Authors rally behind festival boycott campaign

Authors rally behind festival boycott campaign

Authors have continued to express their support for a campaign to boycott literary festivals which do not pay authors for appearances.

Children's writers Debi Gliori (pictured), last year's Carnegie winner Tanya Landman, Caroline Lawrence and Lauren St John are now among the latest signatories to add their names to an open letter published in The Bookseller.

The letter was instigated by writer Amanda Craig, following Philip Pullman's resignation as patron of the Oxford Literary Festival because it did not pay fees to authors.  

Writers including Linda Grant, Denise Mina and Jon McGregor added their names to the call.

Crime writer Cath Staincliffe has since joined the signatories, saying she had "just turned down another request to work for nothing at a literary festival", commenting: "These festivals celebrate books and authors so let's see authors treated with respect and paid a fee for appearing." Fellow novelist Andrew Taylor did the same, saying: "Festivals like Hay and Oxford - big, with well-heeled sponsors and substantial ticket-sales revenue - really have no excuse for their failure to pay. Book sales at festivals are rarely a significant source of income for most of us. Writing isn't our hobby - it's our livelihood."

Broadcaster David Freeman, the host of the afternoon books show on BBC Radio Oxford for many years, also added his thoughts, commenting: "For many a long year I have very happily acted as an interviewer/chairman at many literary festivals. For this I have always been paid a fee per event. It always seemed unfair that I was being modestly paid while the author I'm interviewing wasn't paid at all - this seemed ironic because people weren't paying good money to see me - they quite rightly wanted to see and hear the author."

He added: "Twenty years ago there was a glorious cottage industry feel about the festivals but now they are much more professional events. 'Special Advisors' are handsomely paid to organise prestigious sponsors to foot the bill for pompous dinners - it has always seemed to me that having minor royals round a dinner table would be much more suited to a food festival or a British Legion event. Somewhere some literary festivals have lost their way. Wonderful events happen - but often the organisers don't even know. They were busy changing for dinner! Hopefully the spirit of celebrating writing and the sometimes subversive spirit of creativity can return."

The subject has been debated on BBC Radio 4's "Front Row" and "World at One" programmes.