Exclusive:Glasgow's Aye Write book festival called off after Creative Scotland funding snub

Literary event has been running for almost 20 years

The plug has been pulled on one of Scotland’s biggest book festivals after it was turned down for funding by Creative Scotland.

Aye Write, which has been running in Glasgow for nearly 20 years, has been shelved just weeks before the event had been expected to return after it was snubbed for support by the Scottish Government's arts agency.

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Aye Write has been produced by Glasgow Life, the council-funded charity which is responsible for many of the city’s leading cultural venues.

Nicola Sturgeon interviewed Janey Godley at last year's Aye Write book festival in Glasgow.Nicola Sturgeon interviewed Janey Godley at last year's Aye Write book festival in Glasgow.
Nicola Sturgeon interviewed Janey Godley at last year's Aye Write book festival in Glasgow.

Glasgow Life is a major funder of events like the Celtic Connections and Piping Live music festivals, the Glasgow International Comedy Festival, the Glasgow Mela, the Glasgow Film Festival, and Glasgow International, the city’s biennial festival of contemporary art.

However it is understood the return of Aye Write this year was reliant on Creative Scotland continuing its support of the event through its “open fund.”

The rejection of Aye Write’s £77,500 bid has emerged after one of Scotland’s leading classical music events, the Lammermuir Festival in East Lothian, announced it has secured Creative Scotland funding for the next two years after previously been rejected three times in the space of a year.

Creative Scotland has been under over a number of decisions in recent months, including the rejection of the Edinburgh Deaf Festival and a decision to award an explicit film project £84,555, only for the grant to be withdrawn after the arts agency shared a call-out for performers to film “non-simulated” sex scenes and “hardcore” acts.

Poet and playwright Liz Lochhead has appeared at Glasgow's Aye Write festival. Picture: Alastair CookPoet and playwright Liz Lochhead has appeared at Glasgow's Aye Write festival. Picture: Alastair Cook
Poet and playwright Liz Lochhead has appeared at Glasgow's Aye Write festival. Picture: Alastair Cook

Aye Write, which was launched in 2005, featured around 175 authors appearing in more than 120 events across 10 days last year.

Guests included former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, crime writer Val McDermid, poet Liz Lochhead, comics Frankie Boyle, Josie Long and Janey Godley, and broadcasters Sally Magnusson and Aasmah Mir.

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Recent editions of Aye Write had also featured singer-songwriters Justin Currie and Tracey Thorn, authors Louise Welsh, Ian Rankin and Christopher Brookmyre, actress Celia Imrie and writer, social commentator and TV presenter Darren McGarvey.

Nicola Sturgeon, who interviewed Janey Godley at last year's Aye Write, said: “I know money is tight but very much hope that a way is found to get Aye Write back on track.

"Books, culture generally, are so vital to our wellbeing and never more so than in the troubled times we live in today.

"Book festivals are opportunities to celebrate the wonder of literature and those who create it. We mustn’t lose that.”

Author and broadcaster Muriel Gray said: “Genuinely sad to hear this. A terrific festival that brought such a variety of amazing people to the city.

Responding to the news about Aye Write on social media, Frankie Boyle said: “A shame: Had a good few laughs at this over the years.”

Writer Billy Kay said: “This is terrible news for us all, but particularly bad for small publishers & creators of books for the Scottish market.”

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Author Chris Brookmyre said: “Really disappointed that Aye Write has been cancelled due to a lack of public funding.

"It’s been one of the biggest fixtures on Scotland's cultural calendar for well over a decade, and it always meant a lot to me to take part in my hometown book festival.”

Author Gerry Hassan said: “How long do we have to put up with the Scottish Govt's continual lack of championing and support of the arts and culture?”

Writer and broadcaster Damian Barr said: “Aye Write has been such a vital part of my life as a writer and reader. I was scheduled to appear with others at the next fest in an event about the play of Maggie & Me. This is such a shocking and damaging loss for Scotland’s literary eco-system.”

Scotland’s national poet, Kathleen Jamie, said: “A city the size of Glasgow without a book festival?”

Glasgow Life has also shelved the Wee Write book festival for children and young people, which was held separately from Aye Write.

A spokeswoman for Glasgow Life said: “The Aye Write and Wee Write book festivals celebrate the joy of reading, writing, and books, bringing audiences and authors together.

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"Their delivery is dependent on securing external funding and while bids for funding support continue to exceed monies available, especially during the current difficult economic climate, some events will inevitably miss out.

“Aye Write and Wee Write have developed and grown over the years thanks, in part, to support through Creative Scotland.

"Our 2024 funding application to Creative Scotland was not successful so Aye Write and Wee Write will not be able to take place as festivals this year. We appreciate this will cause considerable disappointment.

“Glasgow Life will organise some pop-up Aye Write events during 2024 and will develop an application for multi-year funding starting in 2025, which if successful, means a return for the festivals next year.”

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

“The National Lottery open fund for organisations remains available to Aye Write to apply for further funding, and we welcome future applications.

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



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