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

Published by Marian Dougan

Marian is a translator and editor (specialising in web content) currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Marian previously lived in Italy for over 20 years, working as a language teacher, translator and policy analyst with the British Embassy in Rome. A qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and its Italian-language and ITI Scotnet networks, she is currently Scotnet's Convenor and Deputy Webmaster. From 2003 to 2006 Marian taught translation skills at the Italian Department of Glasgow University and now gives Master Classes as part of the new Masters in Translation Studies course. She also conducts web-writing and usability workshops to help people improve their websites and communicate more effectively with their readers, users and customers. In September 2014 Marian obtained User Experience Certification, with specialisation in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group. She loves language, especially English, and is convinced that learning languages opens up people’s minds and horizons (and increases their brainpower!). To share her enthusiasm, she advises schools and educational authorities on language skills and enterprise. She gives talks to pupils on how to combine language studies with other subjects and so enhance their potential and increase their career options. Marian is an active member of organisations such as: Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI); Association of Scottish Businesswomen; Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Scotland. She also loves architecture, design, fashion (British Vogue!), cities and chocolate. She’s a great fan of Twitter and you can also find her on Linkedin.

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  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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