Edinburgh Int'l Book Festival ends partnership with Ballie Gifford over Gaza, climate boycott

Edinburgh Int'l Book Festival ends partnership with Ballie Gifford over Gaza, climate boycott
Over 800 authors and workers in publishing industry signed a letter calling for festivals to pressure Baillie Gifford to divest from Israel and fossil fuels.
3 min read
31 May, 2024
Edinburgh International Book Festival dropped its partnership with sponsors Baillie Gifford [Photo by Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images]

The Edinburgh International Book Festival has announced that it will be ending its partnership with investment firm Ballie Gifford following a boycott over Israel and climate-linked investments.

The book festival issued a statement on Thursday announcing the end of the 20-year partnership, citing safety concerns at the festival.

Jenny Niven, chief executive of the festival said it was regrettable the partnership had to end, saying that as a result of the boycott "the pressure on our team has simply become intolerable".

"We have a major global festival starting in 10 weeks' time and we need to focus all of our efforts and energy on delivering a safe and successful event for our audiences," she said.

In addition, both Niven and Allan Little, chair of the festival, said that the boycott and the partnership cancellation was undermining the funding of the festival.

Little also said that the festival had "made several invitations to Fossil Free Books, and other groups, to attend this year's festival and regret that they have not responded to those offers".

Baillie Gifford was also included in the statement, with partner Nick Thomas accusing Fossil Free Books, the organisation leading the boycott, of conducting a "campaign of coercion and misinformation".

Thomas reiterated that the assertion that Baillie Gifford had significant funds in companies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is "offensively misleading" and that the asset manager had more investments in companies dedicated to clean energy than to fossil fuels.

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Fossil Free Books (FFB), the primary group campaigning for the boycott, celebrated the announcement, saying "as bombs continue to fall on Palestinians in Gaza, we hope this sends a clear message: we are united in our solidarity for Palestinians".

"We love our literary festivals dearly, and it is a privilege to share with readers, but this cannot come at the expense of the human rights of Palestinians and communities harmed by fossil fuel companies."

FFB also addressed the claims made by both the festival and Baillie Gifford, denying that it refused to meet festival representatives and that it had scheduled to meet Niven on Friday.

It reiterated that it was not an anonymous organisation and that their campaign is not coercive.

"We sympathise with the struggles faced by organisers of literary festivals when it comes to accessing funding, however we disagree that the blame for EIBF's (the festival) funding situation lies with us", they said in a statement.

In addition to campaigning for the Edinburgh International Book Festival's dropping of its partnership with Baillie Gifford, FBB has also campaigned on the same issue for other festivals across the UK.

This includes Hay Festival, which announced it would drop its sponsorship with Baillie Gifford on 24 May after numerous artists, such as Charlotte Church and Nish Kumar, decided to pull from the festival.

Over 800 authors and members of the publishing industry signed FFB's letter calling on Baillie Gifford to divest its investments from companies linked to Israel, it's occupation in the Palestinian Territories, and fossil fuels.