Larger than life Falkirk children’s author Stuart Reid has been left high and dry by a mystery decision to axe his October stint in Qatar...which was worth £725 per day.
The award-winning Wallacestone man is an established star of a writers’ touring circuit arranged through Authors Abroad, and is probably best known for his Gorgeous George series - a massive hit with children across the world.
However now he has approached the Falkirk Herald with a unique offer for local schools, after a major booking in the desert kingdom for next month - finalised back in February - was abruptly cancelled with no explanation.
Stuart has plenty of work to look forward to, thanks to a lengthy list of rave reviews (including one from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon), and will be heading to Adelaide later in the year.
However he is mystified - and angry - that the Qatari decision has left him with an expensive hole in a schedule that was supposed to be filled with no less than 32 events at eight different schools.
Stuart said: “It is a real blow to someone who works as a full time author, because there is no way anything comparable could be arranged with just 25 days to go.
“In cash terms the trip would be worth something like £14,000, which after paying agency fees, the cost of books and other expenses would still come out at something like £10,000.
“This would be my seventh overseas tour and these Qatari schools, with their roll of private and international pupils, had agreed to pay a large daily amount for my visits, which is typical for an overseas tour.
“However on Tuesday we discovered that the key booker for these schools had been told to cancel, citing ‘management changes’ in (Qatati capital) Doha, and a refocusing of budget priorities”.
He added: “I have been invited to perform at over 2,000 schools, libraries and book festival around Britain, Ireland, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, India, Hong Kong and Australia since 2012, and this is the first time I have experienced such a late cancellation”.
Stuart, who has vowed never to visit Qatar again, speculates that economic and political troubles in Qatar may be involved.
In 2017 Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain accused Qatar of supporting terrorism, ended diplomatic contact and began a blockade.
International accounts now report strengthened military cooperation with Turkey, the exact opposite of what these countries had been demanding.
Yet Qatar is regularly described as having the highest disposable personal income in the world.
Stuart has no way of knowing exactly why his trip has been scrapped at such notice, but as someone who pours 100 per cent energy into his hugely successful work he has come up with a last minute, one-off, potential alternative.
He said: “I’m a local man, I’ve a child at a local school, and am well known in Falkirk as elsewhere - and I promise that when pupils have enjoyed one of my visits their parents will certainly hear about it in glowing terms.
“So I want to offer my author services and book reading events to Falkirk schools at a special price.
“The Scottish Book Trust author rate is £175 per hour (plus expenses) but for this single week only, I am offering Falkirk schools the price of just £49 for the most enthusiastic, exciting and inspirational author event (not my words, see my testimonials!).
He stresses his offer only applies to schools with an FK postcode, and is only for the week of October 7 to 11 (he has already arranged a trip to visit Northern Ireland schools to take up some of the lost time).
Stuart says being able to perform locally at a bargain rate will make him feel a little better about the lost opportunity overseas, and also help him do what he enjoys doing most - proving to children that reading can be the best entertainment ever.