Stratford Literary Festival and Baillie Gifford

5th June 2024

BAILLIE GIFFORD ENDS ITS SPONSORSHIP OF STRATFORD LITERARY FESTIVAL

The Stratford Literary Festival is saddened that Baillie Gifford has decided not to renew its sponsorship of the Festival after the end of this year. The Festival has received sponsorship from the company for over 10 years.

‘We are enormously grateful for its support which has enabled us to deliver the Festival to such a high level, as well as events for young children and families,’ says Festival Director Annie Ashworth.

‘We celebrate the fact that the company was not only willing but enthusiastic about supporting literature, and educating its investment teams about the world in which it invests by exposing them to books by experts in their fields. However, we completely respect the company’s reasons for withdrawing sponsorship going forward.’

Baillie Gifford has been targeted by the activist group Fossil Free Books over investment in fossil fuels and companies that have commercial dealings with Israel. The group has encouraged authors to boycott festivals and also urged literary festivals to divest of Baillie Gifford’s sponsorship.

‘We are concerned that the information the group dispersed is inaccurate,’ says Annie Ashworth. ‘We believe that Baillie Gifford is a progressive company that is mindful of where investments are made, within realistic parameters and the demands of its investors.

‘Sadly we also believe that the actions and activities of Fossil Free Books are misdirected. By attacking and impacting festivals, they are threatening the very structures that support the authors they claim to represent. We offer writers and emerging writers a platform for their work and, very importantly, we offer an open, safe and democratic space for conversations on all topics to take place.

‘In order to stage and market festivals, employ staff and pay authors to appear and promote their work, we are reliant on sponsorship for our survival. All book festivals are committed to making ticket prices affordable so we can be as inclusive as possible, and we cannot stage a festival on ticket sales alone.

‘We are enormously grateful to all the organisations that support us. The loss of Baillie Gifford’s sponsorship will inevitably impact on our operations, and may result in increased ticket prices and a reduction in the scope of what we deliver. It will sadly also impact on our ability to deliver important literacy outreach work in the community, teaching bedtime story writing in prisons and projects and author visits in schools, engaging the readers of the future. However, we are determined to continue to do the work of which we are so proud.

‘We all fear climate change and deplore conflict, but the withdrawal of sponsorship from book festivals is not the solution. It will be to the detriment of festivals – important spaces that enable open debate about all issues in a respectful, open and accessible way benefitting thousands of festival-goers, authors, venues and our wider communities.’

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