Beautiful crisp white roses on fresh green stems, ice cubes swirling in pools of beige cream, and red berries perched on top of 1920’s style glasses. This was the beautiful scene set at the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Awards that took place on Wednesday night at South Bank’s Royal Festival Hall. I was invited along as not only a blogger, but as a passionate reader and an aspiring female writer…
The room was packed with book agents, book editors, book reviewers, book sellers, novelists, poets, journalists, bloggers, you name them they were there; the room was filled with so many passionate people, including: Sophie Ellis-Bextor and her mother Janet Ellis, Jameela Jamil, Susanna Reid, Perdita Weeks, Giles Coren and a number of The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction judges such as Shami Chakrabarti & Laura Bates. We all toasted to the wonderful female writers who not only made the short list, but the long list too (I was originally cheering for Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healy). It was fantastic to be surrounded by so many ambitious people; I heard so many inspiring stories and tips, including a male novelist explain that the first 44 book agents he applied to all rejected him but he still kept on going – I’ve so much admiration for his passion and determination, I wish I could pinch some, even just a little!
For two years now Baileys have supported the Women in Fiction prize and personally I think the two brand works so well together as partners for this wonderful celebration. For me, reading is all about relaxing, it’s about taking the time to sit down and escape my own world and enter someone else’s. And what better way to relax than to curl up with a good novel and a warm Baileys latte, or perhaps now that it’s summer, I can relax on my balcony in the summer evening’s with a book and a Baileys cocktail.
Speaking of Baileys cocktails, the drinks being served on this warm and wonderful evening were fabulous! There were Baileys Flat White Martini’s, Baileys on ice and Baileys Chocolate Luxe toppled with a raspberry (oh, and champagne of course). I instantly went for a Baileys Martini before moving onto the Chocolate Luxe for something a little sweeter. Beautiful trays of food were also being served up too; tiny tasty canapes including salmon ceviche with avocado and lime and chicken liver & Cognac parfait on brioche toast as well as Baileys infused desserts; Baileys Chocolat Luxe mousse and Baileys Original Irish Cream panna cotta. NOM!
After 40 minutes of nibbles and Baileys cocktails, it was time for the evenings host – broadcaster, author and DJ, Lauren Laverne – to kick off the ceremony. There were some wonderfully inspiring words said by all the Women who spoke, including an opening speech by novelist and founder of the Womens Prize for Fiction, Kate Mosse. Kate originally set up the Womens Prize for Fiction in 1992 when researchers discovered that only 10% of novelists shortlisted for the Booker had been women. I’m in awe of her. She not only started such an amazing idea 23 years ago, but she also looks bloody Fabulous!
Wonderful and empowering speeches were also made by Syl Saller, Chief Marketing Officer for Diageo, and Grazia Editor Natasha Pearlman who presented the awards for the Grazia First Chapter Prize. And finally Shami Chakrabarti, Chair of Judges, whose comedic but overall inspiring speech, lead the room into the announcement of the Winner of the 2015 Baileys Women in Fiction Prize.
Ali Smith won the Baileys Prize for her book How to be Both and I was so emotional watching her collect her award. As I stood on the front row applauding her, my eyes teared up a little (which i think you can see in the video below). Ali seemed so genuinely surprised and so delighted and she just kept saying “I can’t believe it” along with a million “Thank you, Thank you, Thank you’s” and I got a shiver right up my spine as I imagined just how wonderful that feeling must be, and I thought of all my writer friends who I one day hope to see stood collecting such a prize. And she certainly deserved it, Shami Chakrabarti said “I think she is a literary genius.”
To check out all the amazing authors who made the short list and long list go to womensprizeforfiction.co.uk and to get a taste of the event itself (and the Baileys) watch the video below: