Highland book festival facing the axe after Creative Scotland pull funding

It has attracted leading literary figures like James Kelman, Liz Lochhead, Ann Cleeves, Denise Mina and the late Iain Banks to the Highlands.

Kate Adie during her appearance at the festival in 2012.
Kate Adie during her appearance at the festival in 2012.

It has attracted leading literary figures like James Kelman, Liz Lochhead, Ann Cleeves, Denise Mina and the late Iain Banks to the Highlands.

But despite attracting more than 5000 people to the market town of Nairn, its annual book festival is facing a bleak future.

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Organisers of the Nairn Book and Arts Festival say they have been left in the lurch by national arts agency Creative Scotland, which has backed the event for the last five years.

Hopes of expanding the festival, one of the biggest literary events in the Highlands, have been dashed after officials decided to pulling the plug completely on its financial support, which has made up around 14 per cent of the festival’s budget.

Organisers have warned the “massive blow” could force the complete cancellation of the 2017 event, which was planned to be the biggest in its 14-year history, with more than 100 events.

Officials justified the decision to reject the festival’s application for a £20,000 share of Creative Scotland’s £11 million open project fund by citing concerns about the “coherence” of its programme and its viable price of tickets.

Now the festival, which broadcasters Kate Adie, Kirsty Wark, James Naughtie, Sally Magnusson and Brian Taylor have all appeared at, has been forced to mount a crowdfunding campaign in a bid to stay afloat financially.

As well as talks from authors, the festival has staged lunchtime poetry readings, community ceilidhs, flamenco nights, comic art masterclasses, live drama and art exhibitions.

Festival chair David Godden said: “We started out as purely a book festival, but other elements have grown as well as we’ve tried to broaden the event’s appeal and offer something for everyone.

"Creative Scotland seemed quite happy when we went to see them to explain out strategy, but when their decision came through they clearly weren’t.

“We understand funding for the arts is under a lot of pressure, but we were disappointed to get nothing at all.

“In addition to what it brings to the area’s cultural life of the area, the festival plays a vital part in the economy, boosts tourism, and provides opportunities and support to local arts groups, volunteers and venues.

"The knock-on effect of losing it would be extremely damaging.”

A spokeswoman for Creative Scotland said: “Open project funding is designed to support individual artists and organisations across art-forms and demand is extremely high.

"We’re currently able to fund around 30 per cent of applications we receive and difficult decisions need to be made. We appreciate the disappointment this causes.”