Vivien Gilliard was born in 1953 in Khartoum, Sudan. Her father was a successful businessman and in her interview she spoke fondly of her time in Khartoum. In 1953 at the age of seven Vivien was sent to boarding school in England. She visited Sudan once a year in the summer holidays. Vivien trained as a psychologist and has written a well received book on her husband's family history.