Cambridge Literary Festival faces calls to drop sponsor Baillie Gifford in Gaza row

The campaign against Baillie Gifford has been led by activist group Fossil Free Books, which was initially established to campaign against the firm's investments in the oil industry
The campaign against Baillie Gifford has been led by activist group Fossil Free Books, which was initially established to campaign against the firm's investments in the oil industry - Alamy

The Cambridge Literary Festival has come under pressure from activist authors to cut ties with sponsor Baillie Gifford in a row over Gaza.

The asset management firm has been dropped as sponsor of the Hay Festival and Edinburgh International Book Festival after authors threatened a boycott over the firm’s alleged links to Israel.

Activists have now demanded that the Cambridge Literary Festival drop Baillie Gifford as a sponsor.

The campaign against Baillie Gifford has been led by activist group Fossil Free Books, which alleges the firm has investments in companies with ties to Israel’s defence and technology industries, which have a hand in what the group has branded “Israeli apartheid, occupation, and genocide”.

More than 200 authors supported the group’s threats of “escalation” and “disruption”, including Naomi Klein and Sally Rooney, who signed an open letter calling for the firm to drop investments in companies which profit from “colonial violence”.

The Hay Festival cut ties with Baillie Gifford after scheduled guests, including singer Charlotte Church, pulled out over its alleged links to Israel
The Hay Festival cut ties with Baillie Gifford after scheduled guests, including singer Charlotte Church, pulled out over its alleged links to Israel - Carl Court/Getty Images

The Cambridge Literary Festival, which takes place in November, has been approached by the campaign and is now weighing up its position, stating: “Literary festivals offer a platform for open conversations on a broad number of topics including climate change and politics.

“We know of no other entity that offers a stage for balanced and democratic discussion.

“This does not mean we accept support regardless of the activities or history of our supporters.

“We share the concerns of authors, activists and campaigners around fossil fuel investment and investments in Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

The statement adds: “We have been contacted by a number of organisations and some of our supporters urging that we also end our relationship with Baillie Gifford.

“The issues will be treated with the high importance they deserve and carefully considered by the trustees at the upcoming board meeting in June.”

The event is the latest to be targeted by activists insistent on book festivals dropping all ties with Ballie Gifford, which sponsors literary events across the country.

Hay Festival cut its ties with Baillie Gifford on May 24 after scheduled guests, including Left-wing comedian Nish Kumar and singer Charlotte Church, pulled out over its alleged links to Israel.

Days later on May 30, Edinburgh International Book Festival agreed to end its relationship with the firm after coming under pressure from Fossil Free Books, which was initially established to campaign against Baillie Gifford’s investments in the oil industry.

The campaign group has also attempted to sway the UK’s largest union for writers, the Society of Authors, to issue a call for “a ceasefire and an end to the genocide in Gaza”.

Members of the society who are also supporters of Fossil Free Books tabled a resolution calling for a ceasefire in early May, but it was voted down by the broader membership.

Cambridge Literary Festival has been contacted for comment.

Baillie Gifford declined to comment.

Advertisement