Edinburgh TV Festival to close with talks by Meera Syal and top screenwriters

Meera Syal (Yui Mok/PA)
Meera Syal (Yui Mok/PA) Meera Syal (Yui Mok/PA)

The Edinburgh TV Festival will close out its proceedings for this year with a speech from actress Meera Syal and discussions by esteemed screenwriters.

The final day of the annual festival will open with a chat between Happy Valley creator Sally Wainwright with broadcaster Adrian Chiles which will explore her career from contributing on soaps to heading up Bafta winning TV shows.

Award-winning screenwriter Jesse Armstrong, who is behind hit shows including Succession, Peep Show, Fresh Meat and The Thick Of It, will also be in conversation with journalist Marina Hyde to talk about his career and the state of the industry.

BBC Comedy Festival 2023
BBC Comedy Festival 2023 Jesse Armstrong (Patrick Olner/BBC/PA)

Actress, writer and comedian Syal will end the festival by delivering the Alternative MacTaggart speech.

She rose to fame as one of the creators and stars of BBC sketch comedy show Goodness Gracious Me and is also well known for her role in The Kumars At No. 42.

She will speak to the festival’s executive chair, Fatima Salaria, about the highs and the lows of being a British Asian woman in the film and TV industry and “reflecting on the importance of representation and giving voice to unheard stories”.

Launched in 1997, the Alternative MacTaggart lecture offers a platform for different and diverse voices in the television industry and has previously been delivered by actress Rose Ayling-Ellis, actress and presenter Jameela Jamil, ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and American TV host Jerry Springer.

Wednesday’s proceeding at the festival saw panel discussions from the heads of ITV, Channel 5, Netflix and Disney+ sharing their thoughts on their outlet’s current standing.

Veteran journalist Louis Theroux closed the day by delivering the annual James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture where he reflected on his own career as well as the current state of the BBC, with whom he has made a large number of programmes.

In the lecture, he said the BBC is in a “no-win” situation of trying to “avoid offence” and is in danger of avoiding important subjects in a bid to “play it safe”.

Thursday’s schedule kicked off with Theroux reflecting and answering questions which he raised in the speech.

Later in the day, the BBC’s chief content officer Charlotte Moore discussed how the corporation is delivering value for all audiences.

Moore said Theroux was “absolutely right” to say the BBC should not shy away from challenging subjects and that the broadcaster should be exploring “the moral complexity of the human condition”.

“We’re not driven by a commercial imperative so we are the place that you can do that,” she said.

Heads of department at Sky, Channel 4 and Prime Video also reflected on the media landscape and announced details about their upcoming programming.

TV presenter Claudia Winkleman also sat down with broadcaster Kirsty Young for an interview to discuss her career after being awarded the outstanding achievement award.

Winkleman said she originally felt that hosting hit BBC show The Traitors would be “incredibly risky” for her career but it turned out to be the “ride” of her lifetime.

As host of The Traitors as well as the new talent show The Piano and BBC juggernaut Strictly Come Dancing, she added: “I feel incredibly lucky, I cannot believe I get to do those three shows.”

She also said their success was “nothing to do” with her but the “amazing” production teams.

The day ended with the Edinburgh TV Awards, which were dominated by the BBC and Channel 4 and hosted by comedian and singer Jordan Gray.