What’s Going On?   At Edinburgh International Book Festival 2018 – not 1818 or even 1918, but 2018

By Bernie Bell

booksI first became aware of problems with visas for the Edinburgh International Book Festival participants, through the ‘Tweets’ at the side of Jackie Morris’ blog page http://www.jackiemorris.co.uk/blog

I’m not on Twitter, but follow Jackie’s blog, because I delight in her work, and in her attitude.

So, first thing I noticed, was a mention that Iranian illustrator Ehsan Abdollahi   http://tinyowl.co.uk/public-outcry-and-support-for-illustrator-ehsan-abdollahi/     was experiencing difficulties, and a long delay, after applying for a visa to come to Edinburgh for the Festival. Even though he was there last year, and he is still the same person he was then – still a well-known illustrator.

I then followed the progress of Ehsan’s visa application, via Jackie’s blog page.

Here are the relevant ‘Tweets’…………..

Beverley Naidoo @Naidoo_J2J

Isn’t it strange how the British Council invested so much in developing cultural ties and creative exchanges by sending us artists to countries in Africa and the Middle East, yet the Home Office deny entry to artists from these same parts of the world? Own goal?

Tiny Owl Publishing @TinyOwl_Books

So frustrating that we’re STILL waiting to hear about the visa for fab #EhsanAbdollahi, Illustrator in Residence @EdBookFest. Why making it such a protracted process? Why should it be so heart-wrenching and stressful for a well-known illustrator? Self portrait illustration by him

14 Aug 2018

Worldwide Book Services @wbsltd

Yet again, politics interferes with @edbookfest. Share as much of your creativity online as you can to encourage imagination, illustration, and writing!

 Pippa Goodhart @pippagoodhart

Glorious artwork done by Ehsan Abdollahi at and ⁦@edbookfest⁩ session last year. Come on, Home Office, and give him the visa for this year!

Ed Finch @MrEFinch

hey @sajidjavid ,  Ehsan Abdollahi, a respected, award winning Iranian illustrator, was asked to be artist in residence at #EdBookFest. His UK visa has been refused. He attended the festival last year and circumstances have not changed. Please help. #VisaforAbdollahi

Jackie Morris @JackieMorrisArt

Shamed by our Home Office. Ehsan and his work both shine with beauty.
Review your decision and grant a visa to this man.
Next year we are launching a book together with @TinyOwl_Books at @edbookfest Side by Side. There should be no barriers to culture.

Edinburgh Book Fest @edbookfest

“Around the world whenever tyrants or dictators come to power who do they round up first? The journalists, the poets, the writers, the philosophers.” ~@Beathhigh #FreedomToThink #EdBookFest

Tiny Owl Publishing @TinyOwl_Books

Fab author @PhilipPullman in response to #VisaforAbdollahi: At a time when we need more than ever to hear voices from every quarter, to prevent someone from speaking at a festival of literature is a crime. My government ought to be ashamed to let that happen. #MessageforEhsan

Jackie Morris @JackieMorrisArt

 The irony of @BBCRadio4 Open Book with @mariellaf1 talking about censorship in Iran while British Home Office has refused a visa for @TinyOwl_Books Ehsan Abdollahi to speak at @edbookfest does not escape me, nor, I hope, anyone listening.

Tiny Owl Publishing @TinyOwl_Books

Together we stand! Some ideas for individuals to stand with fab illustrator #EhsanAbdollahi on his visa issue:
1. Shout out on the social media and spreading the word
2. Writing to MPs
3. Asking bookshops & libraries to feature his books
4. Message him via #VisaforAbdollahi

The Bookseller ✔ @thebookseller

Ehsan Abdollahi still awaiting visa for @edbookfest appearance: http://bit.ly/2OGEEWg 

Tiny Owl Publishing @TinyOwl_Books

Brilliant to see media coverage of #EhsanAbdollahi’s visa struggle on @channel4news! We regret to see such an important cultural event’s reputation hurt by this negativity! #VisaforAbdollahi @luciajwalker https://www.channel4.com/news/edinburgh-bound-authors-have-visa-problems … via@c4ciaran

Edinburgh-bound authors have visa problems

It’s meant to be a celebration of literature and artistic freedom, but at least a dozen authors who were supposed to feature at this month’s Edinburgh International Book Festival have had difficult…


Ciaran Jenkins

✔ @C4Ciaran

Home Office refused visas to 12 Edinburgh Book Festival authors.

‘They treated me like a terrorist,’ says Palestinian writer whose event happened without her today.

So, the  situation is………….The organizers of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, asked this man to take part in the Festival.  He didn’t approach them, they approached him .  He has a life of his own, in his own country, which he, presumably, has no intention or desire to leave, permanently.  He agreed to come to Edinburgh, then the Home Office treated him like a suspicious person!

If nothing else, this is rude!  He was invited to a cultural event, in Scotland, then rejected by the British Government, as being some kind of ‘un-desirable’!

And this is only one example of what is happening, one which we are aware of because he is a famous person, and his visa problems have received media coverage.  What about all the other examples , where the movement of an individual is restricted, though their purpose in travelling is very clear – cultural events, business, study, family etc?

Readers of The Orkney News may be asking – “What has this to do with us, with Orkney, or Scotland?” Well for one thing, we’re all people, who may want or need to travel to other nations, or have people visit us from other nations, at some time. Orcadians have covered the globe, and families want to visit!

And, for another thing…….this affects the Edinburgh International Book Festival, in …Edinburgh……Scotland.

As Jackie says  “There should be no barriers to culture”

I’ve said enough – simply presenting this individual case, says enough.

Jackie Morris @JackieMorrisArt

Brilliant to hear that at last, and hopefully just in time Ehsan Abdollahi has been granted a visa to travel to @edbookfest
So pleased for Ehsan, for the people of the festival, for @TinyOwl_Books
Hope to be with him next year as we launch our new book.

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4 replies »

  1. There has been a positive outcome for Ehsan Abdollahi – possibly/probably because folk made a fuss – but there are still people being refused visa’s, with no good reason why.
    Keep stirring the pot, people, keep stirring the pot.
    Constant vigilance!

    By the by – thank you for the compliment Charles – very timely as I am having a bit of a ‘wobble’ about writing, publicly, and was thinking of just going back to pestering folk that I know, with my musings etc. So – thank you – appreciation, is …appreciated!

    • No problem Bernie I always enjoy your writings as do many others so please, please don’t ever let such a silly notion enter your head. I’m sure that if we ever get a chance to meet we would have a great craik over a glass or two or three of Jamieson’s, LOL. Keep going don’t ever stop.

  2. And thanks again, Charles. Fact is, I’m such a gobby critter, I probably won’t be able to help myself! I just kind of lost heart – but, no doubt, something will happen which I’ll want to send out into the world, and I will! Mike has reminded me of how The Universe provides – including your comment, which did hearten me.
    I’m not sure about the Jamieson’s – whisky used to be my tipple, then – I drank too much of it! Seriously – over did it, big time – and now – I like to smell it, inhale it, sometimes even sip it, but I stick to white wine these days. Don’t even have a ‘hot one’ when I have a cold.
    I use to drink Whyte & Makay’s – not too expensive, but still good to taste – Glenfiddich as a treat. Ahhhh – memories!
    Mike, however………………

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