Hear the fascinating tales of a well-travelled reporter at Stratford festival

AN award-wining journalist who has covered almost every major conflict of the last two decades and reported from every continent other than Antarctica will share her experiences and insightful views with a Stratford audience this month.

Viewers of Channel 4 News will of course be very familiar with the programme’s international editor, Lindsey Hilsum, who is speaking at the town’s annual literary festival.

Having reported for the programme since 1996, Lindsey, who began her working life as an aid worker in Central America, has brought news to the nation from the the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and covered the past year’s ‘Arab Spring’ in Libya, Egypt and Bahrain.

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She has also reported extensively from Iran and Zimbabwe, has been C4 News China correspondent and in 1994, Lindsey was the only English-speaking foreign correspondent in Rwanda when the genocide started.

And now she has written her first book, Sandstorm; Libya In The Time of Revolution, in which she looks at the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi.

“With Libya, I have a sense of guilt,” she tells the Courier ahead of her visit to Warwickshire.

“I feel so bad that I had not had more knowledge of Libya and what the people had endured under the Gaddafi regime. I felt an obligation to tell their story.”

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With Lindsey’s extensive experience of reporting on conflicts, did she see the events of the Arab Spring coming?

“For many years of covering the Middle East, you could see that something had to give. Young people without jobs were looking outside and watching satellite television and getting ideas.

“But I am not aware of anyone who predicted what would happen.

“A vegetable seller setting himself on fire was the start of it and then it spread. It took everybody by surprise.”

And how has it felt being a reporter in such circumstances?

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“Exciting,” she says without hesitation. “It’s not often in your career as a journalist that you can be out there, up close, watching history happening right in front of your eyes. No journalist could ask for more.”

But Lindsey admits to getting upset quite easily. She says: “I am not detached enough. I do get upset. But I also get over it quite easily. It’s a complicated thing.

“You cannot be too emotional, but if you don’t care about the people you are reporting on, then you are not a very good reporter, never mind not a very good human being.”

What does she think is next for the Arab nations?

“Predicting the future is a mug’s game,” she says. “But anybody who think’s we can go from a dictatorship to a democracy overnight is delusional.

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“What you see in Libya and Egypt is a result of all those years of repression. Things are not going perfectly now, but why would you expect them to? It’s going to take a long time.

“Libya is a nation that has been traumatised for more than 40 years, so you are going to see fighting and arguments. We just have to hope they can work through that.”

Clearly a hard-working reporter, Lindsey’s dedicated has not gone unnoticed. She has been Royal Television Society Journalist of the Year and won the Charles Wheeler Award and the James Cameron Award, as well as recognition from the One World Media and Amnesty International.

But writing a book is something she has wanted to do for some time. She says: “I am excited to have written a book. It only took me three-and-a-half months to write, but it took me 30 years to get round to writing it!”

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Lindsey Hilsum is speaking at the Shakespeare Centre as part of the Stratford Literary Festival on Sunday April 22 at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £12. For tickets, call 01789 207100 and to find out more about the festival, which includes a wide-ranging programme of events, talks and workshops from April 22 to 28, go online.