One does not wish to be a party-pooper but the “saving” of Aye Write strikes me as being as unconvincing as its original cancellation was unnecessary.

One basic conundrum is why a £65,000 grant from a private foundation could not have been deployed to rescue a genuine festival rather than subsidise a series of one-off events, most of which shouldn’t need subsidy at all.

Maybe it really is time to take a long, hard look at how Scotland’s creative endeavours are funded and whether reliance on public subsidy has become a habit rather than a cultural necessity. I’m fine with spending the money but prefer it to go where it’s needed.

As far as Aye Write is concerned, one certainty is that for all those first-time writers, small publishers and eager audiences whom the concept of a literary festival is supposed to serve, the “saving” is arguably more annoying than the original cancellation.

According to Glasgow Life, the events promoting wing of Glasgow City Council, there will be precisely three happenings within the time period that was designated for Aye Write prior to its cancellation.


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This compares to last year’s Aye Write which involved 120 events and 175 authors. It is not so much a “slimming-down” as a severe case of literary anorexia. Let’s be clear. Whatever else the Colin Weir Foundation’s generosity has preserved, it is not the 2024 Aye Write.

There was doubtless dancing in the streets of Govan when news came through that the Nicola Sturgeon-Val McDermid Roadshow has been salvaged from the wreckage though one wonders if that literary highlight was even scheduled to be a part of pre-cancellation Aye Write?

Anyway, it certainly does not need subsidy. A few hundred true believers will gladly pay a tenner a head to fill the Fruitmarket and hang on the bons mots of Scotland’s most celebrated double act since Fran and Anna. Any self-respecting promoter would anticipate a comfortable surplus.

Prior to the Weir Foundation’s largesse, the Glasgow Life website, in announcing cancellation of the Aye Write festival, added: “We will be organising some Aye Write pop-up events in 2024”. That is exactly what is going to happen so actually nothing at all has changed.

But need it have been like this? I wondered about that back on March 28th when cancellation was announced based on Creative Scotland having turned down an application from Glasgow Life for a grant of £75,5000.

It just seemed so binary. They get 75 grand and there’s a festival. They don’t and there isn’t. Sorry young authors, small publishers and eager audiences. We’ll try again next year. That did not seem a very satisfactory or committed way to organise anything.

Was there no room for flexibility, perhaps in the scale of the festival without extinguishing its character? With a bit of political support, was there no opportunity for dialogue with Creative Scotland to see if there might be something left in the petty cash? Or what about foundations? Was the full Creative Scotland grant to be the sole determinant of the festival’s life or death?

I was sufficiently curious to ask Creative Scotland a couple of questions. When, I wondered, had Glasgow Life been made aware of the decision to turn down their funding application. The answer was that this happened on March 5th – more than three weeks before it became public.

The Herald: Humza YousafHumza Yousaf (Image: free)

Glasgow Life is chaired by an SNP councillor, Bailie Annette Christie. It seems inconceivable (or deeply incompetent) that the decision was not passed to the city’s SNP MSPs who include Humza Yousaf and Nicola Sturgeon. It would be interesting to know what activity, if any, ensued to save the day before the fait accompli became public knowledge.

Call me old-fashioned, but in my day as a political representative, I would have regarded this as a call to arms with every effort made to save an important event, even on a reduced scale. What mattered surely were the young writers, the small publishers, the eager audiences...?

Did any of that transpire? Did the current and previous First Ministers of Scotland, who also happened to be Glasgow MSPs, stir themselves? It certainly didn’t sound like it when the decision was announced on March 28th. Ms Sturgeon tweeted that it was “really bad news”. But when did she receive it?

As for Mr Yousaf, he said at First Minister’s Questions on March 28th: “Having been alerted to the news, I will look at what support the Scottish Government could provide”. That was the last we heard of that but the intended implication was that this was the first he knew of a decision communicated to his political colleagues 23 days earlier. Surely some mistake!

It was by happenstance that de-funding Aye Write coincided with the revelation that a show involving live sex was to feature on the Edinburgh Festival fringe, by courtesy of a hundred grand from Creative Scotland. Maybe when that largesse was withdrawn, they could just have swapped the grants and earned some applause.

Since then, we have had the Fringe itself looking for a million quid to support its endeavours. I find this one hard to understand. As I recall, the Fringe was the ultimate market in creative enterprise and risk-taking in which success or failure was judged by the numbers of bums attracted to seats. Was that not all part of its charm and success?

If it has now expanded and commercialised to the point where it needs large sums of public money to manage the consequences, does that not suggest time for a re-set? I’m delighted to subsidise creativity but not the inflated costs of accommodation in Edinburgh, now exacerbated by Scottish Government legislation. That really is a bottomless pit.

There are always hard decisions to be made when demand for funding exceeds supply. I doubt if many people outside a small Edinburgh circle think current processes and priorities could not be improved upon. Far removed from these charmed circles, people just get on and do good things – without a grant.