Oxford Literary Festival looks to start paying authors

Oxford Literary Festival looks to start paying authors

The Oxford Literary Festival has said that, following the next festival in April, it will "meet with all interested parties to discuss how to achieve payment of fees for all speakers" from 2017.

The move comes after Philip Pullman stepped down as patron of the event in protest at the festival's failure to pay authors for appearances. Many more authors have joined a call for a boycott of literary festivals which do not pay their speakers.

In a statement, the Oxford Literary Festival said it "recognises and understands the strength of feeling in the literary community regarding the payment of speaker fees to authors and writers and we are sympathetic to this cause."

It went on: "The Festival’s aim has always been to showcase as wide a variety of writers and their work as possible. Each year, as well as famous and successful writers from Britain and overseas, more than half of the speakers at the Festival are lesser known writers or those starting out on their literary careers. Our ethos has been to support them all."

The festival went on to explain that "notwithstanding the grandeur of our setting and scale of our vision", it is a registered charity that receives no taxpayers’ or public funding, and has no full-time staff. For every £12 ticket sold a further £20 in support has to be raised from sponsors, partners and donors in subsidy, and the festival made a loss of £18,000 in 2014, it was revealed.

The statement said: "We have of course been aware of the debate regarding author payments for some time, but given the limitations of the tight budgets we run to (the Festival’s last audited accounts show a loss of £18,000 in 2014) paying each speaker would require an additional 15% in costs or £75,000 for the 500 speakers across our 250 events planned for 2016. However, once April’s Festival is over, we will meet with all interested parties to discuss how to achieve payment of fees for all speakers while safe-guarding the presence of our record-levels of unknown writers for 2017 and beyond".

The festival thanked Pullman for being "an extraordinary supporter and ally" in the role of patron, adding "We have always had enormous respect for his views and commitment, and we thank him sincerely for all he has done for us."