Baillie Gifford ends literary festival sponsorship

Investment firm Baillie Gifford has ended its sponsorship of Stratford Literary Festival after 10 years.

Festival organisers said they were "saddened" the company had decided not to continue sponsoring the event, which took place last month.

It comes after similar announcements from a range of other festivals, including Edinburgh Book Festival and the Hay Festival, both of which recently ended their deals with the firm.

Stratford's festival director Annie Ashworth, said they were "enormously grateful" for the firm's support, but were "determined to continue".

"We will survive, we just need to regroup and also start looking for other sponsorships," she told the BBC.

Boycott urged

Baillie Gifford, based in Edinburgh, has been a major sponsor of UK arts events but has come under scrutiny over claims by campaign group Fossil Free Books that it has links to fossil fuel firms and Israel.

The group has encouraged authors to boycott festivals and to divest the company's sponsorship, with Wigtown Book Festival also confirming the firm had withdrawn from its partnership earlier this week.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, a spokesperson for Fossil Free Books said following its campaign, Baillie Gifford had "announced that it is ending sponsorship of all UK book festivals."

A spokesperson for Baillie Gifford said it had nothing to add when contacted by the BBC about withdrawing its Stratford festival sponsorship.

Ms Ashworth said the loss of the firm's sponsorship will "inevitably impact" on operations, and it may result in "increased ticket prices" and affect its ability to deliver "important literacy outreach work."

"We all fear climate change and deplore conflict, but the withdrawal of sponsorship from book festivals is not the solution," she said.

"However, we completely respect the company’s reasons for withdrawing sponsorship going forward."

The festival, which takes place in Shakespeare's home town, took place in early May and will next run over the weekend of 25 to 27 October.

Ms Ashworth praised the "enormous amount of support" from organisations and companies that sponsor the event, which attracts thousands of people each year.

She said the festival was a "wonderful thing" for companies to support and an "amazing, open, democratic platform".

"We are so proud of all we do," she added.

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