Boycott threat

Wigtown and Cheltenham lose Baillie Gifford support

Book closed: Baillie Gifford will no longer sponsor the Cheltenham event

The Wigtown Festival and Cheltenham Literature Festival are the latest to see their sponsorships end with the Edinburgh-based investment company Baillie Gifford.

The finance house, which manages £225 billion in assets though vehicles such as the FTSE 100 listed Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust, has been targeted by the activist group Fossil Free Books over investment in fossil fuels and companies that have commercial dealings with Israel.

Wigtown has been sponsored by Baillie Gifford since 2010. Its director, Adrian Turpin, said the festival was now exploring ways to plug the funding gap.

“We will probably do a fundraising campaign, but that won’t make us the money back. None of us are rich,” he said.

Baillie Gifford ended the longstanding partnership with Cheltenham on Tuesday, expressing “great sadness”, while the event’s organisers said they had used Baillie Gifford’s money “to positive ends”.

Sponsorship deals with the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Hay Festival have already been withdrawn and it now seems likely that the company will terminate sponsorship of all book festivals.

Those still ongoing include Cambridge Literary Festival, Henley Literary Festival, Wimbledon BookFest and the Baillie Gifford Prize for non-fiction. Stratford Literary Festival has stated that its sponsorship deal with the firm will end after this year.

In a statement, the Cheltenham Literature Festival said it is “with sadness that we announce the withdrawal of a major sponsor, Baillie Gifford.

“We have been grateful for the funding they have provided and have turned it to positive ends: to increasing access to, and representation within, the very public debates that can affect lasting change. We would not have chosen to find ourselves in this position.

“We believe that change is only possible if we as a culture make it together.

“Engagement with festivals like ours – by readers, writers, policymakers and indeed by sponsors – is a crucial means of making progress.

“We ask that all of us – writers, audiences, investors, book-workers – consider these questions in the round, and work together to achieve our shared goals.”

It added that it wants to help convene a public conversation about arts funding, ethics and sustainable change.

“Our hope is that Fossil Free Books will be a productive part of that debate.”

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