Julie Burchill
BornJuly 3 1959
BirthplaceFrenchay, Bristol, England
Occupationnovelist, columnist

Julie Burchill (born July 3 1959 in Frenchay, Bristol) is a British journalist known for the acerbity of her writing and the vehemence and unpredictability of her opinions.


Julie Burchill was born in Bristol to working class parents. She did not attend university, but a teacher at her secondary school apparently told her parents that if she got a job in the local biscuit factory - like others from her school - it would be like putting a pheasant in a fish tank. She started her career, aged 17, as a writer at the New Musical Express (NME) in her teens after responding, with her husband-to-be Tony Parsons, to an advert in that paper seeking hip young gunslingers to write about the then emerging punk movement. Burchill was briefly married to Parsons and then to Cosmo Landesman, the son of Fran and Jay Landesman. Each marriage produced one son, both of whom live with their fathers. In 1991, Burchill, Landesman and Toby Young established a short-lived magazine Modern Review through which she met Charlotte Raven, with whom she had a much publicised affair. She subsequently married again, to Raven's brother Daniel, a much younger man[1]. She wrote of the joys of having a "toyboy" in her Times Weekend Review column. Fellow NME journalist/author Paul Wellings wrote about their friendship in his book "I'm A Journalist...Get Me Out Of Here".

In 2003, Burchill was ranked number 85 in Channel 4's poll of 100 Worst Britons. The poll was inspired by the BBC series 100 Greatest Britons, though it was less serious in nature. The aim was to discover the "100 worst Britons we love to hate". The poll specified that the nominees had to be British, alive and not currently in prison or pending trial.

Having previously converted to Christianity, she announced in February 2006 plans for a year's sabbatical from journalism, during which she plans, among other things, to study theology. The Times has recently dropped her Saturday column, and had arranged a more flexible arrangement where Burchill writes for the daily paper [1]

As well as continuing with her studies, she is working on three books and two documentaries, and has contributed an introduction to the novel A Year in the Life of TheManWhoFellAsleep by Greg Stekelman.

She has lived in Brighton for a number of years and a book on her adopted home town titled "Made In Brighton" (Virgin Books) is published in April 2007.

Burchill has also on occasions expressed concern for animal welfare. She is a supporter of the Safe Haven for Donkeys in the Holy Land.

Early writings for NMEEdit

Julie Burchill's style was honed at the New Musical Express where from the start she pricked the pomposity and narrow thinking of both rock stars and fellow journalists. Typically neither the stale hippies or the hip young things of this era were safe from her barbs. In her first few years she was assigned the punk beat and notably wrote the NME review of the Sex Pistols Never Mind the Bollocks album on its release in 1977. The thrill of her writing then, as it is today, was that she would turn orthodox thinking on its head. When the once lauded George Michael was universally mocked for releasing the middle of the road 'Club Tropicana' with Wham! in the early 80s, she alone recognised it as the cheesy classic it has now become. In a move typical of her ideological thinking she left the day job at the NME aged 20 saying that writing pop should be a young person's game. She now started freelancing to be able to write about other subjects, although she never completely gave up writing about pop music.

Career as a columnist and freelancerEdit

Her main employers after the New Musical Express were the Face and the Sunday Times where she wrote about politics, pop, fashion and society. One of her most controversial opinions from her early freelance career concerned the Falklands War (1982). The left were quick to condemn it as an imperialist war, but Burchill was a lone voice on the left in pointing out that the military dictatorship of General Galtieri represented by far the greater evil. Another inconvinient truth she exposed in the 1980s was the often latent, but occasionally overt mysoginy in the left's opposition to Margaret Thatcher e.g. 'ditch the bitch'. At one time she wrote a column for The Mail on Sunday - perhaps a surprising home for her talents. She also wrote on films for The Sunday Times. For five years until 2003 she wrote a weekly column in The Guardian. One of the best pieces she wrote for the Guardian in this time, was an article in reaction to murder of BBC TV presenter Jill Dando in 1999. Memorably she compared the shock and the mystification to her murder as like finding a 'tarantula in a punnet full of strawberries'. She left acrimoniously. As Lynn Barber wrote in The Observer, "She moved at the beginning of this year because when she asked for a rise, the Guardian offered her a sofa. 'They said, "We can't give you no more money" - lying bastards - "but we'll buy you the biggest bestest sofa you've ever seen." And I said, "Well, I'll think about it." And I put down the phone and I thought, "That was an insult!" Because it was saying: You are a white working-class woman who may have come up in the world but basically you're sitting on your fat ass all day, eating chocs and watching Trisha. Which I do - but they don't have the right to say it.' So she moved to the Times, who paid her in dosh rather than sofas."[2] She also claims she left the Guardian in "protest at what [she] saw as its vile anti-Semitism."[3] (Burchill is fiercely pro-Israel and hostile to Islam).

She currently writes for The Times. Shortly after starting her weekly column, she referred to George Galloway but appeared to confuse him with former MP Ron Brown, reporting the misdeeds of Brown as those of Galloway. Galloway threatened legal action which was averted when she apologised and The Times paid damages[4].

Burchill is noted for her confrontational and iconoclastic views, which have sometimes been criticised as contradictory. In the 1980s, she wrote in favour of Margaret Thatcher, but she has always claimed she has never renounced the Communist beliefs of her youth. She is a consistent defender of the old Soviet Union. Burchill champions the working-class against the middle-class in most cases, and has been particularly vocal in defending the much-maligned chavs.[5]

Burchill has made frequent attacks on various celebrity figures (notably her former husband Tony Parsons). These attacks have attracted criticism for their cruelty, though her supporters note the self-deprecating aspects of her writing. She is perhaps best known in America for the "Fax wars" or "Battle of the Bitches" with author Camille Paglia ([2]). She has written many books (her novel Ambition was a bestseller in the 1980s), and has made television documentaries about the death of her father from asbestosis and about Heat magazine.

Her 2004 lesbian-themed novel for teenagers Sugar Rush was produced by Shine Limited and aired on Channel Four. [3]

She is co-writing a book with Chas Newkey-Burden about modern hypocrisy.

Bibliography Edit

  • The Boy Looked at Johnny co-written with Tony Parsons, 1978
  • Love It or Shove It, 1985
  • Girls on Film, 1986
  • Damaged Gods: Cults and Heroes Reappraised, 1987
  • Ambition, 1989
  • Sex and Sensibility, 1992
  • No Exit, 1993
  • Married Alive, 1998
  • I Knew I Was Right, 1998, an autobiography
  • Diana, 1999
  • The Guardian Columns 1998-2000, 2000
  • On Beckham, 2002
  • Sugar Rush, 2004 (adapted for UK television in 2005)

References Edit

  1. Lynn Barber Growing pains The Observer 22 August 2004
  2. Lynn Barber Growing pains The Observer 22 August 2004
  3. Bleeding-heart ignoramuses - Haaretz. August 11, 2006
  4. The Guardian (Owen Gibson) Galloway demands Burchill apology 16 March 2004
  5. "Yeah but, no but: why I'm proud to be a chav", The Times, February 18 2005

External links Edit

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