Readers respond to news that the Home Office has been refusing visas for authors invited to the Edinburgh Book Festival

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 the 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 its illustrator-in-residence.

Next week 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?

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