Scottish authors criticise cancellation of Glasgow literary festival Aye Write | Literary festivals

Scottish authors criticise cancellation of Glasgow literary festival Aye Write | Literary festivals

Val McDermid, Douglas Stuart and Andrew O’Hagan are among the Scottish authors criticising the cancellation of Glasgow literary festival Aye Write after its funding application was turned down by Creative Scotland.

McDermid said it was “profoundly depressing” that Glasgow “cannot sustain a book festival”, while Stuart called it “unacceptable”. O’Hagan said that the cancellation is “savage and it shouldn’t be happening”.

On Thursday, Glasgow Life, a council-funded charity, announced that its funding application for Aye Write and Wee Write – a festival for children and young people – was unsuccessful. “Both events are dependent on external funding that is not guaranteed from year to year,” said the charity.

Scottish-American author Stuart, who won the Booker prize in 2020 for his debut novel Shuggie Bain, said there is “righteous outrage” about the festival’s cancellation in a post on X. “I have watched in horror, as Scotland has haggled over funding for the arts, has closed her libraries, and now has allowed the cancellation of a major literary festival in her largest city.”

Stuart added that he has “sat through many interviews” in the past year about the “surge” of Irish writing, and that Ireland “understands that culture, people, and literature are her strength and they fund it like they mean it”.

Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon said that the cancellation was “really bad news. I know money is tight but very much hope that a way is found to get [Aye Write] back on track,” she wrote on X. “Books, culture generally, are so vital to our wellbeing – and never more so than in the troubled times we live in today. Book festivals are opportunities to celebrate the wonder of literature and those who create it. We mustn’t lose that.”

Crime writer McDermid described the cancellation as “impoverishing our future” and “burning the seed corn” of the cultural future, reported the Sunday Post. “It’s a very sad day indeed that a city like Glasgow cannot sustain a book festival when it has such a proud history of producing the most amazing writers.”

The cancellation of Aye Write comes as many cultural festivals face financial pressures. In 2022, Ways With Words, which ran literary festivals in the Lake District, Suffolk and Devon, cancelled its festival, stating that it was not “currently viable” because of cost of living concerns. In 2023, cultural organisation Bristol Ideas announced it would close in May this year after 30 years of operation. A statement said that the organisation had “not been immune to the difficulties facing the cultural sector”.

Scottish writer Damian Barr said that the cancellation of Aye Write is “so wrong”. The festival “is one of Scotland’s biggest and most beloved book festivals – it is vital for readers and writers across Scotland and beyond”.

Glasgow Life, which had funded Aye Write since it began in 2005, had applied for £77,500 of funding from Creative Scotland. At last year’s festival, around 175 authors appeared in more than 120 events across 10 days.

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Scottish crime novelist Chris Brookmyre said that he is “really disappointed” about Aye Write’s cancellation. “It has been one of the biggest fixtures on Scotland’s cultural calendar for well over a decade, and it always meant a lot to me to take part in my home town book festival.”

Glasgow Life said that while the festivals are not going ahead, it will organise some pop-up Aye Write events in 2024 and develop its funding application for 2025, which “if successful, means a return for the festivals in May next year”.

Stuart added that “Aye Write is not just about one city or one festival, it’s about a nation’s pride in her art. It’s about working class access to literature – and let’s not be coy here: working class people are crucial to Scottish literature. Get a haud of yersels. And let Glasgow be great.”

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