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Reorganisation of Guildford Book Festival Follows Reduction of University Funding

Published on: 7 Mar, 2013
Updated on: 9 Mar, 2013

Guildford Book FestivalThe Guildford Book Festival (GBF) is being reorganised and a new ‘creative directorate’ being sought following a decision by the University of Surrey to reduce the amount of its funding.

The university is cutting back from providing 50% of the core funding, around £22,000, to giving just £1,500. This is less, it is believed, than some sponsors contribute. The university has also announced that it intends to start its own ‘New Writers Festival’.

Glenis Pycraft, who has directed GBF for the last 12 years, was employed by the University of Surrey and its decision to withdraw funding, which was used in part for her salary, meant that she was made redundant. But the trustees of the festival, a registered charity, instead of re-arranging her employment are now advertising for someone new.

One of the trustees, Cllr Jen Powell, who is also lead councillor at Guildford Borough Council for sport, leisure and culture, said: “Guildford Book Festival began in 1989 and is a key cultural event in the area. It includes activities for all ages, backgrounds and interests. Guildford Borough Council continues to support the festival with core funding. However, the University of Surrey has withdrawn its core funding for 2013 and will contribute £1,500. As a result, the festival has to restructure.

“The festival is a registered charity and is committed to increasing its financial independence. The trustees are looking to appoint a creative directorate to arrange, promote and develop a festival this year. By offering this fixed price contract, the trustees aim to continue the festival’s past success in a financially sustainable way.”

“The 2012 Guildford Book Festival was extremely popular and the most successful in recent years.”

Other GBF trustees are the University of Surrey’s arts administrator Patricia Grayburn; local broadcaster Jeff Thomson; local hotelier Manny Sawhney; and the former leader of Guildford Borough Council, Cllr Andrew Hodges.

Mike Findlay, the media relations and events manager at the University of Surrey, said: “We can confirm that we carry on supporting the Guildford Book Festival financially though at a reduced level than previous years.

“The university is also committed to running the New Writers Festival. This is based within the School of English and Languages and is quite different in its scope. The New Writers Festival adds to our established portfolio of events, including the Morag Morris Poetry lectures and the Poetry Festival. The New Writers Festival is intended to complement the Guildford Book Festival.”

Former GBF Director Glenis Pycraft said: “I was pleased to be instrumental in growing and developing such a varied programme. In particular I am proud to have acquired charitable status for the festival in 2009, and to have instigated the festival’s schools and HMP Send programme as part of an educational remit.

“During my tenure we developed excellent working relationships with key local businesses and individuals, for whose support I am most grateful.

“The announcement that the University of Surrey would be withdrawing its funding was undeniably a shock. Guildford Borough Council and the university had been core funders of the festival since its inception in 1989, without which we could not have survived, however approximately 40% of the GBC’s contribution is returned annually to them through ticket commissions, advertising and venue hire.

“These are difficult times, especially for public organisations, and financial independence is the way to go. The quadrupling of commercial sponsorship in 2012 from 2011 demonstrates the start we had made on this.

“I am deeply saddened not to be involved in the festival’s future, but am pleased that the 2012 festival was one of the most successful in recent years. I hope that it continues to go from strength to strength, enhancing Guildford ‘s cultural offer.”

Her deputy director, Caroline Ball, whose contract has not been renewed, said: “Like many arts events, the festival has been run on a shoestring, but with quiet persuasion Glenis would pull amazing rabbits out of hats. She has enormous respect among publicists and publishers, and among authors themselves, from Simon Brett to Sandi Toksvig, as well as commanding great loyalty from staff and volunteers.

“Because she is not one to blow her own trumpet, just how much she managed to achieve has often gone unsung, but working alongside Glenis has been an education and a pleasure. The success of the 2012 festival is a testament to her abilities and I do hope that breaking up what was proving to be a winning team isn’t throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Goodwill is a hard-won asset that quickly dissipates.”

The new posts are not, it seems, being advertised locally in Guildford but nationally. Information from an advert in the Guardian newspaper included the following:

Guildford Book Festival
Posted: 25 February 2013
Location: Guildford, Surrey
Industry: Arts & heritage – Festival, Arts & heritage – Writing & literature; Charities – Arts & culture
Function: Administration
Level: Management
Contract: Contract
Hours: Part Time
Salary: Remuneration will be based on a pro rata basis in the region of £20 – £25,000

You will be dynamic and will be able to develop the successful the Guildford Book Festival (a registered charity). You will be able to demonstrate appropriate knowledge and achievements to undertake this rare opportunity.

Guildford Book Festival (GBF) aims to advance education for the public benefit by promoting and providing opportunities for the appreciation, understanding and enjoyment of literature and the arts.

We are seeking a Creative Directorate (CD) to offer a ?xed price contract to arrange, promote and develop a successful literary festival for 2013.

In order for the CD to achieve the objectives of the Festival, it will be necessary for the CD to demonstrate it can provide the following attributes

  • A strong understanding of contemporary literature and authors, including literature in translation, and connections to the publishing world;
  • Substantial artistic and managerial experience in conceiving and producing public literary, artistic, or comparable public events,
  • A readiness to consolidate the strengths of past Festivals and the imagination to create new ways of achieving the charity’s goals;
  • Excellent planning, budgeting and financial management skills;
  • Ability to respond swiftly and under pressure in a fast-paced environment;
  • Ability to write well and to speak articulately and persuasively.

Full details of the invitation to tender can be found on our website at or by request to to whom all submissions for this contract should be made.

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