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A few words from our patron...

Val McDermid reflects on how reading and stories have become even more important and vital this year.

Last updated: 30 November 2020

None of us could have predicted a year ago where we would find ourselves now. None of us has been unaffected by the changes thrust upon us over the past months. But one of the few positive outcomes of the pandemic has been that more people have been reading more books. We have turned to words for many things – for solace, for escape, for excitement and for hope.

One of the most important things we have found in the pages of our reading is empathy. Reading seduces us – or sometimes forces us! – to walk in someone else’s shoes. It’s one of the few ways we can really understand the pressures and pleasures of other lives. I don’t think it’s coincidence that the leaders of countries that appear to have coped best with the pandemic are self-proclaimed readers of fiction – Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand, Katrin Jakobsdottir in Iceland, Sanna Marin in Finland and of course our own Nicola Sturgeon. Every politician should be encouraged to read fiction, and all kinds of contemporary writing that opens doors into other lives.

The arts look set to become one of the major casualties of this pandemic. We let that happen at our peril for it will impoverish oursociety long into the future. Words are the currency of imagination and imagination is the engine of change. It’s our job to do all we can to stand up to those who think the arts are a luxury and do all we can to mitigate the damage. Together, we can stand against this.

Read our annual review 2020