Rahila Gupta

About me

I was born in London but whisked away at the tender age of five months to be looked after by an aunt in India until my parents came back 18 months later. I returned at the age of 19 – with a brief sojourn between the ages of 11 and 13 for a taster experience of comprehensive schools – and have lived here ever since. London is more in my bloodstream than I care to admit.

In 1997, I gave up my day job, managing the publications department at Shelter, and opted for a writer’s life, financially precarious though it is. I learned enough about design, typesetting, layout and editing at Outwrite Women’s newspaper and then at Shelter, along with the odd training course, to take on print and publication of books, magazines, posters, leaflets to provide me with an alternative income stream.

I was writer in residence at Bromley by Bow Centre from 2000-2003 and a Royal Literary Fellow attached to Queen Mary College, University of London from 2006-2009 and again from 2018-2019.

Voluntary work

Became patron of Peace in Kurdistan (along with the likes of Noam Chomsky and Jeremy Corbyn) in 2017

Joined the management committee of Southall Black Sisters in 1989 and have served as secretary, treasurer or chair for varying lengths of time.

Chair of the Nihal Armstrong Trust which I set up in 2004 in memory of my dearly loved, disabled son who died in 2001.

Judge on the Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize awarded to individual women and groups who have campaigned, raised awareness of and supported women escaping violence.

Member of the Asian Women Writers Collective from 1984 to the mid-90s.

Trustee of the Boards of Clean Break Theatre Company and SADAA (previously known as SALIDAA) a digital archive of Asian Arts and Literature in Britain – exact dates have faded from my memory.

Writing CV

Don’t Wake Me: The Ballad of Nihal Armstrong (Oberon Books, 2019 and Playdead Press, 2013)

– Edited and contributed to Turning the Page: Writings from the Southall Black Sisters Survivors’ Group, (Southall Black Sisters, 2019)
Enslaved: The New British Slavery (Portobello Books, 2007) reissued as a mass market paperback in 2008, published by Harper Collins, India, 2008 and in Marathi translation by Mehta Publications, 2009
Provoked, new title for Circle of Light, updated and reissued by Harper Collins India, 2007
– Edited and contributed to From Homebreakers to Jailbreakers: Southall Black Sisters (Zed Press, 2003)
– Co- wrote with Kiranjit Ahluwalia, Circle of Light (Harper Collins, 1997)
– Co-edited with Rukhsana Ahmad and contributed to Flaming Spirit: Short Stories by Asian Women Writers (Virago, 1994)

Essays, short stories, poems in anthologies

– Freedom Poems for Öcalan (Peace in Kurdistan, 2019)
The Arvon Book of Literary Non-Fiction, 2012
English for the IB Diploma, (OUP, 2003 and 2007)
Death of a Mother: daughters’ stories (Pandora, 1994)
Second Time Single (Poetry Now, 1993)
The Virago Book of Love and Loss: a collection of short stories (Virago, 1992)
Don’t Ask Me Why (Black Womantalk, 1991)
Against the Grain: A celebration of survival and struggle (Southall Black Sisters, 1990)
Balancing Acts: On Motherhood and Feminism (Virago, 1989)
Charting the Journey: A collection of writings by black and third world women (Sheba, 1988)
Right of Way: An anthology of creative writings from the Asian Women Writers’ Collective (Women’s Press, 1988)

Articles/short stories/poetry in newspapers/journals/websites

The Guardian, openDemocracy, CNN website, New Humanist, New Statesman, New Internationalist, Refinery 29, Feminist Dissent, Feminist Review, Trouble and Strife, Daily Jang, Walker Art Museum catalogue, Times Higher Educational Supplement, Daily Telegraph, The Independent on Sunday, The First Post, Critical Quarterly, Connections, ROOF Magazine, Asian Times, Asian Post, New Society, Citylimits, Spare Rib, Outwrite Feminist Newspaper, Off our Backs (USA), Imprint (India), The Daily News (Sri Lanka) Disability Now, The Lancet, Tehelka (India), Poetry Salzburg (Austria)


The Rubaiyat of Rojava, read by Jaye Griffiths, at the ICA , 30 August 2018. Also at the Prima Donna Festival, 2019.

– On the writing team of Westway, Award-winning BBC World Service Drama Serial, 2001 to 2003
– Radio 4, Living in Colour commissioned poetry
– Radio 4, Untouchable, short story slot, 1991


– Co-wrote script with Brad Butler and Karen Mirza for video installation (and voiceover), The Unreliable Narrator, 2014
– Co-wrote, with Carl Austin, screenplay Provoked, feature film based on my book Circle of Light. Cast: Aishwarya Rai, Naveen Andrews, Miranda Richardson, Robbie Coltrane. General release 2007
– 20-minute script, Untouchable, option bought by Leda Serene, 1993


The Unravelling, a Tara Arts commission, 2017
Don’t Wake Me: The Ballad of Nihal Armstrong
Arts Theatre, June 2012
St James Theatre, Feb 2013
Haymarket Basingstoke & Chickenshed Theatre, May 2013
Cockpit, June 2013,
Edinburgh fringe, August 2013
Off-Broadway, New York, April 2014
India tour: Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Mumbai, October 2014
The Shining Path, a play about public engagement with cutting-edge scientific developments and their ethical dimension, Rehearsed Reading, St James Theatre, April 2013
The Big Win, a Tara Arts commission, 2008
Genes ‘R’ Us full-length play for Y-Touring Theatre Company, 2004
Falling, short play for Cyber Theatre Laboratory organised by Y-Touring Theatre Company and Cyber Salon, 2002. Presented at the ICA.
The Dirty Mattress , full-length play commissioned by Watermans Arts Centre, 2001

Eastenders (BBC) – storylines and character development (2001)
Doctors (BBC) – storylines (2000)
On the Make, 60 minute episode of an original drama series for Carlton, 1999
– 30-minute episode of Asian soap, Family Pride, Channel 4, 1992


2018 – Awarded the Flame Award by UKAFF (UK Asian Film Festival) for Championing Women’s Rights

2016 – My article, ‘Defining modern slavery out of existence: who benefits?’  was nominated for  the Anti-Slavery Media Awards.

2013 – My play, Don’t Wake Me: The Ballad of Nihal Armstrong, was nominated for the Off West End Awards,  in two categories,  Best New Play  and Best Performance (Jaye Griffiths). It was also nominated for Best Solo Performer, Edinburgh Fringe.

2011 – Nominated for True Honour Award, IKWRO (Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Organisation)