He left home at 15, when he spent time in children's homes and completed his "O" Levels. At 16 he set up home on his own, against the wishes of Social Services . After a traumatic event at the age of 18 he became homeless and lived on the streets, but by 20 he'd recovered his life and bought his first flat.
He moved on to a career in public relations with Systems Publicity, Harvard Communications and finally Propeller Marketing where he Account Directed clients CNN, media buyers OMD (Omnicom Media Direction) and The Daily Telegraph.
In 2005 his first production Silent Voices, a docudrama about domestic violence, premiered on British television, based on the real-life accounts of children who had witnessed their parents being beaten.
In 2007 Atherton was the first and only producer-director to have had his work shown on the Piccadilly Circus Coca-Cola Billboard with The Ballet of Change, a ballet of film and music telling the histories of four of London's most historic landmarks.
In February 2009 he worked with Wil Johnson (BBC, star of Waking the Dead) and Robert Cavanah (Tomb Raider / Sahara) on a short film entitled Colour Blind, to bring attention to a UK audience, the dangers of seeing racism everywhere. He made up his White lead in Golliwog (black face) make-up to make the point.
On 2 August 2009, Atherton started pre-production on "A Thousand Voices for a Broken System" a new format of documentary film that will originally take place on the Web and eventually be edited for cinema.
Prompted by his own experiences the premise of the film is to interview 1,000 people from across the UK who have been failed by the Welfare, NHS or Social Services in the past 10 years, in order to highlight the issues of the most vulnerable people in society.
In 2012 he was invited to make a documentary about the founding of a Free school (England) by head teacher Katharine Birbalsingh in the borough of Lambeth in London, though this school never came to being he was latterly invited back in 2015 when the Michaela Community School in Wembley eventually opened.
Atherton began work on The 'Feminist Car Commercial' Film, a campaigning film designed to be a springboard for public debate about the objectification of women in advertising and marketing. Shooting was completed in July 2013. 
Our London Lives opened in The Museum of London on Friday 8 January 2016 and closed on 11 February 2016. Atherton's personal but professionally recorded visits of his estranged son's visit to London over the past 16 years (1999 - 2015) was shown as part of Recording A Life exhibition in the Show Space gallery. 
On October 21, 2016 Paul Atherton began living in a car in London's Zone 1 to prompt a media campaign to address the failings of the DWP in the UK. In conjunction with Ken Loach's film I, Daniel Blake he's entitled the project #LivingInACar and in conjunction with #WeAreAllDanielBlake Twitter hashtag is sharing his Bi-Weekly Vlogs over YouTube and latterly London Live. 
In January 2017 he was appointed a Judge on the inaugural Muybridge Short Film Festival  which was screened in the Rose Theatre, Kingston which is situated next to the birthplace of Eadweard Muybridge the "Father of Cinema" and the person the Short Film, Film Festival was named after.
His real life experiences of childhood abandonment helped inspire the character of Eric Parkhill in Wendy Perriam's novel Broken Places (2011) and his interaction with a Renault car dealership, resulting in his buying a Skoda, is retold as one of the negotiation case studies in Clive Rich's The Yes Book (2013).
He has been involved in many campaigns to prevent historic buildings from demolition, including attempting to occupy the Art Deco Odeon Cinema in Kensington, with fellow film-maker Paul Wiffen in September 2015 
He played a speaking role in the final theatrical production run of You Me Bum Bum Train an immersive theatre performance based in a disused book shop on Charing Cross Road from 25 February 2016 to 29 April 2016 
He won a lyric competition run by former Australian Idol winner Natalie Gauci and received the prize of seeing the song performed by her at Tedx London in the Science Museum London on Friday 17 June 2016 
He has one son, Charles Sebastian Atherton-Laurie.
- Our London Lives - Paul Atherton & Son, Charles Atherton-Laurie record of first 16 years sharing London (2016)
- Michaela Community School - A New Education (2015)
- The Feminist Car Commercial (2013)
- Once Were (2012)
- Angelus (2011)
- Bootleg Reg: Reginald D Hunter Live in London (2010)
- Colour Blind (2009)
- Transformation (2008)
- The Ballet of Change: London Bridge (2007)
- Cabaret Reborn (2006)
- Silent Voices (2005)
- British Film Archive (2007). "The Ballet of Change at British Film Archive".
