Julie Burchill has pulled out of a contract with Stirling Publishing for her book Welcome to the Woke Trials after a recording emerged linking the publisher to a far right group.
Burchill's original contract for the book with Little, Brown was cancelled last year following tweets about Islam she sent to fellow journalist Ash Sarkar. The author tweeted a statement this week apologising for the “defamatory statements”, saying she had agreed to pay Sarkar “substantial damages”.
On Monday, it was announced she had signed a new contract with Edinburgh-based Stirling Publishing, which described itself as “committed to free speech and unafraid to publish provocative but necessary voices” .
However, after news of the deal broke, a recording was shared online of a woman identifying themselves as owning Stirling Publishing, alleged by the Glasgow Anti-Fascist Alliance to be its sole director Tabatha Stirling, apologising to members of the Scottish far-right group Patriotic Alternative over some of her tweets.
In it, she tells the group: “You've been so kind, you've welcomed me in and all I want to do is support and inspire the community.”
Describing herself as “very anti-Islam” and a Tommy Robinson supporter, she goes on to identify herself as owner of a publishing company which released The Colour of Madness, an anthology about mental health by BAME authors Stirling published in 2018. However, she said she only published the book to make money and get nominated for the Jhalak Prize, adding: “I wish I'd never done it because I've only had awful anti-white sentiment from all of them.”
Curators of the anthology Samara Linton and Rianna Walcott cut ties with the publisher in respone, tweeting: “In 2018, we published The Colour of Madness: Exploring BAME Mental Health in the UK with Stirling Publishing. We have come across some information which means we can no longer associate ourselves with the publishing company nor its director Tabatha Stirling.
“We will refrain from commenting further until we have had legal advice, but we are deeply hurt and shocked by the circulating information, and are determined to do right by our contributors, our supporters and our community."
Burchill later confirmed to The Bookseller: “I have always been against racism in all forms, so am terminating my contract with Stirling Publishing with immediate effect.”
Unbound, which has also previously worked with Stirling, said: “We are distressed and disappointed to read the allegations about the political affiliations of former Unbound author Tabatha Stirling. Unbound will always condemn hate speech and stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community, people of colour and all those affected by discrimination and prejudice."
Publishing Scotland revealed Stirling had also agreed to resign its membership of the organisation after the board raised concerns. It also said it would consider strengthening the code of practice publishers sign up to when they join.
The organisation said: “Following on from recent reports in the media that a Publishing Scotland member publisher, Stirling Publishing, had taken on a particular book rejected by another publishing company, there were concerns expressed about their publishing ethos and values. There are also issues relating to another Stirling Publishing title which are under legal review; we cannot comment any further on that matter but we are in contact with the Society of Authors and are ready to offer support. The Publishing Scotland board and staff have taken the view that the values of that particular publishing company have no place within our organisation. We contacted the company and they have agreed to tender their resignation with immediate effect.
“As a membership body and registered charity, Publishing Scotland is committed to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion, fostering a culture that actively values difference and recognises that people from different backgrounds and experiences can bring valuable insights to the publishing industry, the literature community, and the workplace. There is a Code of Practice which publishers sign up to when they join, and a complaints procedure to report breaches. We will be reflecting on the need to strengthen that Code in the coming months.”
By Wednesday, Stirling Publishing's website was no longer available. Tabatha Stirling declined to comment when approached by The Bookseller this week.
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