How not to apologise.

How not to apologise.

On 30th May 2024, the Edinburgh Festival issued a statement about ending their relationship with Baillie Gifford. If you’re not familiar with the background, let me fill you in. Afrori Books. Books by black authors

Baillie Gifford has long been a heavyweight sponsor for literary events. With their deep pockets and vast influence, they’re a go-to for festivals in need of financial backing—pretty much all of them, really. But here’s the catch: Baillie Gifford’s investments include arms manufacturing and fossil fuels. This has sparked a significant controversy.

Last year, during the Edinburgh Festival, Mikaela Loach and other prominent figures used their platforms to protest against this partnership. Some refused to discuss their work entirely, choosing instead to highlight the issue. Others found creative ways to make their stand. These protests generated substantial media coverage, pushing the festival organisers to take a hard look at their ties with Baillie Gifford. Additionally, Fossil Free Books—a collective of authors, agents, publicists, booksellers, and more within the publishing industry—ramped up the pressure on all literary festivals to cut ties with Baillie Gifford.

In response to the mounting criticism, Edinburgh Festival announced last week that they were severing their ties with Baillie Gifford. But here’s where it gets murky: their statement opens with a quote from the directors saying it is with “deep regret” that the relationship is ending. Goes on to talk about diminishing “the voices of those who feel strongly about these complex issues” and “safety concerns” for their staff from so-called anonymous protesters as the reason for the split.

This didn’t sit well with the public. People quickly pointed out that the protesters were anything but anonymous. High-profile figures like Sally Rooney, George Monbiot, Ian MacPherson, Jackie Kay, Zadie Smith, Mikaela Loach, and Greta Thunberg were very vocal and visible in their stance. These are well-known personalities, hardly the kind to hide behind anonymity.

The festival’s statement came across as a classic non-apology—lacking genuine regret, remorse, or responsibility for their previous decisions. We would say that what the festival is doing is trying to keep the door open to Gifford, ready for a time when (they hope) this will all die down and they can go back to business as usual.
We, along with many others, were outraged and made our voices heard.

Running a book festival myself, I get the financial strain. Securing funding is tough, really tough. But that struggle pales in comparison to the hardships faced by those living under the threat of bombs or the future environmental challenges our children and grandchildren will endure if we don’t act responsibly. These aren’t just difficult choices; they are necessary ones. Even when we err, it’s crucial to own up and correct our course. Edinburgh Festival had the chance to take a real stand but chose instead to deflect and downplay their responsibility.

This whole episode underscores the importance of accountability. Clearly, the Edinburgh Festival missed that memo.

So, here’s my plea to you: hold Afrori Books and the Brighton Book Festival accountable. If you see us straying from our values or mission, let us know. Remind us why we do what we do and the commitment we’ve made to stand against injustice.
Books by black authors. Activism. Afrori Books.
Some might say this is a risky stance to take. Our views might not always align, and we can’t champion every cause. But that’s alright—I’m prepared for that. What I’m not prepared for is looking back years from now and realising we’ve lost our way, standing alongside those who chose the easy path instead of the right one.
Books by black authors. Activism. Afrori Books.
Together, we can ensure that Afrori Books and the Brighton Book Festival stay true to their mission and remain a beacon for justice and equity in the literary world. Let’s be the change we wish to see.
Thank you for your continued support and for helping us stay on course.
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