- British Film Archive (2007). "Paul Atherton at British Film Archive".
- South Wales Echo Newspaper (14 September 2012). "How a Rookie Social Worker Turned My Life Around".
- Channel 4: 4thought.tv (2011). "Should White Parents adopt Non-White Children". Archived from the original on 27 July 2011.
- The Big Issue Magazine (2008). "TV Calling".
- "What About ME?" (Trailer). United Kingdom: Double D Productions. 2010. Event occurs at 3:57. Retrieved 2012-05-16.[dead link]
- "Sacred Cinema" (HD) (Film). Canada. 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-16.
- Cardiff University Magazine (2008). "A Capital Achievement".
- Sun Newspaper (1994), Charles Props Up Naughty Knickers
- Vogue Magazine (1995), The Perfect Valentines Gift
- Paul Atherton (1996). "Career Progression". Linkedin.
- Prospect Pictures
- Industry News (31 May 2002). "Skillset Arrange a "Lucky Break" at Production Show".
- Broadcast Magazine (2007). "Capital Shouldn't Cause Offense".
- Land Securities (2007). "The Ballet of Change". Retrieved 1 December 2007.
- Colourful Radio (26 March 2009). "The Breakfast Show".
- Private Eye Magazine (2010). "Wheels of Misfortune".
- Private Eye Magazine (2010). "Hostel Takeover".
- Screen International (2010). "Gaming writer Rhianna Pratchett moves onto first feature film".
- IMDb (2012). "Viglia".
- The Guardian Newspaper (2016). "Why it's right for a head to demand lunch money - and high standards".
- Soho Rushes Short, Dana knight (August 2013). "How to Shoot a £1m Car Commercial on a Zero Budget.".
- IDEA, Dana knight (August 2013). "How to Shoot a £1m Car Commercial on a Zero Budget.".
- Paul Atherton, Q&D Productions (January 2016). "Our London Lives".
- LondonLive (2016). "News interview with Paul Atherton about Our London Lives at the Museum of London".
- Paul Atherton, Q&D Productions (November 2016). "Living In A Car".
- Paul Hughes (January 2017). "Muybridge Short Film Festival".
- Atherton, Paul (13 August 2012). "'What is the Olympic Legacy:A View from a Closing Ceremony Volunteer". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
- "Inside a Truck in the Closing Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games" (Trailer). United Kingdom: Simple Productions. 2012. Event occurs at 0:09. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
- LOCOG (2012). "A Symphony of British Music, London 2012 Closing Ceremony 12 August 2012 Programme" (PDF).
- Wendy Perriam (2011). "Broken Places".
- Clive Rich (2013). "The Yes Book".
- Paul Atherton (4 May 2012). "Evening Standard: The Barriers to Adoption". Retrieved 4 May 2012.
- Channel 4 (5 August 2006). "Channel 4: The Great British Black Invasion". Retrieved 8 August 2006.
- BBC (9 October 2011). "BBC: Sunday Morning Live". Retrieved 11 October 2011.
- Paul Atherton (27 March 2012). "I Object to the Application 12/01433/LBC". Retrieved 19 February 2016.
- Paul Atherton (18 January 2013). "Don't Worry Royal Institution - We the Public Won't Let this Happen". Retrieved 19 February 2016.
- Paul Atherton (29 January 2014). "London Vs The Rest of UK - Who wins?: Comments". Guardian Newspaper. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
- Mark Blunden (4 September 2015). "Evening Standard: Campaigners in last-ditch bid to save historic Odeon cinema".
- David Hutchinson (4 September 2015). "The Stage: BECTU Launches Probe Into Exploitative Bum Bun Train Internships".
- Paul Atherton (17 June 2016). "Thanks to Winning Natalie Gauci's Lyric Competition".
- Paul Atherton (28 August 2016). Notting Hill Carnival 2016 Aug 28th Steel Band jamming "Classic Lord Kitch" on the Road. Notting Hill: Nostalgia Steel Band. Event occurs at 0:17. Retrieved 14 October 2016.
- Jolablokafod (20 January 2017). "Acknowledgements".
- Will Heilpern (19 June 2016). "Business Insider (Malaysia) : This Woman is Living in London on Just £35 per week - here's how she does it".
- "Our London Lives" (film). United Kingdom: Q&D Productions (Not-For-Profit). 2016. Retrieved 19 February 2016.