UPDATE: Festival statement on author payments

The Oxford Literary Festival recognises and understands the strength of feeling in the literary community regarding the payment of speaker fees to authors and writers and we are sympathetic to this cause.

The festival’s aim has always been to showcase as wide a variety of writers and their work as possible. Each year, as well as famous and successful writers from Britain and overseas, more than half of the speakers at the festival are lesser known writers or those starting out on their literary careers. Our ethos has been to support them all.

Our festival’s unique character comes from the fact that most events are staged in the historic and beautiful university and college buildings, providing both speakers and audience alike with inspiring venues. Our remit is to provide a rich variety of topics each year, from adult and children’s fiction to poetry, philosophy, history, biography, science, nature and the environment, religion, art, design, music, film, theatre, business, health, politics and lifestyle.

Notwithstanding the grandeur of our setting and scale of our vision, the festival is a registered charity that receives no taxpayers’ money or public funding. For every £12 ticket sold a further £20 in support has to be raised from our generous sponsors, partners and donors in subsidy.

The festival is supported by a loyal team of 40 unpaid volunteers and has no full-time staff.

We have, of course, been aware of the debate regarding author payments for some time, but given the limitations of the tight budgets we run to (the festival’s last audited accounts show a loss of £18,000 in 2014), paying each speaker would require an additional 15% in costs or £75,000 for the 500 speakers across our 250 events planned for 2016.

However, once April’s festival is over, we will meet with all interested parties to discuss how to achieve payment of fees for all speakers while safe-guarding the presence of our record levels of unknown writers for 2017 and beyond.

Finally, we acknowledge that Philip Pullman has been an extraordinary supporter and ally of the festival in his role as patron, appearing on our platforms on many occasions and receiving the festival’s honorary fellowship in 2013. We have always had enormous respect for his views and commitment, and we thank him sincerely for all he has done for us.