The Info List - Melvyn Bragg

Melvyn Bragg, Baron Bragg, CH, FRS, FBA, FRSL (born 6 October 1939), is an English broadcaster, author and parliamentarian.[2] He is best known for his work with ITV as editor and presenter of The South Bank Show (1978–2010), and for the Radio 4 discussion series In Our Time. 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] an academic discussion radio programme, which has run to over 700 broadcast editions, and is a popular podcast. He was Chancellor of the University of Leeds
University of Leeds
from 1999 until 2017.[4][5]


1 Early life 2 Career

2.1 Broadcasting 2.2 Writing 2.3 Peerage 2.4 Advocacy

3 Personal life 4 Positions and memberships 5 Awards and honours 6 Bibliography 7 References 8 External links

Early life[edit] Bragg was born on 6 October 1939 in Carlisle,[6] the son of Mary Ethel (née Park), a tailor, and Stanley Bragg, a stock keeper turned mechanic.[7] He was given the name Melvyn by his mother after she saw the actor Melvyn Douglas
Melvyn Douglas
at a local cinema.[8] He was raised in the small town of Wigton,[8] where he attended the Wigton
primary school[9] and later The Nelson Thomlinson School,[6] where he was Head Boy.[8] He was an only child, born a year after his parents married. His father was away from home serving with the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
for four years during the war. His upbringing and childhood experiences were typical of the working class environment of that era.[8] As a child, the woman he was led to believe was his maternal grandmother was in reality the foster parent of his own mother; his grandmother having been forced to leave the town due to the stigma of her daughter being born illegitimately.[8] From the age of 8 until he left for university, his family home was above a pub in Wigton, the Black-A-Moor Hotel, of which his father had become the landlord.[8] Into his teens he was a member of the Scouts and played rugby in his school's first team.[8] Encouraged by a teacher who had recognised his work ethic, Bragg was one of an increasing number of working class teenagers of the era being given a path to university through the grammar school system.[8] At university he read Modern History
Modern History
at Wadham College, Oxford, in the late 1950s and early 1960s.[7] Career[edit] Throughout his working life, Bragg has combined a career in broadcasting with one in writing.[8] Broadcasting[edit] Bragg began his career in 1961 as a general trainee at the BBC.[6] He was the recipient of one of only three traineeships awarded that year.[8] He spent his first two years in radio at the BBC
World Service, then at the BBC
Third Programme and BBC
Home Service.[10] He joined the production team of Huw Wheldon's Monitor arts series on BBC Television.[10] He presented the BBC
books programme Read All About It (and was also its editor, 1976–77)[6] and The Lively Arts, a BBC
Two arts series.[11] He then edited and presented the London Weekend Television (LWT) arts programme The South Bank Show
The South Bank Show
from 1978 to 2010.[12] His interview with playwright Dennis Potter shortly before his death is regularly cited as one of the most moving and memorable television moments ever.[13] By being just as interested in popular as well as classical genres, he is credited with making the arts more accessible and less elitist.[13] 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),[14] 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. Bragg's pending departure from the South Bank Show was portrayed by The Guardian
The Guardian
as the last of the ITV grandees, speculating that the next generation of ITV broadcasters would not have the same longevity or influence as Bragg or his ITV contemporaries John Birt, Greg Dyke, Michael Grade
Michael Grade
and Christopher Bland.[15] In 2012 he brought The South Bank Show
The South Bank Show
back to Sky Arts 1.[16] In December 2012, he began The Value of Culture, a five-part series on BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
examining the meaning of culture, expanding on Matthew Arnold's landmark (1869) collection of essays Culture and Anarchy.[17] 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. In February 2012, he began Melvyn Bragg
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.[18] Bragg appeared on the Front Row "Cultural Exchange" on May Day
May Day
2013. He nominated a self-portrait by Rembrandt
as a piece of art which he had found especially interesting.[19] In 2015, Bragg was appointed as a Vice President of the Royal Television Society.[20] Writing[edit] Having produced unpublished short stories since age 19, Bragg had initially decided to become a writer after university. He recognised that writing would not, initially at least, earn him a living, and he took the opportunity at the BBC
that arose after he had applied for posts in a variety of industries.[8] While at the BBC, he continued writing. Publishing his first novel in 1965, he decided to leave the BBC
to concentrate full-time on writing. Although he published several works, he was unable to make a living, forcing a return to television by the mid-1970s.[8] A novelist and writer of non-fiction, Bragg has also 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
