Edinburgh Book Festival: Mikaela Loach walks out over sponsor

Edinburgh Book Festival: Mikaela Loach walks out over sponsor

by Suswati Basu
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Mikaela Loach, a prominent climate activist and author, made a powerful statement by walking out of the Edinburgh International Book Festival as a protest against the festival’s sponsor, investment company Baillie Gifford, due to its connections with fossil fuel companies.

Read: Edinburgh Book Festival urged by 50 authors to drop sponsors

The incident occurred during a discussion on changing the climate narrative, where Loach led a demonstration in front of the audience to raise awareness about the sponsor’s role in exacerbating the climate crisis.

Who is Mikaela Loach?

Mikaela Loach is an activist, podcaster, and writer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Loach is a vocal advocate for climate justice and environmental sustainability. She is particularly concerned about the intersection between the climate crisis, racism, and the legacies of colonialism. She is also a strong supporter of human rights, and she has spoken out against white supremacy and the maltreatment of migrants.

Loach has been involved in a number of climate justice protests and campaigns. In 2019, she locked herself on for eight hours during an Extinction Rebellion protest in London. She has also campaigned with Climate Camp Scotland and spoken at events such as the Zurich Insurance Group's Youth Against Carbon Conference.

In 2020, Loach co-created the Yikes podcast with Jo Becker. The podcast explores climate change, human rights, and social justice. In 2023, she published her book It's Not That Radical: Climate Action to Transform Our World.

In a passionate video shared on Instagram, Loach voiced her concerns, stating, “I can’t actually in good faith continue just talking about these issues without doing something, especially given that the festival is sponsored by an investment firm that is bankrolling this climate crisis. Baillie Gifford are an investment firm that have £5bn of investments in the fossil fuel industry. Edinburgh book festival: you wouldn’t burn books, so why are you burning the planet? Drop Baillie Gifford.”

Read: Greta Thunberg quits Edinburgh Book Fest: greenwashing claims

With emotion in her voice, she described the dire consequences of global heating and its impact on the world. Loach, who was born in Jamaica and raised in Britain, also expressed her fears about the future of her ancestral land due to investments in fossil fuels.

Loach’s demonstration prompted the audience to join her in chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho – Baillie Gifford’s got to go.” The activist emphasised the need to redirect finance away from fossil fuel companies and halt their destructive impact on the environment.

The protest was prompted by an open letter signed by over 50 authors, including Ali Smith, Zadie Smith, and Katherine Rundell, urging the festival to sever ties with sponsors involved in fossil fuels. This plea follows Greta Thunberg’s decision to cancel her appearance at the festival, accusing Baillie Gifford of “greenwashing.”

Mikaela Loach among more than 50 authors who signed a letter against the sponsors of Edinburgh Book Festival
Mikaela Loach among more than 50 authors who signed a letter against the sponsors of Edinburgh Book Festival

Baillie Gifford has defended its stance, asserting that it is not a significant fossil fuel investor and highlighting its commitments to clean energy solutions. Festival director Nick Barley acknowledged the concerns raised by the authors, promising to reflect on their points and stressing a shared commitment to addressing climate issues.

Loach’s bold move serves as a poignant reminder that the urgency of the climate crisis demands action and ethical decision-making, even within the realm of literature and cultural events. As the debate continues, the Edinburgh International Book Festival faces a pivotal moment in aligning its sponsorships with the values of sustainability and environmental responsibility.

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