THE director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Nick Barley, is to step down from the role after 14 years.

Barley will remain in the post for this year’s festival before departing in September.

He said the experience had been an “honour”.

“Overseeing this great festival has been both a privilege and a challenge," he said. 

"As well as helping maintain Edinburgh’s role as a global capital for culture, I have aimed to create a festival that is full of joyful encounters: a forum for thoughtful conversations between writers and readers.

“I’m particularly proud to have been able to build on the festival’s strength and reputation during the devastating pandemic period, giving people all over the world continued access to the quality of discourse for which we are rightly celebrated.

“It’s been an honour to work with such a stellar team: the festival is so much more than its Director and the team is primed to work with my successor on the next phase.”

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Last year, Barley announced a series of cost-cutting measures, including redundancies, as the festival aimed to cut spending by around 25%.

He claimed that a “cocktail of factors” including the pandemic and cost of living crisis had caused the financial underperformance of the 2022 festival.

However, speaking exclusively to The Sunday National in November, two former staff members accused the festival of a “toxic” work culture and “organisational failures”.

They claimed that Barley was using the cost of living crisis and the pandemic to mask deficiencies in management.

“These layoffs mean the lowest-paid employees bear the brunt of the responsibility for management and organisational failures,” they said.

“This cycle is depressingly common in every part of the cultural sector, most recently with the collapse of Edinburgh International Film Festival.

“The casualisation of skilled work has hollowed out our institutions and will hamper future festivals for years to come.”

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Allan Little, chair of the Edinburgh International Book Festival Board, thanked Barley for his service.

He said: “On behalf of the Book Festival Board, I would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Nick for steering the festival through both exhilarating and turbulent times, and for leaving it in such robust good health for his successor.

“Nick has led the organisation to its position as one of the most recognised and respected literary festivals in the world and recent circumstances might well have proved insurmountable without someone of Nick’s experience and passion at the helm.”

Before becoming director of the book festival, Barley was executive director of Scotland’s national centre for architecture and design, Lighthouse.

But during his time in the role, Lighthouse fell into financial difficulty and eventual administration.

A total of 57 people lost their jobs.