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Melvyn Bragg

The Lord Bragg
File:Melvyn bragg head crop.jpg
Bragg in 2011
Born (1939-10-06) 6 October 1939 (age 76)
Carlisle, Cumberland, UK
Nationality British
Alma mater Wadham College, Oxford
Occupation Broadcaster, presenter, interviewer, commentator, novelist, scriptwriter[1]
Notable work In Our Time
Television The South Bank Show
Political party
Recorded May 2013 from the BBC Radio 4 programme Front Row

Melvyn Bragg, Baron Bragg FBA FRSL (born 6 October 1939), is a British broadcaster, author and parliamentarian[2] best known for his work with ITV as editor and presenter of the The South Bank Show (1978–2010).

Earlier in his career, Bragg worked for the BBC in various roles including presenter, a connection that resumed in 1988 when he began to host Start the Week on Radio 4. After his ennoblement in 1998, he switched to presenting the new In Our Time,[3] a discussion radio programme, which has run to over 600 editions. He is currently Chancellor of the University of Leeds.[4]


Bragg was born on 6 October 1939 in Carlisle,[5] the son of Mary Ethel (née Park), a tailor, and Stanley Bragg, a stock keeper turned mechanic.[6] He attended the Nelson Thomlinson School in Wigton[5] and read Modern History at Wadham College, Oxford in the late 1950s and early 1960s.[6]

Broadcasting career

Bragg began his career in 1961 as a general trainee at the BBC,[5] spending his first two years in radio at the BBC World Service, then at the BBC Third Programme and BBC Home Service.[7] He joined the production team of Huw Wheldon's Monitor arts series on BBC Television.[7] and won an award for his screenplay on Debussy. He presented the BBC books programme Read All About It (and was also its editor, 1976–77)[5] and The Lively Arts, an arts series that included Whose Doctor Who (1977).[citation needed]

He is best known for the London Weekend Television (LWT) arts programme The South Bank Show, which he edited and presented from 1978 to 2010.[8] He was Head of Arts at LWT from 1982 to 1990 and Controller of Arts at LWT from 1990. He is also known for his many programmes on BBC Radio 4, including Start the Week (1988 to 1998),[9] The Routes of English (mapping the history of the English language), and In Our Time (1998 to present), which in March 2011 broadcast its 500th programme. In February 2012, he began Melvyn Bragg on Class and Culture, a three-part series on BBC2 examining popular media culture, with an analysis of the British social class system.[10]

In 2012 he brought back The South Bank Show to Sky Arts 1, and is expected to stay with Sky until 2015.[11] In December 2012, he began The Value of Culture, a five-part series on BBC Radio 4 examining the meaning of culture, expanding on Matthew Arnold's landmark (1869) collection of essays Culture and Anarchy.[12] In June 2013 Bragg wrote and presented The Most Dangerous Man in Tudor England, broadcast by the BBC. This told the dramatic story of William Tyndale's mission to translate the Bible from the original languages to English.

A novelist and writer of non-fiction, Bragg has written a number of television and film screenplays. Some of his early television work was in collaboration with Ken Russell, for whom he wrote the biographical dramas The Debussy Film (1965) and Isadora Duncan, the Biggest Dancer in the World (1967), as well as Russell's film about Tchaikovsky, The Music Lovers (1970). He is president of the National Academy of Writing. His 2008 novel Remember Me is part of a series of autobiographical fictions.

Bragg is a Vice President of the Friends of the British Library, a charity set up to provide funding support to the British Library.[13] He became a member of the Arts Council Literature Panel in 1969, since becoming Chairman, and is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society.[14]

Bragg appeared on the Front Row "Cultural Exchange" on May Day 2013. He nominated a self-portrait by Rembrandt as a piece of art which he had found especially interesting.[15]

Personal life

Bragg married his first wife, Marie-Elisabeth Roche, in 1961,[5] and they had one child, a daughter.[16] Ten years later Roche killed herself. He did not know that his wife had a history of suicide attempts. "I could have done things which helped and I did things which harmed", he told The Guardian in 1998. "So yes, I feel guilt, I feel remorse."[17]

Bragg's second wife, Catherine Mary Haste, whom he married in 1973,[5] is also a television producer and writer, having, among other things, edited the 2007 memoir of Clarissa Eden, widow of Sir Anthony Eden, and collaborated with Cherie Booth, wife of Tony Blair, on a 2004 book about the wives of British Prime Ministers. They have a son and a daughter.

