Media release: Alastair Campbell to appear at Edinburgh TV festival, in conversation with James Graham


TWO very different giants of the political world – a playwright and a practitioner – will discuss their trades in what promises to be one of the highlights of the TV festival in Edinburgh.

The prolific, award-winning playwright and screenwriter, James Graham, will be in conversation with writer, campaigner and political strategist, Alastair Campbell, it was announced today (MON).

In the session, James Graham in Conversation with Alastair Campbell, anti-Brexit campaigner, Campbell, will explore Graham’s career to date, including his most recent work, Channel 4’s drama, Brexit: The Uncivil War, with Benedict Cumberbatch.

Campbell, who has, in the past, described Graham’s This House – about the whips office in the 1970s Labour government – as “one of the best political plays ever written”, will discover the tools Graham uses to encapsulate key themes in drama without bias or prejudice, as well as his research techniques and sharp eye for discovering new talent.

Meanwhile, Graham will have the opportunity to ask Campbell his thoughts on how the media is used within political campaigns to influence audiences, and how drama rather than other genres perhaps reaches alternative demographics and achieves impact that traditional news coverage doesn’t.

James Graham said: “In these politically traumatic times, it’s a real privilege to be attempting to write drama for a mainstream audience that tries to access some of these hidden worlds and hold the real-life individuals to account through storytelling. To be at the Edinburgh TV Festival this summer wrestling with how to do that responsibly, as well as artfully is really exciting, especially alongside Alastair Campbell whose own unique insights into political communication I look forward to exploring.”

Alastair Campbell said: “What I like about James’ work is that he resists cynicism and tries to get to the real motivations of people. I am looking forward to quizzing and being quizzed by someone who gets the reality of politics more than most.”

Graham’s other dramas include Coalition (2015), also on Channel 4 and winner of the RTS award for Best Single Drama; and The Vote, performed at the Donmar Warehouse and broadcast live on television on election night 2015, nominated for a BAFTA. His latest project is an ITV mini-series depicting the Who Wants to be a Millionaire ‘coughing’ scandal, to be directed by Stephen Frears.

His stage work includes the Rupert Murdoch play Ink, which received a Tony nomination for Best Play on Broadway earlier this year; Labour of Love (2017), in the West End, about the historic divisions within the Labour party; and the Westminster drama, This House, which opened at the National Theatre before transferring to the West End in 2016 and on to a nationwide tour.

CEO and festival director, Lisa Campbell, said: “James is an incredible talent with a modern voice, perfect for depicting political situations with unnerving confidence, skill and accessibility to a TV audience. With Alastair’s background and pedigree in politics, this will be a captivating, thought-provoking session and headline-grabbing session.”

This session is produced by Steve Clarke, editor, RTS Television magazine.

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