The Music Lovers
(1970). Most of his novels are autobiographical fictions, set in an around the town of Wigton
during his childhood.[8] By the 1990s, having received a range of reviews for his work, from outstanding to lazy, some critics were suggesting that splitting his time between writing and broadcasting was detrimental to the quality, and that his media profile and his known sensitivity to criticism made him an easy target for unjust reviews. According to The Independent, The Literary Review's prize mocking his poor writing of sex in fiction was awarded not on readers' nominations, but simply because it would be good PR.[21] From 1996 to 1998 he also wrote a column in The Times newspaper; he has also occasionally written for The Sunday Times, The Guardian and Observer.[9] Peerage[edit] Bragg's friends include the former Labour Party leaders Tony Blair, Neil Kinnock
Neil Kinnock
and Michael Foot, and former deputy leader Roy Hattersley.[9] He was one of 100 donors who gave the Labour Party a sum in excess of £5,000 in 1997, the year the party came to power under Blair in the general election.[22] The following year he was appointed by Blair to the House of Lords
House of Lords
as the life peer Baron Bragg, of Wigton
in the County of Cumbria,[23][24] one of a number of Labour donors given peerages. This led to accusations of cronyism from the defeated Conservative Party.[22] In the Lords he takes a keen interest in the arts and education.[8] According to The Guardian
The Guardian
in 2004, he voted 104 times out of a possible 226 in the 2002/3 session, only once against the government, on the Hunting Act.[9] He campaigned against it on the grounds it could affect the livelihoods of Cumbrian farmers.[25] In August 2014, Bragg was one of 200 public figures who signed a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence
Scottish independence
in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.[26] Advocacy[edit] 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 a "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."[27] In August 2016 Bragg publicly accused the National Trust of "bullying" in its "disgraceful purchase" of land in the Lake District, which could threaten the Herdwick
rare breed of sheep.[28] Personal life[edit] Bragg married his first wife, Marie-Elisabeth Roche, in 1961,[6] and they had a daughter, Marie-Elsa.[29] Roche was a French viscountess studying painting at Oxford.[8] Ten years later Roche killed herself. "I could have done things which helped and I did things which harmed", he told The Guardian
The Guardian
in 1998. "So yes, I feel guilt, I feel remorse."[30] Bragg's second wife, Catherine Mary Haste, whom he married in 1973,[6] is also a television producer and writer, whose literary work includes editing the 2007 memoir of Clarissa Eden, widow of Lord Avon, and collaborating with Cherie Booth, wife of Tony Blair, on a 2004 book about the wives of British Prime Ministers. They have a son, Tom, and a daughter, Alice. In June 2016 it was reported that Bragg and Haste had separated amicably, and that Bragg now shared a home with former film assistant Gabriel Clare-Hunt, a woman with whom he had an affair in 1995.[31] Bragg has publicly discussed two nervous breakdowns that he has suffered, one in his teens and another in his 30s.[32] His first breakdown began at age 13; inspired by a passage in Wordsworth's The Prelude, in the following years he found ways to cope, including exploring the outdoors and the adoption of a strong work ethic, as well as meeting his first girlfriend.[8] The second followed his wife's suicide.[13] He traces the origin of a lifelong nervousness of public speaking to the experience of giving a reading from the lectern as a choirboy at age 6.[8] At the age of 75, his life was profiled in the BBC
Two television programme Melvyn Bragg: Wigton
to Westminster, first broadcast on 18 July 2015. He lives in Hampstead, London,[13] but still owns a house near his home town of Wigton.[8] He is a member of the Garrick Club[13] and a supporter of Arsenal F.C.[33] and Carlisle United. He is the Honorary President of the CUSC London Branch.[clarification needed] Positions and memberships[edit]

President of the National Campaign for the Arts (since 1986) Domus Fellow, St Catherine's College, Oxford
St Catherine's College, Oxford
(1990) Chairman of Border Television
Border Television
1990-96 (deputy chairman 1985-90)[9] Honorary Fellowship from Wadham College, Oxford
Wadham College, Oxford
(1995) Governor of the London School of Economics
London School of Economics
(since 1997) Peerage - Baron Bragg (since 1998) Chancellor of the University of Leeds
University of Leeds
(1999-2017) President of the charity MIND (2002)[9] Honorary Fellowship of the British Academy
British Academy
(2010), for "public understanding of the arts, literature and sciences"[1] Honorary Fellowship of Royal Society
Royal Society
(2010)[34] Honorary Doctorate of Literature (DLit), University College London (2014) President of the National Academy of Writing Vice President of the Friends of the British Library.[35] Chairman of the Arts Council Literature Panel Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour
Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour
(CH) (2018)[36]

