Edinburgh's Radical Bookshop

It's Indie Bookshop Week and we're reflecting on Community, Festivals and Fossil Free Books


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It's Indie Bookshop Week, and we have a few thoughts on the ongoing hubbub around Book Festivals and sponsorship. As a bookshop, whose wider family includes booksellers, writers, readers and other creatives, we are stakeholders in this conversation and we feel a responsibility to our community, which has been quite bitterly affected by it all, to speak up.

For those who haven't heard of Fossil Free Books, or know them only through the deliberately vague, obtuse framing of much of the media, FFB is a collective of writers and book workers, who came together in 2023 to try to push our industry to do better in the face of the climate crisis, and it has evolved from there. I was in the audience, filming the brilliant Mikaela Loach, when she led their first action at the Edinburgh Book Festival in 2023 (watch her speech here). It's grassroots and born of the book trade in every way - not an anonymous, nefarious force.

Here's more in their own words, from our own Jessica Gaitán Johannesson and the brilliant Andrés N. Ordorica: https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/.../who-are-fossil-free-books/

People in FFB depend on a thriving literary sector to survive artistically & financially - they are our colleagues, friends, writers.

We ALL want book festivals to thrive, to grow in dynamic & nourishing ways.

So wherever you fall in the 'debate', it is worth remembering the hot takes & headlines are aimed at *people*. And it is worth questioning the vitriol & condescension aimed at members of our own community - many of whom have previously been celebrated for their incisive thinking on these very topics, at these very festivals!

Artists, writers, creatives of all stripes have always been crucial to contextualising crisis. So we find it deeply ironic that festivals which worked so hard to make audiences & readers care about climate justice & learn to hold power to account, are so surprised people listened.

Changing systems takes time, integrity and creativity- and those whose success or comfort has relied on the status quo are always going to push back.

We can't help but wonder if our industry learned anything from BLM about sitting with discomfort & taking accountability as an invitation to grow & do better?

There is so much spiteful fragility in a narrative that paints colleagues and writers as enemies or bullies for saying 'I draw a line on which businesses my presence condones', especially during a crisis.

And to be clear, Baillie Gifford is an asset management firm who has billions invested in fossil fuels (including a pipeline that will displace thousands in East Africa with devastating environmental repercussions) AND who profits from investments in Israeli defence industry. That's not under debate: https://www.heraldscotland.com/.../24374536.baillie.../ And if your average joe is coming to their defence, it is because of how effective a marketing strategy it is, to be a patron of the arts.

Ultimately, there is real fall out to this framing of FFB writers and workers as bullies. This has included twitter pile ons, attempts to get writers fired from projects, blacklistings, lost income and daily mail hatchet jobs resulting in targeted & violent hate speech, much of which has fallen on marginalised and racialised writers. All of which has been met with silence by the festivals. A painful and total abdication of care for the artists these festivals purport to champion.

Anyway, I want to echo the far more articulate responses that some of our favourite writers have offered and encourage you to read them:

From Noreen Masud: https://www.opendemocracy.net/.../baillie-gifford-hay.../

From novelists Guy Gunaratne: https://tribunemag.co.uk/.../in-defence-of-fossil-free-books

and Omar Robert Hamilton:


And from the Award Winning Naomi Klein whom Edinburgh flocked to see last september: https://www.theguardian.com/.../naomi-klein-nobodys...

At Lighthouse we'll always welcome chats and discussion with anyone in our wider bookshop family who has thoughts on this. Ideas on how we build back better.

And we send love, admiration and solidarity to those writers, booksellers and book workers at Fossil Free Books who've risked so much to push our industry to do just a little better,


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