Nish Kumar withdraws from Hay Festival as comedian joins other performers in stance against Israel links

Nish Kumar withdraws from Hay Festival as comedian joins other performers in stance against Israel links

WATC HERE: Nish Kumar chats to Romesh Ranganathan on BBC Three

Olivia Gantzer

By Olivia Gantzer

Published: 24/05/2024

- 18:35

Updated: 25/05/2024

- 11:54

It comes as several others have also announced they'll be pulling out of the book festival

Comedian and television presenter Nish Kumar has pulled out of Hay Festival due to its sponsors having financial links to Israel.

The stand-up comedian is the latest in a number of writers to have objected to Baillie Gifford's involvement with the literature festival.

Kumar, 38, joins economics commentator Grace Blakeley, who has also withdrawn from the event she was due to headline at.

Other performers and writers have since done the same over the investment firm which has links to Israel.

Several other industries have faced similar boycotts by pro-Palestine activists following Israel's ongoing military campaign in Gaza.

Taking to X on Thursday, Kumar shared: "Sad to say that I will be pulling out of Hay to support this campaign. Love the festival and the people that work in it, but this was the right decision for me."

Nish Kumar

The comedian has withdrawn from the festival


Hundreds of writers have signed campaign group Fossil Free Books' (FFB) statement, which Kumar shared in his tweet.

The account's post read: "We invite book workers everywhere to join 200+ signatories and sign our open letter renewing our call for Baillie Gifford to divest from the fossil fuel industry and from companies that profit from Israeli occupation, apartheid and genocide."

Hay Festival has been running since 1988, attracting hundreds authors annually.

According to The Telegraph, writers Noreen Masud and AK Blakemore, climate activist, Tori Tsui and comedian Ania Magliano have also withdrawn from the festival.

Commenting on its sponsorship links with Baillie Gifford, Hay Festival Global CEO Julie Finch told the publication: "Like so many charities, we are operating amongst huge financial uncertainty. Sponsorship is a complex ethical space to navigate.

"In all of our funding agreements, we maintain editorial independence with a focus on delivering our charitable mission.

"We believe ideas can change the world and bring together diverse voices to listen, talk, debate, and create, tackling the biggest political, social and environmental challenges of our time.

"We believe more than ever that creating spaces to listen, talk and debate is critical to find solutions to our shared problems."

Nish Kumar

Nish explained on X he won't be attending Hay Festival


The statement continued: "This week, Fossil Free Books has issued a statement asking authors to boycott our next edition in protest over one of our sponsors, Baillie Gifford, and their investment portfolio. Their statement has been challenged by Baillie Gifford.

"We have requested additional information from Baillie Gifford and continue to work to safeguard our events as free and respectful platforms for exchanging ideas.

"We remain committed to reaching the widest possible audiences through our work and presenting one of a kind events in the heart of the Welsh countryside."

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