The announcement comes hot on the heels of Smith’s winning of the Goldsmiths Prize 2014 - a new literary award for boldly original fiction that sets out to recognise work that opens up new possibilities for the novel form - for her latest novel How to be Both which was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014.
Recently described as an ‘heir to Virginia Woolf’, Smith has established herself as a pioneer of form – fearlessly pushing the boundaries of the novel with a deftness and accessibility that has earned her a reputation for being both vitally inventive and scrupulously playful. Her latest novel is her most experimental and idiosyncratic yet; borrowing from painting's fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it is a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions.
Smith’s numerous other acclaimed novels, short story and essay collections include The Accidental (shortlisted for the Man Booker and the Orange Prize), Hotel World (shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Orange Prize) and There but for the.
Established in 1967, Brighton Festival has a rich history of pushing boundaries. In its inaugural year the programme controversially included the first ever exhibition of Concrete Poetry in the UK, alongside performances by Lawrence Olivier, Anthony Hopkins and Yehudi Menuhin. Now one of Europe’s leading arts festivals for artists and audiences, Brighton Festival is known for commissioning and producing an ambitious programme that aims to make the most of the city’s distinctive cultural atmosphere. It has been widely recognised for presenting exciting site specific work, thought provoking debate and newly commissioned works.
The seventh Guest Director of Brighton Festival, Ali Smith takes on the mantle from visual artist Anish Kapoor (2009), musician Brian Eno (2010), Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi (2011), actress and human rights campaigner Vanessa Redgrave (2012), poet, author and former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen (2013) and choreographer, composer and performer Hofesh Shechter (2014) in shaping the three-week programme of cultural events.
On her role and her thinking behind Brighton Festival 2015 Ali Smith says: “Imagine the world seen from the eye of a bird. Migrating birds are born naturally equipped with maps that even new-born birds know how to follow, maps of landscapes with no borders. Birds with nothing but the urge to flock together, get there, be here now. Imagine the borders between the artforms. Imagine them opened, crossed, melted, made invisible, so that poetry meets music meets theatre meets dance meets thought meets sculptural meets rhythm meets fiction meets the natural world. I'm a fan of the unexpected connection, the crossing places between the art forms, the place where they meet, open to each other and fuse into something more.
The word festival comes from the place where the word for feast crosses into the word for joyful, happy, honouring, celebratory. The word Brighton, in the month of May: that means festival.”
Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival says: “We are delighted to have welcomed Ali Smith on board as Guest Director for Brighton Festival 2015. Her contribution brings a new focus for us, at the same time as continuing the tradition of prominent artistic figures who have brought their particular knowledge and experience of the arts to the programme. At once deeply playful and deeply serious, Ali Smith brings a sensibility which perfectly mirrors the ambition of Brighton Festival – a willingness to take imaginative risks, defy genres, push boundaries and celebrate a love of art in all its infinite forms and varieties. I am certain that Ali Smith will bring a very special element to next year’s Festival and I look forward to welcoming audiences to experience it in May.”
The annual celebration of music, theatre, dance, circus, art, film, literature, debate, outdoor and family events will take place in venues across the city and beyond from 2 to 24 May 2015. Full programme details including events in which she will be participating will be available at the launch on Wednesday 18 February 2015.