Media release: Michaela Coel to deliver 43rd MacTaggart Memorial Lecture

Observer New Review

THE Edinburgh Television Festival brought to you by YouTube and BT has announced Michaela Coel, award-winning actress, screenwriter, singer, songwriter, poet, and playwright, will deliver this year’s prestigious James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture.

Michaela started her career in 2006, performing poetry at open mic nights, and eventually performing on stages including: Wembley Arena, Bush Theatre, Nuyorican, and Rotterdam De Doelen Concert Hall.

Coel also released an album in 2009 featuring her work as a poet and musician, and in 2012 wrote Chewing Gum Dreams, a graduation project from Guildhall telling the dramatic story of a 14 year-old girl named Tracey, that went on to be produced at a number of theatres – all to positive reviews.

Coel appeared in the Channel 4 drama Top Boy and had leading roles at the National Theatre, including the award-nominated Home and the critically-acclaimed Medea at the Olivier Theatre.

In October 2015, Coel starred in and wrote a new sitcom for E4 called Chewing Gum, inspired by her play Chewing Gum Dreams. Her performance earned her two Royal Television Society Awards for ‘Best Comedy Performance’ and ‘Breakthrough Performance’, a BAFTA Television Craft Award for ‘Breakthrough Talent’, the ‘Best Female Performance in a Comedy Programme’ award at the Television BAFTAs and a Broadcast Digital Award for ‘Best Scripted Programme’.

The sitcom was also nominated for a BAFTA TV ‘Best Scripted Comedy’ award.

In 2017, Michaela was picked as one of the Screen International ‘Stars of Tomorrow’ and also made the Forbes Magazine ‘30 under 30’ list celebrating the brightest young entrepreneurs, breakout talents and change agents across the globe.

This year, Michaela was selected as one of the European Shooting Stars at the Berlinale Film Festival and Chewing Gum was again nominated for Best Scripted Comedy, Best Comedy Writer and Best Comedy Performance for Michaela at the Royal Television Society Awards.

Coel has since guest-starred in BBC One drama London Spy, E4 sci-fi comedy-drama The Aliens, and also starred in two episodes of Charlie Brooker’s award-winning dystopian drama series Black Mirror for Netflix. In series three she starred in Joe Wright’s episode ‘NOSEDIVE’ alongside Bryce Dallas Howard and returned in series four in Toby Haynes’ episode ‘USS CALLISTER’ alongside Jesse Plemons.

She also had a role in the 2017 film Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Chewing Gum returned for a second season in January 2017. The series was also a huge hit for Netflix in the US and the platform has since pre-bought the worldwide rights to the upcoming feature film Been So Long, a London-set musical based on the play by Ché Walker and Arthur Darvill and directed by Tinge Krishnan, which stars Coel.

Coel has used her screen presence to encourage more opportunities for new voices in her acceptance speeches. At the Women in Film and TV Awards in 2016 she said: “It’s for women who just by being darker than a paper bag or raised in low income homes are from birth statistically less likely to even hear about the opportunities and chances, that others in the world, and in our industry, feel a natural entitlement to.”

Responding to the invitation to deliver the prestigious MacTaggart Lecture, Michaela Coel said: “I am overjoyed to accept this invitation; it seems in some way a celebration of the rapidly changing world we live in. But with the constant reshaping of our technological and political world, comes a growing need to shine a light and be vigilant rather than complacent about the future of our industry. I feel honoured to contribute to this debate on such a prestigious stage.”

Advisory chair, and director of Sky Arts & Head of Entertainment, Sky, Phil Edgar Jones, said: “Michaela embodies everything we want the festival to be about this year – the future, the creative voice and, above all, optimism. As one of the UK’s leading young writer-performers, she speaks directly to the next generation of talent coming through the ranks and has something to teach the TV “establishment” too. We are thrilled she’ll be delivering the MacTaggart and I am very much looking forward to hearing her unique take on the industry and beyond.”

Festival director, Lisa Campbell, added: “Michaela is a hugely inspiring figure who has achieved so much in such a short time. With her distinctive voice, attitude and ambition this promises to be a ground-breaking and enlivening speech that will offer a completely different perspective. Our Talent Schemes delegates voted her as the person who has most inspired them to work in television, and Iike them, I can’t wait to hear the passionate and agenda-setting speech she’s set to deliver.”

The MacTaggart Lecture has formed the centrepiece of the festival since 1976. It is an unique, global platform offering the speaker creative freedom to provoke, inspire and to set the news agenda. In the past it has been delivered by leading authors, playwrights, journalists, and media titans, including Dennis Potter, Rupert Murdoch, Ted Turner, Janet Street-Porter, John Schlesinger, Marcel Ophuls, Elisabeth Murdoch, Armando Iannucci, and Jon Snow.

As a festival and a charity, the Edinburgh International Television Festival is committed to helping young people from all backgrounds gain access to the TV Industry. It runs two young talent schemes, Ones to Watch and The Network.

Both schemes aim to ensure that the people working in television are as diverse as the audience watching it.

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