Update on postponement of Oxford Literary Festival
Update on postponement of Oxford Literary Festival
Thank you for your understanding, patience and support as we adapt to the impact of coronavirus and the postponement of our March and April events.
I have seen all your messages since I made my statement on postponement last week. I would like to set out very openly the difficult financial context in which we are now operating. With your kind support, we can survive and bring you a programme later this year or next year.
Most festival costs are incurred in the year running up to the festival. In common with many small arts and culture organisations we have never been able to afford cancellation insurance. Pandemic cover was hardly available.
The festival has sometimes made a surplus, but this has been offset by many years when we just broke even or made a loss.
We have been sustained by a small number of generous supporters, who have made long-term interest-free loans. We have no endowment and we are the only one of the big four UK literary festivals (the others are Hay, Edinburgh and Cheltenham) to receive no public funding.
Until early last week, only seven events had been cancelled and all ticket buyers affected had been reimbursed. Reimbursement continued until Friday 13 March.
Official advice was to proceed as normal. Speakers had re-confirmed their intention of coming, and it looked as though the festival just might be able to take place.
However, as the week progressed, it became clear that festival venues were likely to be closed to public events, speakers from overseas and many from the UK would not be able to travel, and the government was likely to ban large-scale public events.
In common with many arts and commercial organisations in the UK, the festival was caught in a perfect financial storm.
We had sold tickets worth £170,000 and were expecting to see a further £100,000 in sales between mid-March and the end of the festival.
We are now faced with a debt to ticket holders of £170,000 and no prospect of being able to refund it.
The stark alternatives are to:
go into immediate liquidation and no-one will receive any refunds
try to keep the festival going, recognising that we are in no position to offer refunds
We are determined to make every effort over the coming months to stage a series of events in late 2020 and early 2021 if the public health and financial circumstances allow it. A 2021 festival could be held in early autumn of next year. We hope to soon have news of a new date in the autumn for one of this year’s big Sheldonian events.
We would be grateful for any festival-goers who felt able to consider their tickets as a donation to the future of the festival. We are extremely grateful to those of you who have already confirmed gifts. We are also looking at how we might credit ticketholders for future events.
It will take us time to work through all the options, which could include launching a fundraising appeal. Please appreciate that we cannot give any further assurances for now. I believe we can mount a full programme in future with your support, patience and understanding.
We have been extremely moved by the extraordinary number of proposed and former writers and speakers who have already pledged their support for the festival.
In the coming weeks, we will be talking to our long-standing sponsors, donors and partners about the situation. I will report back to you at regular intervals.
The Oxford Literary Festival sponsors, donors & partners
Festival media partnerSupported by the Delegation of the European Union to the UKSupporter of the festival's Voices of Europe programmeInternational radio partnerSupporter of programme of science and medicine and annual science and innovation awardFestival cultural partnerFestival ideas partnerThe Spanish Embassy: supporters of the programme of Spanish literature and cultureThe Cervantes Institute, LondonThe Italian Embassy: supporter of the programme of Italian literature and cultureFestival London hotel partnerFestival literary heritage partnerFestival on-site and online booksellerFestival hotelFive-star hotel partners of The Oxford CollectionFive-star hotel partners of The Oxford CollectionPatron donor for the programme of Irish literature and cultureCEO of Project PeopleSupporters of the programme of American literature and cultureExeter College: college home of the festival. Founded 1314New College founded 1379Worcester College founded 1714Lincoln College founded 1427St Cross College founded 1965Trinity College founded 1555Magdalen College founded 1458Accountants to the festivalWines of the Douro ValleyPrestige publishing partnerSponsor of the EBRD Literature Prize since 2018Georgia's leading lifestyle hotel brand since 2012. Supporters of the programme of Georgian literature and culturePartner of Oxford Literary FestivalOxford International Centre for PublishingFestival academic partnerOlive oil from SicilyLocal radio partnerFestival Digital Strategy & Web DesignAlumni OfficeOxford University ImagesCorporate communicationsK T Bruce Photography