Our response to today's statement from Fossil Free Books

Our response to today's statement from Fossil Free Books

There has been a huge amount of discussion in recent weeks and months around the funding that we - and other literary festivals and prizes - receive from Baillie Gifford and, following today’s statement from Fossil Free Books, we want to give everyone more information about where we stand, and our relationship with Baillie Gifford.

The first thing to say is that we share the concerns of authors and activists around the devastating situation in Gaza, and the importance of fossil fuel divestment. We too want change, to work within a more equitable and sustainable system, and to see an immediate ceasefire.  

We are a charity operating amongst huge financial uncertainty, and are both in need of and very grateful to everyone who funds us, so we can make the Festival happen. We make constant choices about the funding we accept, based on our Ethical Fundraising policy - which includes clear clauses on fossil fuels, human rights and arms manufacturing. 

We believe that Baillie Gifford is part of the solution in transitioning towards a more sustainable world, that we share values, and we are confident that they operate in line with our Ethical Fundraising policy. Though we can’t speak on Baillie Gifford’s behalf, information shared about them is misleading, and they have spoken about this publicly today:

We encourage everyone to do their own research on these important topics.

We want to be as accessible as possible, and for everyone to feel welcome and part of our community. The funding we receive from Baillie Gifford supports our Children’s and Schools programme, which offers free access to events and a free book for every attending pupil, as well as subsidised travel for schools to make their visit possible. Without their contribution, this crucial work simply will not happen.  

As the conflict in Gaza continues to unfold, so many of us want to challenge the status quo and register our horror. The Book Festival is where this can happen; it is where progressive and nuanced discussion can happen in a safe and respectful space. We welcome authors who take up the opportunities to speak to their concerns from the stage, and want the voices of activists to be part of these conversations. Our support of authors to express their political opinions and issues of conscience remains unchanged.

Removing voices from the important discussions that take place during our Festival means losing the richness of viewpoints and ideas exchanged at a time when we need these nuanced conversations more than ever. Our programme this year uplifts the voices of those directly affected by the conflict, and those engaged at the most senior levels in conflict resolution. We explore the real challenges involved in transition, green tech and climate finance, misinformation and the need for new economic models. And we want your voices in those conversations.

We want to work together with Fossil Free Books, and other groups, as we move towards a more sustainable future. And we continue to speak to Baillie Gifford, and our other sponsors, about these complex issues.

We welcome authors and activists to join us in August, along with the tens of thousands of people who visit the Festival each year. We thank everyone who continues to trust us to be a safe place where differing opinions can be expressed and truly listened to, and challenging but crucial conversations can happen.

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