Advertisement

Booker Prize winner Douglas Stuart criticises politicians after festival axed

The Booker Prize-winning author, Douglas Stuart, has lent his support to the Aye Write book festival, which has been cancelled this year as a funding bid was refused.

The Glasgow-born author of Shuggie Bain also offered a sharp critique of arts and culture funding in Scotland, comparing it unfavourably to Ireland’s.

Other writers who have backed the festival include Damian Barr, author of Maggie And Me, and Darren McGarvey, author of Poverty Safari.

Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon, a well-known book lover, also said the cancellation was “really bad news”.

Earlier this week, Humza Yousaf said he would look at what “potential support” the Scottish Government could provide.

Mr Stuart posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, for the first time since July last year to make his feelings known.

He said: “The righteous outrage around the cancellation of the @AyeWrite festival is not merely a conversation about the merit of literary festivals, or whether Scotland’s first city deserves one. It is much, much bigger than that…

“I have watched in horror, as Scotland has haggled over funding for the arts, has closed her libraries, and now has allowed the cancellation of a major literary festival in her largest city. A festival that has a focus on Scottish voices.

“In the past year, I’ve sat through many interviews asking about the surge of great Irish writing.

“And while Irish writers are GREAT, it’s also clear to me that Ireland understands that culture, people, & literature are her strength and they fund it like they mean it.”

Edinburgh International Book Festival
Nicola Sturgeon, seen here with Mr Stuart, said the cancellation was ‘really bad news’ (Jane Barlow/PA)

He said it is “unacceptable” that his home city of Glasgow does not have a literary festival.

The author continued: “When I won the Booker Prize, within hours of the announcement many of the major political parties contacted me asking for my support.

“But the politicians who wanted to use my art to protect their jobs are failing to do their jobs to protect my art.”

He added that “working class people are crucial to Scottish literature”.

Aye Write is organised by Glasgow Life – the arms-length leisure body of Glasgow City Council – but it will not go ahead as a festival this year after a funding application to Creative Scotland was turned down.

A spokeswoman for Creative Scotland said earlier this week: “We recognise the significance of Aye Write to audiences and the literature sector and understand that this is disappointing news.

“We are currently only able to support around 30% of applications to our open fund due to limitations on the money available to us and difficult decisions need to be made on a daily basis.

“As demand for these funds continues to increase, Creative Scotland continues to advocate for more resources to support culture and creativity across Scotland.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Creative Scotland is an arms-length funding body and ministers have no role in funding decisions around individual projects.

“The First Minister has given an undertaking that he will examine the issue and keep members updated on what support the Scottish Government can provide.

“Creative Scotland is currently reviewing its funding award process and the Culture Secretary will share the conclusions of this with Parliament once that review has been completed.

“High inflationary pressures as a result of Brexit and the war in Ukraine, combined with an Autumn Statement that prioritised a tax cut over providing the investment Scotland needs in services and infrastructure, have made this the most challenging Budget to be delivered under devolution.

“Despite this, Scottish ministers have increased culture sector funding by £15.8m to £196.6m for the next financial year, as the first step to achieving the First Minister’s commitment to invest at least £100m more annually in culture and the arts by 2028/29.”