in Fine Art at Sir John Cass in London but didn’t think she was as good or as serious as the other students, so switched from painting to books. Since then she has been lucky to live and work on three continents.
Caitlin studied American Studies in the UK (Sussex University), which involved a year at UC Davis in California, known for growing the world’s first square tomato. She then studied English in the United States, completing an MA at Clark University.
She returned to England to train as a secondary school teacher, before moving to Maun, then a small village in northern Botswana, where she eventually became a citizen. Working as a journalist for the country’s first tabloid newspaper, The Voice, one of Caitlin’s of earliest assignments was to track down a talking hippo. The only problem was, she was so scared when she found it that she forgot to ask it a question.
Caitlin then worked as editor of The Okavango Observer, best known for its coverage of the removal of Basarwa people from the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve. The paper closed down shortly after she was arrested for ‘causing fear and alarm’. In 2000 she received an award from the Media Institute for Southern Africa, in ‘recognition of consistent and outstanding journalist work.’
Returning to the UK in 2003, Caitlin began writing weekly education and careers features for The Independent. Today she combines writing social histories and novels with freelance journalism and teaching.
Caitlin is currently a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), and a former Fellow at the University of Westminster, Harrow, in the School of Media, Arts & Design (2014-2018). She is a member of the Society of Authors, and a patron of Highgate Library, north London.
She is also an ambassador for the Thames Baths project, which will reintroduce swimming to the River Thames in central London, and historical adviser for the film The Ponds: Still Waters Run Deep which premiered in 2019.
Caitlin has been a jobbing journalist for 25 years. Her work has appeared in Southern African publications including: Mmegi, The Botswana Gazette, The Voice, Marung, Africa International Afrique, V Magazine, Kutlwano Magazine, The Star, the Mail and Guardian, the Sunday Independent and the Sunday Times.
She researched and co wrote ‘Communities in Crisis: Violence Against Women in Botswana’s North West’ (1999, Skillshare/WAR, Maun, Botswana), contributed to The Africa Groups Yearbook (1999 & 2000), and compiled a report on AIDS projects in Botswana for the World Health Organisation (2000, Durban, South Africa).
Caitlin also produced bi-monthly features on human rights for Metlhaetsile Women’s Information Centre (Mochudi, Botswana), a consumer awareness newsletter for the Botswana government’s Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, and features for the Southern African AIDS Information Dissemination Service.
She’s written for numerous UK publications including: African Business, African Analysis, the Sunday Times, the Independent, the Mail, the Mail on Sunday, the Telegraph, the Sunday Express, Town and Country Magazine, Tate Etc.. She’s also written blogs for VisitLondon, BBC History, the Museum of London, Genes Reunited, and The Royal Life Saving Society.
Talks, Workshops & Media Appearances
Caitlin gives illustrated talks and run workshops at a wide variety of places – national and international book festivals,* primary and secondary schools, museums, libraries, prisons, book groups, universities, writing groups, the Women’s Institute, history societies, pubs, retirement homes and charities.
She’s happy to tailor-make a talk, preferably in the London area. Please use the contact page if you’d like to get in touch.
*Festival appearances include: Edinburgh International Book Festival, Margate Bookie, Words by the Water, Borderlines Book Festival, Greenwich Literary Festival, Henley Literary Festival, Archway with Words, Richmond Literary Festival, Ham & High Literary Festival, Wandsworth Heritage Festival, Rivers of London Cityread Festival, Footprints River Walks Festival, Stoke Newington Literary Festival, Thames Festival, Finchley Literary Festival, Broadstairs Book Festival, Hexham Book Festival, Norfolk & Norwich Festival, Women of the World Festival, Queens Park Book Festival, Durham Book Festival, Derby Book Festival.
Radio appearances include: Woman’s Hour, BBC World Service, Midweek, BBC Radio 4 PM, BBC London Robert Elms Show, BBC Radio 5 Live Victoria Derbyshire Show, BBC Radio 4 Open Country, Monocle 24, Newstalk Dublin, Radio France Internationale, Metro FM South Africa, Radio 702 South Africa, BBC Radio 4 Open Book, BBC London Jo Good Show, talkRADIO.
TV & film appearances include: Newsnight, BBC London TV News, Sky News, BBC 1 Country Tracks, Channel 5 Inside Holloway (Wildfire TV), SABC Africa. Caitlin is the historical adviser for the film The Ponds: Still Waters Run Deep, directed and produced by Patrick McLennan and Samuel Smith. More information here.
Caitlin is a trained teacher with a PGCE in English (University of Sussex) and has taught in a range of institutions including: The University of Davis (California, USA), Clark University (Massachusetts, USA), Stanley Deason High School (Brighton, England), Holloway Prison (London, England), Tshwaragano Community Junior Secondary School (Maun, Botswana).
She worked for several years with Speakers for Schools and is a member of the National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE).
In November 2019 she will be teaching on an Arvon non-fiction course.
Caitlin also runs longer school-based projects, such as: History Detectives, a half-term workshop at Islington Arts & Media School funded by the Cripplegate Foundation, and School History Project, St Mary’s Church of England Primary School, Islington, a ten-week programme on the 300-year history of the school, as a TEXT project writer.
This is what two of her pupils had to say:
‘A history of St Mary’s school has been the most enjoyable thing in my whole life because I never even knew about it. I would like to do more of this, more, more, more!’
‘I used to hate literacy, now I like it!’
Caitlin was a judge for the City of London short story competition (Ponds Project Writing Competition for Young People) in 2016. She also works as a mentor, helping people who are struggling to write a book – including a war reporter in Afghanistan and a British former Olympic champion.
Caitlin has worked on exhibitions at the Museum of London and at the Islington Museum. She contributed to It’s a Fair Cop! Crime and Punishment in Islington in 2009, which featured the tale of two Edwardian baby farmers who inspired her novel The Ghost of Lily Painter.
In 2015 she helped to organise a three-week show case on Thames Swimming at the Museum of London, which included archive swimming memorabilia and modern footage of Thames swimmers.
In 2018 she served as historical consultant for the Echoes of Holloway project at Islington Museum, working with curator Roz Currie from the initial planning stages to the finished exhibition, providing oral history contacts, advising volunteers and contributing archive documents and objects. The exhibition ran for three months and was supported by Islington Heritage, Holloway Prison Stories and Middlesex University.
Author photos: Florence Akano