James Graham to Deliver MacTaggart Lecture


British playwright and dramatist James Graham (Sherwood, The Way, Quiz, Dear England, Tammy Faye) has been selected to deliver the James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the 2024 Edinburgh TV Festival.

In his lecture, Graham will explore the role and responsibility of TV drama in shaping the political agenda and illuminating social injustices. He will also celebrate the role of drama and the future of public-service broadcasters in the new cultural landscape.

He will also address the importance of maintaining a mission toward representation that includes social class and regionality, both on-screen and off.

Graham’s prolific portfolio of work covers a wide range of projects that document the life, times and politics of the modern era and profile all walks of life, from the political elite to the working classes.

In recent years, he has worked on the BAFTA- and RTS-winning Sherwood, set against the backdrop of his hometown of Ashfield in Nottinghamshire; The Way, a collaboration with Michael Sheen and Adam Curtis; and the BAFTA-winning Quiz, starring Matthew Macfadyen and Michael Sheen.

Recent stage work from Graham includes the Olivier Award-winning Dear England, starring Joseph Fiennes; the new musical Tammy Faye, written with Elton John and Jake Shears; an adaptation of Alan Bleasdale’s Boys from the Blackstuff; and the original play Punch.

Graham has penned numerous political pieces, including the Emmy- and BAFTA-nominated Brexit: An Uncivil War; the RTS-winning Coalition; the play Best of Enemies; and the play This House.

“I am genuinely honored to be invited to deliver the MacTaggart Lecture this year of all years, following a potentially landmark election,” Graham said. “In these difficult and divided times, culture and the arts have never been more important; TV moments can still bring a nation together through shared viewing experiences, whether it’s in a drama that brings our collective attention to unbelievable injustices or a sporting performance that unites us in celebration (or disappointment!). I’m aware that delivering this lecture is a real moment, as well as an opportunity, to consider the future direction for the creative industries. I’m keen to look at the wider role that drama, storytelling and culture can play in politics, society and, in particular, those left-behind communities.”

“From Quiz to Brexit: The Uncivil War, Sherwood to Coalition, James Graham is a fearless contemporary chronicler of British history, institutions and power structures,” said Rowan Woods, creative director of the festival, and Harjeet Chhokar, this year’s advisory chair. “A firm believer in the power of television in shaping the political agenda and illuminating social injustice, as well being committed to representation that confidently includes social class and regionality, we couldn’t think of anyone better to speak to where we find ourselves culturally, socially and politically in 2024. Between The Way, Boys from the Blackstuff, Punch, Dear England, the return of Sherwood and the Broadway transfer of Tammy Faye, James Graham is having a truly stellar year, and we have no doubt that he’ll deliver a powerful and timely lecture that will be remembered for years to come.”

The 2024 Edinburgh TV Festival is running from August 20 to 23, and passes are available to purchase now.