Awards and honours[edit]

Literary prizes

Writers' Guild Screenplay Award (1966)[6] Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for Without a City Wall (1968) Time/Life Silver Pen Award for The Hired Man (1970)[6] Northern Arts Association Prose Award (1970) Bad Sex in Fiction Award
Bad Sex in Fiction Award
for A Time to Dance (1993) WH Smith Literary Award for The Soldier's Return (2000) Son of War, Crossing The Lines, and A Place in England, all long-listed for the Man Booker Prize

Film & television awards

Broadcasting Guild Award (1984) British Academy
British Academy
of Film and Television Arts Dimbleby Award (1986)[6] BAFTA
TV Award for An Interview with Dennis Potter (1995) BAFTA
Academy Fellowship Award (2010)[37] Best New Radio Series for Routes of English (2000)[9] Royal Television Society Lifetime Achievement Award (2015)

Other awards

Ivor Novello Musical Award (1985)[6] Honorary Degree from the Open University
Open University
as Doctor of the University. (1989) Namesake of Millom School Drama Studio (2005)[38] The South Bank Show
The South Bank Show
Lifetime Achievement Award (2010) Sandford St.Martin Trust Personal Award (2014)



For Want of a Nail (1965) The Second Inheritance (1966) Without a City Wall (1968) The Cumbrian Trilogy:

The Hired Man (1969) A Place in England (1970) Kingdom Come (1980)

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) 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) Now is the Time (2015)

Non-fiction books

Speak For England (1976) Land of The Lakes (1983) Laurence Olivier
Laurence Olivier
(1984) Cumbria in Verse (editor) (1984) Rich: The Life of Richard Burton (1988) King Lear in New York (1994) On Giants' Shoulders (1998) Two Thousand Years Part 1: The Birth of Christ to the Crusades (1999) Two Thousand Years Part 2 (1999) The Routes of English (2001) The Adventure of English (2003) Twelve Books That Changed the World (2006) In Our Time (editor) (2009) The Book of Books (2011)

Children's books

A Christmas Child (1977) My Favourite Stories of Lakeland (editor) (1981)


The Debussy Film (1965)[6] Isadora
(1968) (with Clive Exton and Margaret Drabble) Play Dirty (1968) The Music Lovers
The Music Lovers
(1970) (directed by Ken Russell) Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) (co-written and directed by Norman Jewison)


