The Edinburgh Television Festival has announced that Michaela Coel, the star and writer of Chewing Gum, will deliver this year’s James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture.

Coel 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 story of a 14-year-old girl named Tracey, that went on to be produced at a number of theatres.

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’ and the ‘Best Female Performance in a Comedy Programme’ award at the Television BAFTAs.

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. 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 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.

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.”

Jon Creamer

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