Ali Smith awarded Hay Festival Medal for Prose

Novelist Ali Smith was awarded the Hay Festival Medal for Prose today (Sunday 6 June) at Hay Festival 2021.

Awarded annually since Britain’s Olympic year in 2012, Hay Festival Medals draw inspiration from the original Olympic medal given for poetry. With Athena as muse, silversmith Christopher Hamilton crafts the owl-themed medal locally.

Smith is the fourth and final recipient of a Hay Festival Medal for 2021, the others being poet Benjamin Zephaniah (Medal for Poetry), journalist George Monbiot (Medal for Journalism), and Oscar-winning actor Emerald Fennell (Medal for Drama). 

This year’s Hay Festival features an exclusive live screening of a one-off film entitled Summer, created by Ali Smith and Sarah Wood to celebrate the conclusion of her seasonal quartet. 

Ali Smith is one of Britain’s foremost contemporary novelists. A pioneer of innovative, narratively experimental fiction, she began her career with the short story collection Free Love and Other Stories. Since then her work has ranged widely and experimentally, garnering numerous awards and prize nominations. 

Her books include: Hotel World, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Orange Women’s Prize for Fiction, The Accidental, shortlisted for the Man Booker and winner of a Whitbread Award, Girl Meets Boy (part of the Canongate Myth series), There But For The, and How to Be Both, which won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, the Goldsmiths Prize and the Costa Novel Award and was shortlisted for the Man Booker and the Folio Prize. Smith’s latest project is a ‘seasonal quartet’ of novels beginning with the Booker Prize-shortlisted novel Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer.

Smith said: “Thank you for this kindness and for such openness to the Seasonal books. I'm delighted to have this bright owl and honoured to have my name written anywhere near her. Tell you what, I wish I could give you all a medal. The Hay Festival is one for all seasons, balm in a calm, a mainstay in a storm.”

Hay Festival artist manager Heather Salisbury said: "As Ali Smith reaches the culmination of her extraordinary seasonal quartet, it's our honour to celebrate her work – and its resonant power –  with our Hay Festival Medal for Prose. In a year of challenges that have put a strain on the very idea of togetherness, we have found storytellers to be the greatest defenders of community and empathy, and for that there is no one better than Smith."

Hay Festival 2021 started on Wednesday 26 May, bringing writers and readers together for an inspiring array of conversations, debates, workshops, and performances online. Over the past 12 days, more than 300 acclaimed writers, global policy makers, historians, poets, pioneers, and innovators have taken part, launching the best new fiction and non-fiction and interrogating some of the biggest issues of our time, from building a better world post-pandemic to tackling the compound crises of climate change, inequality and challenges to truth and democracy. 

Festivalgoers can register free for the final events now at hayfestival.org/wales