Funding cuts and language (1): Itchy Coo Press closing down

Katie's Zoo: A Day oot for Wee Folk, Itchy Coo Press
Illustration from Katie’s Zoo: A Day oot for Wee Folk, by Itchy Coo Press

Itchy Coo Press, the Scots language publisher specialising in children’s books, has announced that it’s closing down. Creative Scotland, “into which the Scottish Arts Council was merged last year”, has decided to withdraw their subsidy. There’s a full report in today’s Scotland on Sunday (20 February 2011).

Matthew Fitt and James Robertson, who run Itchy Coo (which I featured in a previous post on Getting kids hooked on books) have worked very hard to promote Scots.

The imprint has sold more than 250,000 books since it was created in 2002, while Fitt has visited over 1,000 schools in Scotland to promote Scots and deliver training sessions for teachers.

‘James and I have lobbied for Scots and promoted Scots within all areas in Scotland and abroad, including the United Nations,’ he said. ‘We’ve done everything in that area, and that will all end.’

Illustration from Precious and the Puggies, Itchy Coo Press
Illustration from Precious and the Puggies, Itchy Coo Press

One of their recent titles was Precious and the Puggies, a detective story for younger readers by Alexander McCall Smith. Who had this to say about Scots and language:

Language is one of our greatest treasures. It is a great pity in my view that some languages are dying out, because that means that the richness and the variety of human life are diminished. Every language has something to offer – a way of looking at the world, a story to tell about a particular group of people, a stock of poetry and song. The disappearance of a language is like the silencing of some lovely bird. I have long admired the Scots language and I admire people who are determined that we should not forget how to speak and read Scots…

By promoting Scots through their books, James and Matthew been promoting language and reading too. They’ve got a fantastic, colourful website that’s a delight to visit. I think it’s a shame they’re having to close, and utterly short-sighted of Creative Scotland to cut their funding.

By Marian Dougan

2 responses

  1. Hi there

    The story is not accurate. Itchy Coo is NOT closing, and the books will continue to be available as long as folk continue to want them (which they currently do in large numbers), although we have no plans for new titles at present. The separate outreach and education programme, run by Matthew Fitt with support from James Robertson, is coming to an end, but this is a voluntary decision taken by Matthew and James and NOT brought about by cuts imposed by Creative Scotland, who in their present form (and previously as the Scottish Arts Council) have been massively supportive of the whole Itchy Coo project. Unfortunately the story in Scotland on Sunday ignored these facts in order to get a couple of good headlines.

    Best wishes

    James Robertson

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