Talks & debates

Zadie Smith: Swing Time

Hear Zadie Smith read from her new novel, Swing Time, and talk about her fiction, essays and how dance inspires her writing.

From the multi award-winning novel White Teeth, to the Orange Prize for Fiction winner On Beauty and the Baileys Prize for Fiction shortlisted NW, Zadie Smith has chronicled contemporary London and the diverse characters who make up the life of the city.

Swing Time deepens this homeward journey but also expands it across the globe, following the friendship of two brown girls who both dream of being dancers. Their lives take different courses: one becoming a member of the chorus line, the other PA to a famous singer whose grand philanthropic aspirations see the story move from London to West Africa. With her characteristic insight and wit, Zadie Smith captures the inequalities of the present and the lifelong dance of friendship.

An essential writer for our times, hear Zadie Smith reflect on fiction, friendship and capturing a changing world on the page, as she speaks at Royal Festival Hall – the venue the narrator of Swing Time visits at the start of the novel:

‘When I reached the South Bank the first thing I saw was a poster advertising an afternoon event with an Austrian film director ‘in conversation’, it was starting in twenty minutes at the Royal Festival Hall. I decided on a whim to try and get a ticket. I walked over and was able to buy a seat in the gods, in the very back row. I didn’t expect much, I only wanted to be distracted from my own problems for a while, to sit in darkness, and hear a discussion of films I’d never seen, but in the middle of the programme the director asked his interviewer to roll a clip from the movie Swing Time, a film I know very well, I only watched it over and over as a child. I sat up tall in my seat. On the huge screen before me Fred Astaire danced with three silhouetted figures.’

Zadie Smith is in conversation with Ted Hodgkinson, Southbank Centre's Senior Programmer, Literature and Spoken Word.

Dates & times

This event has passed.


Royal Festival Hall


50% off (limited availability)
Find out more about our Concessions policy