James Runcie

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James Runcie
Born (1959-05-07) 7 May 1959 (age 63)
Cambridge, England
EducationDragon School
Marlborough College
Alma materTrinity Hall, Cambridge
OccupationNovelist, documentary filmmaker, television producer, theatre director
(m. 1985; died 2020)
Children1 daughter, 1 stepdaughter
Parent(s)Robert Runcie
Rosalind Runcie

James Robert Runcie (born 7 May 1959)[1] is a British novelist, documentary filmmaker, television producer and playwright.[2] He is Commissioning Editor for Arts on BBC Radio 4,[3] a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a visiting professor at Bath Spa University.

Early life and education[edit]

Runcie was born in Cambridge, the son of Robert Runcie, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, and Rosalind Runcie, a classical pianist.[4] He was educated at the Dragon School in Oxford,[5] Marlborough College, and Trinity Hall, Cambridge.

In 1981, he earned a first-class English degree from Cambridge University. After Cambridge, Runcie went on to attend Bristol Old Vic Theatre School briefly.


Runcie has written the novels Canvey Island (2006), The Discovery of Chocolate (2001), The Colour of Heaven (2003) and East Fortune (2009).

In 2012, the publication of Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death drew a favourable critical reception.[6][7] The book, which consists of six short stand-alone mysteries, is the first in a series of six works of detective fiction, entitled The Grantchester Mysteries. The second, Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night, was published in 2013. The third, Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil, was published in 2014, followed by Sidney Chambers and the Forgiveness of Sins in 2015 and then Sidney Chambers and the Dangers of Temptation in 2016. The series concluded with Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love in 2017, but a prequel, The Road to Grantchester, was published in 2019.[8]

Runcie's prequel to The Grantchester Mysteries, The Road to Grantchester plays out from 1943-1951 and features Sidney Chambers' war-service with the Scots Guards in Italy, his first main love, his decision to become a clergyman, and his curacy amidst the ruins of post-war Coventry. It was published by Bloomsbury in March 2019 and will be released in the United States in May.[9]

Runcie is published by Bloomsbury Publishing. His sleuth novels have been adapted as an ITV drama titled Grantchester. Filmed on location in Grantchester, Cambridge and London, the initial six-part series was shown in the UK in Autumn 2014. The second to fifth series were broadcast respectively in 2016, 2017, 2019, and 2020.

Runcie also writes lifestyle pieces about family and literature for major UK newspapers.[10][11][12]

Work in media[edit]

From 1983 to 1985, Runcie worked in radio drama for BBC Scotland as a writer and director. His work included Miss Julie, The White Devil, Roderick Hudson, Men Should Weep, and A Private Grief.[13]

More recently, Runcie has produced Arts, Music, and History programmes for the BBC. He is a freelance director of documentary films, and has produced documentaries featuring the writers Hilary Mantel, J. K. Rowling and J. G. Ballard, as well as making My Father, filmed a week before Robert Runcie's death, and the six-part series How Buildings Learn. He works freelance for the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4. He has worked with presenters including David Starkey, Griff Rhys Jones, Andrew Motion, Alain de Botton, and Simon Schama.

In 2009, Runcie was appointed Artistic Director of the Bath Literature Festival.[14] He left the post in 2013 to take up a position as Head of Literature and Spoken Word at the Southbank Centre in London.[15]

J.K. Rowling: A Year in the Life

From October 2006 to October 2007, Runcie spent a year filming J.K. Rowling: A Year in the Life for ITV, as the author was completing the final novel in the Harry Potter cycle, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The programme featured intimate access to Rowling's daily life, and included deeply personal interviews about her childhood and her own struggles with her writing process.[16] The film frequently shows Rowling in tears when she remembers her life before writing the Harry Potter books. Runcie conducted his own interviews and narrated the film; when it was shown in the United States, additional commentary was provided by Elizabeth Vargas.[17] This film was transmitted on 30 December 2007 by ITV and included in the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince DVD as a supplement.


Runcie won a Royal Television Society award for his film Miss Pym's Day Out in 1992, starring Patricia Routledge as the novelist Barbara Pym, and he has also received Royal Television Society nominations for How Buildings Learn and The Gentle Art of Making Enemies. Miss Pym's Day Out was also nominated for a BAFTA Huw Wheldon Award for the Best Arts Programme in 1992.

He won two BAFTA Scotland Radio Drama Awards for Watching Waiters and Mrs Lynch's Maggot, and he was nominated for a BAFTA award for the film Great Composers – Bach.

Personal life[edit]

Runcie married in 1985 the theatre director and radio drama producer Marilyn Imrie,[18] who died in 2020.[19] They had one daughter together, Charlotte Runcie (born 1989), who currently writes as a literary, television and radio critic for the Daily Telegraph.[20] He is also stepfather to Imrie's daughter Rosie Kellagher (born 1978), who is a freelance theatre director.[21]


  1. ^ "Biography". James Runcie Official website. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  2. ^ "Plays". James Runcie Official website. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  3. ^ "James Runcie appointed as BBC Radio 4's new Commissioning Editor for Arts". BBC website. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  4. ^ Humphrey Carpenter, Robert Runcie: The Reluctant Archbishop. Hodder & Stoughton, 1996, pp. 269–272. ISBN 0-340-57107-1.
  5. ^ Desmond Devitt (ed.), A Diversity of Dragons, 2003. pp. 51–52, "An affair to remember".[dead link]
  6. ^ Barry Forshaw, "Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, By James Runcie", The Independent, 21 May 2012.
  7. ^ Marilyn Stasio, "Chilled to the Bone" (new books), The New York Times, 11 May 2012.
  8. ^ James Runcie, "Grantchester Mysteries", James Runcie official website, 13 Jan 2019
  9. ^ "jamesruncie.com".
  10. ^ James Runcie, "Sins of the father (and mother) - James Runcie always faced a hard task in living up to his parents' expectations – his father was Archbishop of Canterbury after all. But then he realised he was imposing a worse burden on his own children." The Guardian, 21 March 2009. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
  11. ^ James Runcie, "James Runcie's top 10 books about brothers", The Guardian, 14 April 2009. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
  12. ^ From "Kissing joy as it flies", Daily Telegraph, 1991. James Runcie. Retrieved 28 November 2010. Archived 13 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Film C.V. James Runcie. Retrieved 28 November 2010. Archived 25 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Bath Festivals Archived 3 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine. Bath Literature Festival. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
  15. ^ Bath Box Office news Archived 25 February 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Gaby Wood, "JK Rowling: Secret darkness behind The Casual Vacancy", The Telegraph, 27 September 2012.
  17. ^ Mike Hale, "The Woman Behind the Boy Wizard", The New York Times, 15 July 2009.
  18. ^ Lundy, Darryl. "Marilyn Elsie Imrie". The Peerage.[unreliable source]
  19. ^ "Marilyn Imrie obituary". The Times. 16 September 2020. Archived from the original on 16 September 2020. Retrieved 16 March 2022.
  20. ^ The Daily Telegraph, "Charlotte Runcie", The Daily Telegraph, 28 May 2016
  21. ^ Neil Cooper, "New voices, new directions and no resting on their laurels", Herald Scotland, 3 April 2007. Retrieved 28 November 2010.

External links[edit]