Edinburgh International Book Festival: Authors threaten to boycott 2024 event over sponsor’s fossil fuel links

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Authors participating in the Edinburgh International Book Festival are threatening to boycott next year’s event if organizers do not sever ties with “fossil fuel companies.” Over 50 authors and event chairs who are part of this year’s festival have stated that if main sponsor Baillie Gifford does not divest billions of cash, alternative sponsors should be found. If this does not happen, the group suggests that all authors should commit to boycotting the festival in 2024. Notable writers such as Ali Smith, Zadie Smith, and Gary Younge have signed an open letter to festival organizers, accusing Baillie Gifford, an investment management firm, of profiting from global disaster.

The authors argue that Baillie Gifford is seeking to use esteemed cultural institutions, like the Edinburgh Book Festival, as a cover for its continued operations. Nick Barley, director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, expressed that the festival will carefully consider the authors’ concerns and keep an open mind about how to proceed. This letter follows climate activist Greta Thunberg’s decision to pull out of the festival, accusing Baillie Gifford of “greenwashing.” The investment management firm refuted Thunberg’s claims, stating that only two percent of its clients’ money is invested in the fossil fuel sector.

However, the authors and event chairs claim that Baillie Gifford has up to £5 billion invested in fossil fuel corporations. They emphasize their solidarity with all people affected by the climate crisis and criticize Baillie Gifford for profiting from global disaster. Yara Rodrigues Fowler, author of “There Are More Things,” highlights the urgency of the climate crisis and argues that allowing Baillie Gifford to sponsor cultural events gives them a social license to continue funding the destruction of our planet.

Mikaela Loach, author of “It’s Not That Radical: Climate Action To Transform Our World,” questions why the Edinburgh International Book Festival would not burn books but is okay with burning the planet. She asserts that Baillie Gifford’s investments in corporations linked to the fossil fuel industry are unjustifiable. Guy Gunaratne, the author of “Mister, Mister,” emphasizes the need for the festival to send a clear message to its sponsors and demonstrate their understanding of the urgency and impact of the climate crisis.

In response to the letter, Nick Barley acknowledges the concerns about the devastating impact of fossil fuel exploitation on the climate. He promises careful consideration of the authors’ letter and asserts that the festival is not on the opposite side of the climate crisis. Barley explains that private sponsorship is necessary for the festival’s operation and defends the sponsorship agreement with Baillie Gifford by highlighting the company’s investment in resolving the crisis. Barley suggests engaging in discussion to address the complexities of the issue.

In conclusion, authors participating in the Edinburgh International Book Festival are demanding the end of the festival’s association with “fossil fuel companies.” They argue that these companies are profiting from global disaster and are using esteemed cultural institutions as a cover. Festival organizers have promised to consider the concerns raised by the authors and defend their sponsorship agreement with Baillie Gifford by highlighting the company’s investments in resolving the crisis. The debate between the authors and festival organizers echoes the broader discussion about the role of sponsorship, climate change, and the responsibility of cultural institutions in addressing environmental issues.

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