^ a b "Lord Bragg of Wigton
FRS FRSL FRTS". British Academy. Archived from the original on 12 January 2012. Retrieved 4 October 2011. Public understanding of the arts, literature and sciences. Broadcaster, presenter, interviewer, commentator, novelist, scriptwriter.  ^ Sherwin, Adam (25 March 2013). " Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg
calls on new BBC
boss to reverse 'shrinking arts coverage'". The Independent. London. Retrieved 25 April 2013.  ^ Hepworth, David (2 March 2013). "In Our Time: Melvyn Bragg's superior radio masterclass". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 25 April 2013.  ^ Lord Bragg of Wigton
(born 1939), leeds.ac.uk; retrieved 13 December 2017 ^ Gillen, Nancy. "Chancellor Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg
to officially reopen Edward Boyle Library on 13 July". Retrieved 2017-12-13.  ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Quicke, Andrew. "Melvyn Bragg". Encyclopedia of Television. Museum of Broadcast Communications. Retrieved 4 October 2011.  ^ a b Barratt, Nick (11 August 2007). "Family detective: Melvyn Bragg". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 8 April 2013.  ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Melvyn Bragg: Wigton
to Westminster, BBC
Two, 18 July 2015 ^ a b c d e f g The Guardian
The Guardian
profile: Melvyn Bragg, The Guardian, Steven Morris, 17 September 2004 ^ a b Article by Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg
in British Mensa Magazine, January 2002, p. 7. ^ Bignell, Jonathan (2012). Beckett on Screen: The Television Plays. Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0719064210.  ^ "ITV Fact File
on The South Bank Show". Itv.com. Retrieved 29 September 2014.  ^ a b c d e Melvyn Bragg: A Northern hero in our time, The Independent (London), 13 June 2014 ^ Simon Elmes, And Now on Radio 4: A Celebration of the World's Best Radio Station, London: Random House Books, 2007, pp. 72-73. ^ Melvyn Bragg, last of the ITV grandees, The Guardian, Ben Dowell, 6 May 2009 ^ Dowell, Ben (25 March 2013). " Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg
expected to stay with Sky Arts for two more years". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 25 April 2013.  ^ "The Value of Culture". Folksonomy. 4 January 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2013.  ^ " Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg
on Class and Culture", bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 3 April 2014. ^ "Images for Melvyn Bragg's Cultural Exchange". BBC. Retrieved 12 June 2013.  ^ " Royal Television Society announces new appointments Royal Television Society". rts.org.uk. Retrieved 2017-04-06.  ^ Profile: A time to dance back to Cumbria?: Melvyn Bragg, cultural supremo in a crisis, The Independent (London), 27 November 1993 ^ a b ""Luvvies" for Labour". BBC
News. 30 August 1998.  ^ Minutes and Order Paper - Minutes of Proceedings from the House of Lords, 28 October 1998. ^ "No. 55222". The London Gazette. 11 August 1998. p. 8731.  ^ "Bragg battles for hunting reprieve". BBC
News. 11 January 2001. Retrieved 17 July 2015.  ^ "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories". The Guardian. London. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.  ^ Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg
(11 June 2011). "Melvyn Bragg: My first steps back on the road to faith". The Daily Telegraph. London.  ^ Association, Press (30 August 2016). " Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg
accuses National Trust of bullying in farm row". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 September 2016 – via The Guardian.  ^ Guinness, Daphne (14 July 2008). "Melvyn in the Middle". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 14 July 2008. ...my first wife was an aristocrat. I didn't know that for a year.  ^ Burkeman, Oliver (6 June 2005). "Plato or Nietzsche? You choose". The Guardian. Manchester. Archived from the original on 9 November 2012.  ^ " Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg
'leaves wife to move in with woman 16 years his junior'". The Telegraph. London. 20 June 2016.  ^ Daphne Guinness
Daphne Guinness
(14 June 2008). "Melvyn in the middle". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 4 October 2011.  ^ " Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg
on becoming a fan – Arsenal, 1989". The Guardian. London. 17 May 2009.  ^ "Honorary Fellows of the Royal Society". Royalsociety.org. Retrieved 29 September 2014.  ^ " Friends of the British Library
Friends of the British Library
Annual Report 2006/07" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 April 2010. Retrieved 7 September 2009.  ^ "No. 62150". The London Gazette
The London Gazette
(Supplement). 30 December 2017. p. N26.  ^ " Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg
to receive BAFTA
Academy Fellowship Award". BBC
News. 1 June 2010.  ^ "Bragg opens namesake drama suite". BBC
News. 17 October 2005. Retrieved 4 October 2011. 

External links[edit]

Wikiquote has quotations related to: Melvyn Bragg

"Melvyn Bragg". Encyclopedia of Television. Museum of Broadcast Communications.  An interview with Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg
on Notebook on Cities and Culture Archival material at Leeds University Library

Academic offices

Preceded by The Duchess of Kent Chancellor of the University of Leeds 1999–2017 Succeeded by Dame Jane Francis, DCMG

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Michael Caine
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Stanley Kubrick
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Peter Bazalgette


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Albert Finney
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John Thaw
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Warren Beatty
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Dawn French
& Jennifer Saunders
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Terry Gilliam
(2009) Nolan Bushnell
Nolan Bushnell
(2009) Vanessa Redgrave
Vanessa Redgrave
(2010) Shigeru Miyamoto
Shigeru Miyamoto
(2010) Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg
(2010) Christopher Lee
Christopher Lee
(2011) Peter Molyneux
Peter Molyneux
(2011) Trevor McDonald (2011) Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese
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Rolf Harris
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Alan Parker
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Gabe Newell
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Michael Palin
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Helen Mirren
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Julie Walters
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Mike Leigh
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John Carmack
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Mel Brooks
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Joanna Lumley
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Ridley Scott

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Fellows of the Royal Society
Royal Society
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Melvyn Bragg


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Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 111930595 LCCN: n50043252 ISNI: 0000 0001 2284 1909 GND: 119520524 SUDOC: 02947874X BNF: cb12109735c (data) BIBSYS: 90265540 NLA: 35021236 NDL: 00763651 NKC: jn19990001015 BNE: XX1094131 SN