Wow, what a week. I’ve just about caught my breath after a week of incredible festivities to celebrate the twentieth year of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and am looking forward to a weekend of much needed R&R; though having now finished the shortlist I’m hoping to make a considerable dent in Tolstoy’s War & Peace.
After Monday’s panel event which saw a fabulous group of women discussing the books that most inspired them (you can read about it here), came the 2015 Shortlist Readings, hosted by chair judge of the Baileys Prize, Shami Chakrabarti. Five of the six shortlisted authors were there to read from their novels; while the wonderful Stanley Tucci stood in place of Anne Tyler, reading an extract from the poetic and brilliant A Spool of Blue Thread. For me, the very best thing about the Shortlist Readings is the electric atmosphere of a room packed with book-lovers and that the books really come alive when read by their authors.
And so to the awards ceremony. After two very grey days in London, the sun shone bright on Wednesday, ready for the winner of the 2015 prize to be announced. Hosted by Lauren Laverne in the Southbank’s Clore Ballroom there were speeches from co-founder Kate Mosse, CMO of Diageo Syl Saller and chair judge, Shami Chakrabarti, all of whom spoke passionately about the importance of women and the power of books to much cheer and applause from the 900-strong audience.
When Ali Smith was announced as winner of the 2015 Baileys Women’s prize for Fiction, her surprise was palpable (you can watch the announcement here), and her humble and unpresuming nature made her all the more endearing. Post-announcement the evening flew by and before I knew it the sun had set, the drinks had been drunk and the Clore Ballroom was empty once more.
An incredible, inspiring and phenomenal three days, this week has done nothing but further instil my love for books and my admiration for the judges, the board, the authors, and all involved in the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. To end, my favourite quote of the evening, from the wonderful Kate Mosse: ‘Fiction can and does make a difference. We will continue to champion women’s voices.’