Bragg has publicly discussed two nervous breakdowns that happened in his life, one in his teens, and another in his 30s.[18]

A friend of Tony Blair, in 1998 Bragg was named in a list of the largest private financial donors to the Labour Party.[19] He is a supporter of Arsenal F.C.[20] and Carlisle United (London Branch Hon. President). In August 2014, Lord Bragg was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.[21]

Bragg has defended Christianity, particularly the King James Bible, although he does not claim to be a believer himself, seeing himself in Albert Einstein's term as "believing unbeliever", adding that he is "unable to cross the River of Jordan which would lead me to the crucial belief in a godly eternity."[22]

Selected honours and awards




  • For Want of a Nail (1965)
  • The Second Inheritance (1966)
  • The Cumbrian Trilogy:
  • The Nerve (1971)
  • Josh Lawton (1972)
  • The Silken Net (1974)
  • Autumn Manoeuvres (1978)
  • Love and Glory (1983)
  • The Maid of Buttermere (1987) (based on the life of Mary Robinson)
  • Without a City Wall (1988)
  • A Time to Dance (1990)
  • Crystal Rooms (1992)
  • Credo (1996) also known as The Sword and the Miracle
  • The Soldier's Return Quartet:
    • The Soldier's Return (1999)
    • A Son of War (2001)
    • Crossing the Lines (2003)
    • Remember Me... (2008)
  • Grace and Mary (2013)

Non-fiction books

Children's books




  1. ^ a b "Lord Bragg of Wigton FRS FRSL FRTS". British Academy. Retrieved 4 October 2011. Public understanding of the arts, literature and sciences. Broadcaster, presenter, interviewer, commentator, novelist, scriptwriter. 
  2. ^ Sherwin, Adam (25 March 2013). "Melvyn Bragg calls on new BBC boss to reverse 'shrinking arts coverage'". The Independent (London). Retrieved 25 April 2013. 
  3. ^ Hepworth, David (2 March 2013). "In Our Time: Melvyn Bragg's superior radio masterclass". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 25 April 2013. 
  4. ^ Profile,; retrieved 8 April 2013
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Quicke, Andrew. "Melvyn Bragg". Encyclopedia of Television. Museum of Broadcast Communications. Retrieved 4 October 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Barratt, Nick (11 August 2007). "Family detective: Melvyn Bragg". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  7. ^ a b Article by Melvyn Bragg in British Mensa Magazine, January 2002, p. 7.
  8. ^ "ITV Fact File on The South Bank Show". Retrieved 29 September 2014. 
  9. ^ Simon Elmes, And Now on Radio 4: A Celebration of the World's Best Radio Station, London: Random House Books, 2007, pp. 72-73.
  10. ^ "Melvyn Bragg on Class and Culture", Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  11. ^ Dowell, Ben (25 March 2013). "Melvyn Bragg expected to stay with Sky Arts for two more years". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 25 April 2013. 
  12. ^ "The Value of Culture". Folksonomy. 4 January 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  13. ^ "Friends of the British Library Annual Report 2006/07" (PDF). Retrieved 7 September 2009. 
  14. ^ "Melvyn Bragg FRS". The Royal Society. Retrieved 10 April 2013. 
  15. ^ "Images for Melvyn Bragg's Cultural Exchange". BBC. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 
  16. ^ Guinness, Daphne (14 July 2008). "Melvyn in the Middle". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 14 July 2008. first wife was an aristocrat. I didn't know that for a year. 
  17. ^ Burkeman, Oliver (6 June 2005). "Plato or Nietzsche? You choose". The Guardian (Manchester). Archived from the original on 9 November 2012. 
  18. ^ Daphne Guinness (14 June 2008). "Melvyn in the middle". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 4 October 2011. 
  19. ^ ""Luvvies" for Labour". BBC News. 30 August 1998. 
  20. ^ "Melvyn Bragg on becoming a fan – Arsenal, 1989". (London). 17 May 2009. 
  21. ^ "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories | Politics". 7 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  22. ^ Melvyn Bragg (11 June 2011). "Melvyn Bragg: My first steps back on the road to faith". London. 
  23. ^ Minutes and Order Paper - Minutes of Proceedings from the House of Lords, 28 October 1998.
  24. ^ The London Gazette: no. 55222. p. 8731. 11 August 1998.
  25. ^ "Bragg opens namesake drama suite". BBC News. 17 October 2005. Retrieved 4 October 2011. 
  26. ^ "Melvyn Bragg to receive BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award". BBC News. 1 June 2010. 
  27. ^ "Honorary Fellows of the Royal Society". Retrieved 29 September 2014. 

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
Katharine, Duchess of Kent
Chancellor of the University of Leeds

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