Monday 25 November 2013

Letter to a lit festival admin person

Dear [X]

1914: Poetry Remembers (Faber & Faber) – Public Reading Project

[Y] at Faber has forwarded your request for permission for a reading of Guillaume Apollinaire, ‘The Little Auto’, in Beverley Bie Brahic’s translation, at the above event in the forthcoming Bath Literature Festival.

I replied to [Y] to say that after the invoice for permission for the poem to appear in the Faber anthology has been paid (its due date is tomorrow, and no sign of it yet); and after a copy of the book as requested with the permission invoice has been received (it was published a month ago); and after Faber have confirmed that in any reprint or paperback edition the mis-spelt name of the translator will be corrected, and her name will be removed from under another poem that she did not translate, and the publication details of the book in which the translation originally appeared will be listed (at present there is no mention) – then we can talk about further permissions.

Until all that is sorted, I can’t give any further permission through Faber.

If, however, Bath Festivals is dealing directly with myself, and my dealings with Faber are not relevant, we can move on.

I find it odd that you suggest I ‘waive any fees usually applicable’. What do you mean by ‘usually’? Bath Festivals, the organisation from which you write and a registered charity, received in 2012 (the last publicly available accounts) £190,200 from ACE and £245,00 from Bath & NE Somerset Councils; and had £406,530 staff costs (for 14 employees; average, just over £29,000 each), plus £9,515 ‘staff expenses’; total income, £1,203,981. CB editions, from whom you are requesting permission, receives no public funding for its publishing; has no employees; and makes an annual loss, even though all editing, design, typesetting, marketing and time are given freely, not costed against income. Neither does the translator of the poem you request permission for make an income from that work, yet, beyond a very few coffees or beers above the £200 advance from CBe. This is how things get done, how a large amount of the material on which literary festivals depend gets produced. I and a co-organiser have put on an annual book fair for poetry presses in London for three years (50 publishers at each of the last two events) without any payment at all. We did it for the enjoyment, and have no regrets, which is how I publish also, but to have this work taken advantage of by other arts organisations that are in receipt of large amounts of public money – no.

So, £300 for the permission. Negotiable. We can talk, and I hope we will. Which will go to publisher/translator 50/50. More, if you like; that is, if you think that the existence of certain small presses putting out what is worth putting out is something needing support rather than being something to be exploited. I think the public reading idea is lovely. I think the Bath Literature Festival is a fine thing. I resent the assumption that, in times of cutting corners, rather than the admin, payment for the people who write, translate, publish, provide the material on which festivals depend, is the corner to be cut.

With all best wishes

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