Melvyn Bragg, Baron Bragg FRSL FRTS FRS FBA born 6 October 1939, is an English author, broadcaster and media personality who, aside from his many literary endeavours, is perhaps most recognised for his work on The South Bank Show.
Bragg was born in Wigton, the son of Mary Ethel (Park), a tailoress, and Stanley Bragg, a stock keeper turned mechanic. He attended the Nelson Thomlinson School in Wigton and then read Modern History at Wadham College, Oxford, in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Bragg says that he has suffered two nervous breakdowns in his life, one in his teens, and another in his 30s.
Bragg married his first wife, Lisa Roche, when he was 21, and they had one child, a daughter.He did not know that she had a history of suicide attempts; 10 years later, she killed herself after he left her for another woman. "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."
Bragg's second wife, Cate (Catherine) Haste, whom he married in 1973, 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.
He is a friend of Tony Blair, the former Labour Prime Minister. In 1998 Bragg was named in a list of the largest private financial donors to the Labour Party.
He started his career in 1961 as a general trainee at the BBC, spending his first two years in radio at the BBC World Service, then at the BBC Third Programme and BBC Home Service. He then joined the production team of Huw Wheldon's Monitor arts series on BBC Television. His work as a writer and broadcaster began in 1967.
He is best known for the London Weekend Television (LWT) arts programme The South Bank Show, which he edited and presented from 1978-2010. 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), The Routes of English, (mapping the history of the English language) , and In Our Time (1998 to present).
Bragg is a prolific novelist and writer of non-fiction, and 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 a largely autobiographical story.
He is also a Vice President of the Friends of the British Library, a charity set up to provide funding support to the British Library.
Bragg was appointed to the House of Lords in 1998 as a Labour life peer, under the title Baron Bragg, of Wigton in the County of Cumbria.
In June 1989 Bragg was awarded an Honorary Degree from the Open University as Doctor of the University. In 1999 Bragg was appointed Chancellor of the University of Leeds. He is President of the National Campaign for the Arts (since 1986), President of the mental health charity Mind, and a Governor of the London School of Economics (since 1997). He was made Domus Fellow, St Catherine's College, Oxford, in 1990, he received an Honorary Fellowship from Wadham College, Oxford, in 1995 and he holds 13 honorary doctorates. He became a member of the Arts Council Literature Panel in 1969 and has since become Chairman.
On 17 October 2005, Bragg officially opened the "Melvyn Bragg Drama Studio", named in his honour, at Millom School, Millom, Cumbria.
In 2010, he was made a Fellow of the British Academy, the Royal Society and BAFTA.