2021 MacTaggart lecture speaker to highlight ‘glaring problem’ in society

Screenwriter and playwright Jack Thorne is to deliver the prestigious MacTaggart lecture and draw attention to the “glaring problem” of the treatment of disabled people.

Thorne, who has won five Baftas, has written for TV series including His Dark Materials, Kiri and The Virtues, and films including Enola Holmes, The Secret Garden and The Aeronauts.

The 42-year-old also wrote the script for Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, the Olivier and Tony award-winning play based on the wizarding books by JK Rowling.

The MacTaggart lecture has formed the centrepiece of the Edinburgh International Television Festival since 1976.

Thorne, who developed a condition called cholinergic urticaria – which makes sufferers allergic to their own body heat – as a young man, said he would use his speech to highlight disabled representation on screen.

He said: “I am ridiculously honoured to be asked to deliver this year’s MacTaggart lecture. It’s an opportunity I never anticipated, but an opportunity I am determined to use.

“This country has a glaring problem at the moment and it’s in its treatment of disabled people. In the last two years, people have died who didn’t need to, and those that survived were treated appallingly, ignored and shut out.

“We lived and live in a two-tier society, those with ‘underlying health conditions’ – a disgusting term – and those without.

“Our industry has a record of shutting out disabled voices itself but now has an opportunity to step up and take responsibility, both for its history and its future.

“We are the empathy box in the corner of the room and we can change things. I am far from the perfect advocate for this but will do all I can to further this vital conversation.”

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He follows in the footsteps of Rupert Murdoch, Armando Iannucci and Michaela Coel in giving the lecture.

Georgia Brown, head of European originals at Amazon Studios and the festival’s advisory chair for 2021, said: “I’m beyond excited that Jack will be delivering the MacTaggart lecture this year.

“Jack is a staggeringly talented writer whose words have brought into being some of the most memorable dramatic moments of British television.

“I can’t wait for him to share his perspective with us all after possibly the strangest and most challenging years in our collective history.

“He will bring his wisdom, wit and fierce intelligence to the Edinburgh stage – I hope you’ll all join us to hear it.”

The festival’s executive chairwoman Fatima Salaria said: “Jack’s is a voice that speaks from experience and allyship and will give a much-needed platform for those who feel they have none, in the eloquent and powerful way we have so often seen in his work.

“I have no doubt that it will make for essential viewing and is rightly deserving of the global conversation that the MacTaggart lecture inspires.”

The Edinburgh International Television Festival is due to take place in August.