Guest post: An open letter

Originally a comment by KBPlayer on Shortcut.

The activists have succeeded in forcing the Edinburgh Book Festival to drop sponsorship from Baillie Gifford because of their threatened disruption. The activists are such little shits – book festivals are about the safest place around to let off smoke bombs or whatever crap they do. This will damage the book festival, and of course the writers involved. According to Jenny Lindsay, the poet who was hounded out of Edinburgh by transactivists, one of her worst tormentors is part of this anti-book crusade.

There is an open letter from about every well-known Scottish writer, excluding Irvine Welsh, Ian Rankin and J K Rowling (who is English rather than Scottish but has lived here for decades) lamenting the loss of sponsorship.

“We are writers who are profoundly concerned about the fate of the UK’s book festivals and other cultural events, and the likely consequences of calls for boycotts related to festival sponsorship by Baillie Gifford. In particular we are deeply concerned about the future of the Edinburgh International Book Festival (EIBF).

As citizens, we are absolutely right to keep up the pressure for fossil fuel divestment. We also call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, and for the release of hostages.

However, a strategy of protest which results in EIBF being left without a principal sponsor will jeopardise its future: this would be a Pyrrhic victory, and merely deprive writers and activists of platform and influence.

As public discourse deteriorates and divisions widen, we believe that books and book festivals offer an increasingly rare opportunity for the community of writers and readers to come together in the free and civil exchange of ideas. Many of our number are actively involved in climate action, environmental and social justice issues. Book festivals allow writers subject to discrimination or harassment in their home countries to have their work and their cases heard (we think of the PEN Imprisoned Writers readings, a daily feature of EIBF).

Invitations to UK book festivals are a way for writers from places of conflict, including Palestine and Ukraine, to travel and share their stories.

For this vital cultural work we require a cultural infrastructure. We believe that boycotts which threaten such platforms, and which pressure other writers to comply, are deeply retrograde. Protest is of course our right and duty, but protest actions that risk the collapse of book festivals are ill-thought-out. For whom, exactly, would this be a victory?

To have any effect on investment practices we must exert the kind of influence only friends have over each other. We believe that story-telling, witness, theatre, poetry, conversation, reading and argumentation are crucial to this process, and that it would be perverse to destroy the means of our own political leverage and influence.

Our work depends on the robustness and integrity of the platforms that allow us to broadcast and promote our words, and to engage and meet our readers. Without the support of EIBF and other book festivals, and without the spaces provided by theatres and other cultural venues, our voices will merely grow quieter, and our young and emerging writers may never be heard at all.

Here in Scotland we recall that the Edinburgh Festivals – now a global phenomenon – were established as gestures of peace-making after WW2. The EIBF is a more recent addition, and we are proud of its success and the mutual support it has established with Scottish authors and authors worldwide. If the EIBF loses its long-term sponsor the reach of these authors will be palpably reduced. We call on writers and book workers to engage in dialogue to find ethically acceptable solutions whereby our festivals are not silenced.”

Alan Riach; Alexander McCall Smith; Ali Millar; Alistair Moffat; Andrew Greig; Andrew Neilson; Andrew O’Hagan; Bernard McLaverty; Catherine Czerkawska; Chris Brookmyre; Claudia Daventry; Colin Grant; Dan Richards; David Farrier; David Greig; Denise Mina; Don Paterson; Doug Johnstone; Elaine Morrison; Esa Aldegheri; Ever Dundas; Fiona Rintoul; Gavin Francis; Gerda Stevenson; Gerry Cambridge; Hannah McGill; Prof. Ian Brown; Ian MacPherson; Jackie Kay; James Robertson; Jen Stout; Jenny Colgan; Jenny Lindsay; Jim Crumley; John Glenday; Karine Polwart; Kathleen Jamie; Lesley Harrison; Linda Cracknell; Lisa Brockwell; Liz Lochead; Magi Gibson; Marisa Haetzman; Marjorie Lotfi; Mark Billingham; Merryn Glover; Michael Longley; Neal Ascherson; Niall Campbell; Peter Dorward; Peter Ross; Polly Clark; Raja Shehadeh; Richard Holloway; Ricky Ross; Robert Crawford; Robert Dawson Scott; Rodge Glass; Ron Butlin; Sam Baker; Sara Sheridan; Sarah Moss; Sean O’Brien; Stewart Conn; Stuart Kelly; Sue Lawrence; Tom Pow; Val McDermid; Zinnie Harris;

Scottish writers criticise ‘perverse’ protest over Edinburgh book festival as Baillie Gifford sponsorship ends (

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