I picked up the Brighton Festival programme at the station a few months back and was overwhelmed with the range of events on offer. I’m doing a MA in Critical and Creative Writing and Ali Smith had already been in to speak, so I was interested to see what she would include in the month’s events, and I wasn’t disappointed. At all! My only challenge was to choose what to see.
‘Boldness in the Face of a Blank Page’ was the title of Jeanette Winterson’s talk, and it wa great to be able to take up a friend’s spare ticket as I’d missed out on buying my own – tickets sold really quickly. The talk took place the night of the general election, and Winterson had a great rapport with the left leaning audience who’s main concerns were ‘Labour or green?’ She started by explaining how her talk had little to do with the title, which she had come up with when called by the festival co-ordinators! Despite that disclaimer, her talk was full of boldness and took us through her personal slant on writing. She is a sparky well-informed speaker, mixing quotes from her own work with others. A quote that stuck with me ties in with my own research on story:
‘Of course that is not the whole story, but that is the way with stories; we make them what we will. It’s a way of explaining the universe while leaving the universe unexplained, it’s a way of keeping it all alive, not boxing it into time. Everyone who tells a story tells it differently, just to remind us that everybody sees it differently. Some people say there are true things to be found, some people say all kinds of things can be proved. I don’t believe them. The only thing for certain is how complicated it all is, like string full of knots. It’s all there but hard to find the beginning and impossible to fathom the end. The best you can do is admire the cat’s cradle and maybe knot it up a bit more.’
Jeanette Winterson Oranges are Not the Only Fruit P119 Vantage London 2014
So, the talk was great, the Dome was packed and the audience asked relevant and mostly interesting questions: in a lot of ways it was very typical of the whole Brighton Festival experience. Brighton is a unique city, with a mix of artists and tech-specialists, right on the coast. Walk through the city and you’ll see amazing fashion and style too, street performers, and posters for the hundreds of events that formed part of the Brighton Festival Fringe. As well as the Winterson talk, there were other literary events, lots of theatre and book readings for adults and kids, events ranging from Jaqueline Wilson and Noggin the Nog to Ali Smith’s own talk. And somehow in there, Smith wove themes such as Art and Nature, and Crossing Places, looking at the crossover between art forms, to create a wonderful month of events that drew together the best of Brighton and beyond.