London Book Fair: This Year, a Main Stage in Pillar Hall

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Headliners Ben Okri and Louise Moore are to give keynote addresses on London Book Fair’s new Main Stage.

In Pillar Hall, which will house the Main Stage at London Book Far in early April. Image: Olympia London

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

HarperCollins, Amazon Publishing, Sharjah Book Authority and More
With Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy having roared to its joyous in-person conclusion Thursday (March 24), the next major publishing trade show’s organizers may feel some wind at their backs. Bologna regained its feet last week in what seems to have been a fair-wide agreement on its success.

While Sharjah International Book Fair, Frankfurter Buchmesse, and Guadalajara International Book Fair were the first to stage physical editions during the still-ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, Bologna has become the first of the major Western trade shows to stand up this year. London Book Fair is next, running April 5 to 7.

Ahmed Al Ameri’s Sharjah Book Authority this year is London’s Market Focus—the guest-of-honor place of pride it was scheduled to hold in 2020 when that year’s show had to be cancelled. And the Book Authority produced the first of these major shows, mounting physical versions of its own Sharjah International Book Fair in both 2020 and 2021.

While we have highlights today (March 27) of London’s programming today, this is a great time—a week ahead of one of these big shows—to stop and become aware of COVID-19 guidance and restrictions so that you can work out any preparations you may need to make in advance, especially if you’re traveling from outside the country to attend.

Programming Highlights at London Bookfair

As discussed in our interview with London Book Fair director Andy Ventris in our interview with him, he has opened Olympia London’s belle-epoque “Pillar Hall” to create what you’ll see on your scheduling materials and show app as the “Main Stage.”

And while the seminar series itself is agreeably not as crowded with events as it has been in the past, there still are more than 100 presentations, panels, staged conversations, and more, happening in nine locations of the fair. Those include 14 events on the Main Stage; one listed as being in Pillar Hall but without a Main Stage mention; 14 events in the “Buzz Theatre”; 14 at English PEN’s traditional presentation space; 20 in the Literary Translation Centre; 16 in the Olympia Theatre; 15 in “Poet’s Corner”; and one at Market Focus Sharjah’s venue.

Here are points of that programming being highlighted to the news media by the fair’s administration.

Highlights on the Main Stage

In Pillar Hall, which will house the Main Stage at London Book Far in early April. Image: Olympia London

The 1991 Booker Prize winner Ben Okri and the Penguin Michael Joseph managing director Louise Moore are London’s designated keynote speakers, and in the planning for Main Stage events—starting with his own opening press briefing at 10 a.m. on April 5—you can see taking shape Andy Ventris‘ idea of the Main Stage as a focal presentation point.

All times here are in British Summer Time to which the United Kingdom changed over the weekend: one hour ahead of GMT.

  • Why Does the Publishing Industry Not Better Recognize the Merits and Importance of Commercial Fiction? Tuesday April 5, 10:30 to 11:15: Louise Moore, managing director of Penguin Michael Joseph, discusses the importance of commercial fiction for publishers, and asks why the industry does not champion its success.
  • COVID-19: What’s Next for Publishing? Tuesday April 5, 11:45 to 12:30: Representatives from Nosy Crow, HarperCollins, Bookouture, Amazon Publishing, and the Booksellers Association explore how the pandemic has impacted the publishing industry and how it may shape the future of the book world. Publishing Perspectives moderates.
  • The Future of Work is Hybrid. Tuesday April 5, 13:00 to 13:45: Spokespeople from Google Workspace, Hachette, and Tsedal Neeley, author of Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding From Anywhere, look at how technology could help the publishing industry to build a successful hybrid working model.
  • The Role of Publishing and Culture During Global Conflict. Tuesday April 5, 15:15 to 16:00: In a session led by the Publishers Association, representatives from the British Council, International Publishers Association and Cambridge University Press consider the role of publishers and wider cultural institutions during global conflict, and debate how culture can play a role during difficult times around the world.
  • The Future of Book Supply. Wednesday April 6, 10:00 to 10:45: Ahmed Al Ameri, chairman of Sharjah Book Authority, speaks with David Taylor, managing director of Lightning Source UK, about the future of the supply chain and print-on-demand, with examples of the work being done at Sharjah Publishing City. Publishing Perspectives moderates.
  • Ben Okri: Art in a Time of Crisis. Wednesday April 6, 11:00  to 11:45: Booker Prize winning novelist and poet appears in conversation with journalist and editor Sarah Shaffi to discuss the importance and role of art in challenging times.
  • Nielsen Report – The UK Book Market: Pandemic Effects and the Picture in 2022. Wednesday April 6, 12:00 to 12:45: Nielsen Books highlights the publishing trends which emerged during the pandemic, and reveals what readers have been buying over the past two years.

For more programming, see the seminar listings, which allow you to filter them by day, track, and by venue.

Time To Check Your COVID-Related Requirements

Those of us who traveled into England from abroad in the autumn for The Bookseller‘s very successful FutureBook conference will find the British entry and testing routines now are far less challenging than they were then. The guidance page from her majesty’s government for “Travel to England From Another Country During Coronavirus (COVID-19)” reports what would have been almost shocking in November:

“You do not need to:

  • “Complete a UK passenger locator form before you travel to England from abroad
  • “Take any COVID-19 tests before you travel or after you arrive
  • “Quarantine when you arrive

And it adds, “This applies whether you are vaccinated or not.” Gone are even the “second-day” tests that overseas travelers were obliged to submit to after arriving. Recent changes to the COVID-19 response regime in Britain are in this BBC News story today.

However, we refer you to London Book Fair’s own “Stay Safe Guidelines” to be sure you’re in compliance on arrival at the show. To get into Olympia London, this document reads, “All attendees will need to demonstrate proof of COVID-19 status to enter our event. On arrival you will need to present a text, email, or pass to verify your COVID status is one of the following:

  • “Proof of completion of a full course of vaccination two weeks prior to arrival or
  • “Proof of a negative lateral Flow Test or PCR result taken within 48hrs of arrival or
  • “Proof you’re exempt on the basis of an approved medical exemption or clinical trial participation”

This is no more onerous than the entry requirements used last week at Bologna. We’d suggest, however, that you be aware that this may create a kind of two-stop entry, first to have your COVID status document(s) inspected, and then to have your registration badge flashed. At peak times, things may run a big slow, although we never saw this become a serious problem at Bologna.

Masking is being “strongly recommended … at all times and in all areas of the show.” And ticketing is done digitally before you arrive. Be sure to have your ticket printed ahead of time.

At this writing, authorities in the UK are keeping a wary eye on the highly contagious omicron subvariant BA.2. As Michelle Roberts reported for the BBC on the weekend, “Swab tests suggest about one in every 16 people is infected, as the contagious Omicron variant BA.2 continues to spread. That’s just under 4.3 million people, up from 3.3 million the week before.” The UK infection rate is at near record levels.

More from Publishing Perspectives on London Book Fair is here, more on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here, more on Bologna Children’s Book Fair is here, more on Sharjah International Book Fair is here, more on Guadalajara International Book Fair is here, and more on world publishing’s book fair and trade show events 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 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 was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.