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Author Beverley Naidoo responds to the visa issues faced by Tiny Owl illustrators

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Beverley Naidoo’s letter speaking out against the difficulties in obtaining visas for Ed Book Festival. Photo by Beverley

Edinburgh International Book Festival has begun, but unfortunately has once again been filled with the problem of authors and illustrators being unable to attend due to having their visa applications denied. Author of Cinderella of The Nile, Beverley Naidoo wrote a letter for The Guardian, speaking out against the demoralising process. She is scheduled to have an event with the illustrator of Cinderella of the Nile, Marjan Vafaeian, at the festival. At the time that Beverley wrote this letter, Marjan was still awaiting a final decision regarding the outcome of her visa application. Luckily, after a long and stressful wait, Marjan’s visa has now been approved, and she will be attending her events as planned at the festival. However, Beverley’s words still ring strongly for many other planned attendees, including Tiny Owl illustrator and Edinburgh International Book Festival illustrator in residence, Ehsan Abdollahi. Read Beverley’s letter below:

Once again, selected artists invited to the Edinburgh Book Festival are, in the words of director Nick Barley, being put through a “humiliating” process. (Home Office refuses visas for authors invited to Edinburgh book festival, 8 August). Two of them, Marjan Vafaeian and Ehsan Abdollahi, are much-praised Iranian illustrators published by indie publisher Tiny Owl. Last year, Ehsan Abdollahi’s visa refusal was met by an outcry in the book world and fortunately reversed.  This year, the Festival appointed him their ‘illustrator-in-residence’.

Beverley’s letter featured in The Guardian


In ten days, I am due to present two events with Marjan Vafaeian about our picture book Cinderella of the Nile. If she is not there, I shall have an empty chair in which she will be our guest-of-honour. I shall ask everyone to imagine our invisible illustrator alongside projections of her marvellous images. Our ancient fairytale involves the humiliation and exclusion of its heroine by those with the meanest of motives. The empty chair will reflect how we too, as artists and audiences, are being treated with Kafkaesque disdain. On what grounds may we not meet and engage with artists like Marjan?      

Amelia Gentleman reported Sajid Javid’s stated intention to allow staff greater freedom to use their common sense (Sajid Javid plans ‘fairer, more compassionate’ immigration system, 6 June).  So where is this new common sense?

  • Outcry and support for Ehsan Abdollahi: A blog post
  • Visa refusals: an article in The Guardian
  • Visa delays: an article in The Bookseller
  • Cinderella of the Nile at Edinburgh Book Festival: Buy tickets here!

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Posted in Authors, News & Reviews