A Midsummer Evening with Ali Smith
Young Ambassador Amelia Platt reports from Ali Smith’s special event to mark the opening of the National Centre for Writing

Amelia Platt, a student at Litcham School, joined the National Centre for Writing team as a Young Ambassador in 2017. She was a special guest at our event with Ali Smith to mark the opening of the National Centre for Writing in June.

I was lucky enough to attend ‘A Midsummer Evening with Ali Smith’. The event celebrated the launch of the National Centre for Writing and was a brilliant experience.

The evening consisted of a conversation between the Chief Executive of the National Centre for Writing, Chris Gribble, and Ali Smith, the bestselling author of Autumn and How to be Both (to name a couple!)

To begin with, Smith read from her latest novel, Winter.  This is the second book in a quartet (the first being Autumn.) It was incredibly powerful to hear Smith read her work aloud. She imbued her words with energy, giving them great power.

The event then moved on to the conversation between Chris Gribble and Ali Smith. I thought the structure of this part was excellent as it was very informal allowing the audience to feel very much part of the conversation. A wide range of topics were discussed. One area was Smith’s inspirations. She listed Muriel Spark, Margaret Atwood and the artist Pauline Boty. Smith urged the audience to rediscover Spark’s work citing its value in today’s society. Also interesting was hearing how the current events of Brexit and Trump have influenced Smith’s writing. It reinforced the message of writing playing a crucial role in today’s society as a form of explanation and protest.

the evening was representative of the work of the Centre; championing powerful, bold and creative work

We also learnt more about Smith’s quartet which includes Autumn and Winter. Smith talked about how for many years she had wanted to write a series about the seasons.

Hearing Smith talking about her writing was fascinating, an incredible insight into a unique and creative mind. She talked about the writer not choosing the story but the story choosing the writer.  This, in particular, was very interesting. Smith described how when planning her initial ideas she uses a pencil. This allows her to see actual evidence of her working. Smith also shared how when she writes she does so on a computer without the Internet. This prevents any distractions. I felt this was a powerful image. Pure stories created without dilution.

The event also included a Q & A session with the audience. Great questions were asked from the musicality of Smith’s work to the challenges of publishing. It was brilliant to hear the voices and ideas of Smith’s readers. The event finished with a book signing.

Overall the evening was a brilliant experience.  It was powerful, emotive, fascinating and unique. The evening was a fantastic way to launch National Centre for Writing. In many ways the evening was representative of the work of the Centre; championing powerful, bold and creative work. After leaving the event I was filled with excitement at what else the National Centre for Writing holds in store!

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