Chewing Gum creator Michaela Coel is to give the prestigious MacTaggart lecture at this year’s Edinburgh International Television Festival – becoming only the fifth women its 42-year history.
Coel, who has also starred in Black Mirror and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, is one of the UK’s rising on-screen and off-screen stars since creating the E4 comedy Chewing Gum, which airs on Netflix in the UK. She is to appear in Netflix’s forthcoming musical feature film Been So Long.
She joins a short list of women who have given the lecture, following in the footsteps of former Doctor Who producer Verity Lambert, 60 Minutes reporter Christine Ockrent, Janet Street-Porter and Shine Group founder Elisabeth Murdoch. Other big names from the world of television to have given the speech include Norman Lear, Ted Turner, Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch, and Google’s Eric Schmidt. In recent years, the now-disgraced House of Cards star Kevin Spacey gave the lecture in 2013, while Veep creator Armando Iannucci and Vice founder Shane Smith have also given it. Last year, it was helmed by Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow.
Coel, who is represented by Troika, has used recent speeches to encourage broadcasters and producers to do more for diversity. 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.”
She said that she was “overjoyed” to accept the 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.”
Phil Edgar Jones, Director of Sky Arts & Head of Entertainment, Sky, who is Advisory Chair of this year’s event, 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.”