Ali Smith heads up stunning first day at Charleston Festival

Ali Smith
Ali Smith

Ali Smith, recently elected by the Times Literary Supplement as the best contemporary author in the UK, gets Charleston Festival (May 18-28) off to a great start when she showcases her new story at the opening event on Friday, May 18 (12.30pm).

Ali’s story, which was specially commissioned by Charleston, is inspired by the Famous Women Dinner Service created by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant in 1932.

Of the dinner service, Ali says: “A free-form, free-wheeling, plate-spinning celebration of the service – its fruitfulness, its witty politic, its Woolfian routing of tradition and its brilliantly crafted, crafty reinterpretation of everything from notions of service to doing the dishes.”

Ali’s novel, How to Be Both, won the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, and Winter, her second novel in a seasonal quartet, was published last year.

She also won Charleston’s Small Wonder festival award for her outstanding contribution to short fiction.

Ali Smith heads up a stunning first day at the festival.

She will be followed at 3pm by last year’s Turner Prize winner Lubaina Himid. Lubaina will discuss her “wilderness years” with Jennifer Higgie, editorial director of Frieze magazine, who is currently adapting her novel Bedlam for the screen.

Lubaina was born in Zanzibar and brought up in the UK. Her work is theatrical, witty and challenging, addressing both colonial history and racism.

The Turner Prize judges praised her “expansive and exuberant approach to painting, which combines satire and a sense of theatre.”

At 5.30pm politician turned director of the V&A, Tristram Hunt, will talk about the museum’s new extension, with its porcelain-tiled courtyard leading to a vast exhibition space. He will also discuss his ambitions for the new area with RIBA Stirling Prize-winning architect Amanda Levete.

The opening day concludes with a rare opportunity to hear Booker Prize-winner Alan Hollinghurst talk about his sixth novel, The Sparsholt Affair, which examines the relationships among a group of friends across three generations, from the Second World War to contemporary London.

He will discuss the novel and his writing career with Charlotte Mendelson, novelist, literary critic and author of Rhapsody in Green.

This event begins at 7.30pm.

The full festival programme can be viewed on charleston.org.uk/festival.

There is a shuttle bus to and from Lewes train station for all the events.

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