Germany Backs Frankfurt Exhibitors, Hails ‘Freedom of Expression Week’

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Industry Notes: As Berlin underwrites exhibitors’ risk at Frankfurt, the Börsenverein makes ‘Freedom of Expression Week’ a recurring program and plans activities during Frankfurt Book Fair 2021.

In Hall 3 at the 2008 Frankfurter Buchmesse, the Comics Central programming area. Image: FBM, Nurettin Çiçek

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Boos: ‘Planning Security’
With a deadline of May 31 for 2021 Frankfurter Buchmesse registration, the trade show today (May 10) is announcing that Germany’s federal commissioner for culture and media is making available new funds that can be used to protect exhibitors registering for the October 20-to-24 fair.

As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, the fair is working for what’s hoped will be a physical iteration this year, with Guest of Honor Canada onboard and at least four major halls of the sprawling Messe Frankfurt fair complex in use.

The news today is that the terms of cancellation for exhibitors who are registering to participate are being updated. Germany’s Neustart Kultur funding program (essentially “Restart Culture”) will ensure that “exhibitors will bear no risk from the impact of the global pandemic.” Information on exhibiting and registration is here.

Juergen Boos

In a statement issued this morning, Frankfurter Buchmesse president and CEO Juergen Boos says, “Thanks to support from the German government’s federal commissioner for culture and media, we can once again offer our exhibitors special conditions–something we’re very grateful for.

“This assistance gives all of us planning security, so we can work together to realize a successful relaunch this October after a long period without physical events and face-to-face meetings.”

You’ll remember that some of the key points about the plan to return to a physical fair this year include:

  • Halls in use in 2021 are to include 3, 4 and 6
  • In addition, the Forum and Festhalle will be in play, as will open-air events in the central Agora
  • The Literary Agents & Scouts Center (LitAg) will move to Hall 6.2
  • Frankfurter Buchmesse’s innovation programming areas—The Arts+ and Frankfurt Audio—will be on ground level at the Forum
  • Guest of Honor Canada’s pavilion will be above The Arts+ and Frankfurt Audio on Level 1 of the Forum
  • As was introduced in October for the digital edition of Buchmesse, the Festhalle will again host a series of events organized with public-service broadcaster consortium ARD and other media partners, with plans to live-stream that programming

Below is a look at the plan for the trade show’s layout this year.

Physical space usage in the 2021 Frankfurter Buchmesse plan encompasses Halls 3, 4, and 6 as well as the Forum and Festhalle buildings around the Agora. Image: FBM

This year’s Frankfurt will be the 73rd iteration in the modern era. As regular Frankfurt trade visitors and Publishing Perspectives readers will remember, the sprawling fair complex has been undergoing extensive renovations in various halls. One advantage is that developing a plan for this year’s hoped-for return of a physical fair means working with fresh interiors.

Making a debut this year and potentially interesting to many will be Frankfurt Workstations, designed as a flexible in-person table format available for bookings on a daily basis in Halls 3, 4, and 6, and in the Forum.


Skipis: ‘A Free, Democratic, and Diverse Society’

In one of a series of posters created for Germany’s Freedom of Expression Week, the author and journalist Anne Chubu is quoted saying, ‘One can still say that racism is not an opinion.’ Image: Börsenverein

Following up on our article on the Freedom of Expression WeekWoche der Meinungsfreiheit—presented by the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, Germany’s publishers and booksellers association, we hear from the program now that in its seven days there were more than 50 online discussions, streaming events, broadcasts, readings, and social media campaigns operating (#MehrAlsMeineMeinung).

Germany's Freedom of Expression Week 2021 logoAt least 2,000 people chose to sign the Charter for the Freedom of Expression, the 11-point manifesto at the heart of the exercise. The charter can still be signed online.

Today, as the programming concludes, is the anniversary memorial for Die Bücherverbrennung, the May 10, 1933, burning of the books of persecuted authors in many parts of Germany. The National Socialist book burnings targeted the work of authors of Jewish origin and of others seen as being unfit for the “pure German culture” preferred by Nazism.

The Börsenverein is announcing that the observance now will be annual and that events and activities from the Woche der Meinungsfreiheit program are being added to Frankfurter Buchmesse plans.

Alexander Skipis

In a statement today, the Börsenverein’s CEO Alexander Skipis says, “At the first Freedom of Expression Week, we sent a strong signal for democracy, debate, and tolerance with a broad alliance of civil society. It was impressive how many people and organizations publicly declared their support for the values of a free, democratic, and diverse society.

“Today in particular, as we commemorate the book burnings in Germany 88 years ago, this shows how important it is to actively stand up for freedom of expression.

“Following the successful launch, we want to establish Freedom of Expression Week as a fixed and important social event in the coming years, in Germany and beyond. In the coming months, we’ll continue to stand up for persecuted cultural workers and for freedom of expression. Because our democracy and its liberal values only endure if we stand up for and defend them every day.”

During the week, Katja Riemann, Wolfang Niedecken, Michel Friedman, Susanne Fröhlich, ARD director-general Tom Buhrow and state minister for culture Monika Grütters were among high-profile personalities taking a public stand on freedom of expression.

It’s estimated today that the ad campaign mounted pro bono reached a value of more than €1 million (US$1.3 million). Programming from the week is available here, in German, and a program on the 1933 book burnings has been produced here by HR2 Kultur and the Börsenverein.


More from Publishing Perspectives on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here, more on the German market is here, and more on publishing trade shows and book fairs is here

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here. 

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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