Shirley works in communications, specialising in political and policy-led PR. She is an associate fellow of the Academy of Ideas and was formerly communications director.

Shirley has written and commented widely on communications, arts and literature, including a blog at Guardian Arts Unlimited, and reviewing for the Times Literary Supplement. She researched the editorial and bibliographic history of William Blake’s works for her PhD, co-authoring a book on the subject with Jason Whittaker, Radical Blake.

She continues to contribute academic essays to scholarly collections, including essays on copyright and censorship. Shirley also contributes to, a website and network for women childfree by circumstance or choice.