The award-winning actress, screenwriter, singer, songwriter, poet, and playwright Michaela Coel, will deliver this year’s prestigious James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival.
The MacTaggart Lecture has formed the centrepiece of the Festival since 1976 and this August Michaela will make history by becoming the youngest and first non-white speaker to deliver the MacTaggart lecture as well as only being the fifth woman to ever do so.
Michaela began her career in 2006, performing poetry at open mic nights, she 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.
The play went on to be produced at a number of theatres to positive reviews and she appeared in the Channel 4 drama Top Boy, had leading roles at the National Theatre all before starring in her very own sitcom for E4 in October 2015 called Chewing Gum which she wrote.
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. 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.”