An author and climate activist walked out of her own event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in protest at its links to “fossil fuel companies”.
Mikaela Loach halted a panel discussion about her new book to hold up a banner criticising the festival’s main sponsor, Baillie Gifford, before leading audience members out of the venue for a protest in the street outside.
It comes after more than 50 authors and event chairs at the festival signed an open letter criticising the involvement of the investment firm, who they accused of making “huge profits from global disaster”.
Swedish campaigner Greta Thunberg also cancelled a planned appearance at the festival, while writers, including Zadie Smith and Gary Younge have threatened to boycott next year’s event.
Ms Loach posted a video on Instagram of the moment she interrupted the talk on Saturday – assisted by fellow writers and activists who held up a banner reading: “You wouldn’t burn books, don’t burn the planet. Drop Baillie Gifford”.
In the clip, she is seen telling the audience: “I can’t actually in good faith continue just talking about these issues without doing something, especially given the festival is sponsored by an investment firm that is banking rolling this climate crisis.
“Baillie Gifford are an investment firm that have £5bn of investments in the fossil fuel industry.”
Ms Loach, author of It’s Not That Radical, wrote on Instagram that she had been “so excited to be invited to speak on my book at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and would have loved to have had a full conversation there. But, we are in a dire situation with the climate crisis.”
The clip then shows members of the audience at the event, which was advertised online at £15.50 a ticket, clapping and then walking out of the venue with her while chanting: “hey hey, ho ho, Baillie Gifford’s got to go”.
She wrote on Instagram: “All 180 people in the audience walk[ed] out in solidarity with the authors”.
The festival has previously responded to criticism from the authors by saying that only a “small percentage” of their sponsor’s income came from fossil fuels, and “it seems to us that they are in fact investing in companies that are seeking to resolve the crisis.”
Festival director Nick Barley said: “As a charitable organisation, we would not be in a position to provide that platform without the long-term support of organisations such as Baillie Gifford.
“We strongly believe that Baillie Gifford are part of the solution to the climate emergency.”
Baillie Gifford has also rejected claims it invests “heavily” in fossil fuels. It said in an earlier statement: “Only 2% of our clients’ money is invested in companies with some business related to fossil fuels.”