Ukraine’s Lviv Book Forum: A Hay Festival Hybrid

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The 29th Lviv Book Forum is being presented next month in a digital partnership with Hay Festival and British Council support.

At the Lviv Book Forum. Image: Lviv Book Forum and Hay Festival

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

MacMillan: ‘A Welcome Candle Against the Darkness’
As devised by the British Council and Ukrainian Institute London, the 29th edition of the Lviv Book Forum is to be held October 6 to 9 as a hybrid event, the United Kingdom’s Hay Festival has announced today (September 13).

The Hay is in its first outing as the Book Forum’s partner in a digital program expected to feature as many as 40 writers and others in 15 presentations.

The physically produced Book Forum traditionally has been cited as the country’s largest festival of its kind and is primarily a public-facing event, but was created as part of a professional program for publishers and booksellers. And another leading festival in the beleaguered nation, you may remember, is Kyiv’s Book Arsenal Festival.

In fact, however, of the proverbial chicken and egg, the “Publishers Forum,” an industry-based nonprofit, was registered in Ukraine in 1995 and since 2007 has generated a program of professional events for book publishers. The literary festival drew some 25,000 people in 2000 and attracted its first international personalities in 2001, according to documentation on the show’s development. By 2014, the program featured more than 1,000 events, and the name Publishers Forum was changed in 2018 to Book Forum.

In addition to the Hay Festival and British Council, the October program has support from the United States Agency for International Development, and from Zinc Network, a media agency.

As in the Hay Festival’s longtime mode of drawing public interest to its work, headliners are considered the key, and some of those who are chief among those listed for the news media today are:

  • Margaret Atwood
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Olena Stiazhkina
  • Yuval Noah Harari
  • Serhii Plokhy
  • Abdulrazak Gurnah
  • Yaroslav Hrytsak
  • Elif Shafak
  • Samar Yazbek
  • Philippe Sands
  • Margaret MacMillan
  • Andrii Kulykov
  • Lydia Cacho

The Hay Festival has a page for the event here, and more about the “Ukraine Season of Culture” branding umbrella under which the program is being staged is here.

Upbeat Battlefield News

Sofia Cheliack, who directs the curation of this year’s Lviv Book Forum, opens a previous edition in Ukraine. Image: Lviv Book Forum and Hay Festival

The timing for the announcement of the new cooperation between the Hay Festival and Lviv Book Forum is auspicious as Ukrainian military efforts in some five days have produced unexpectedly rapid gains against Russian forces, leading to cheering predictions from many presenting the news and cautionary appraisals from war analysts.

“Putin’s war is an attack on democracy and freedom, not just in Ukraine but around the world.”Margaret Atwood

In today’s report from Stephen Kalin and Bojan Pancevski for the Wall Street Journal, they write, “Since the start of its offensive earlier this month, Ukraine has said it has retaken about 9,000 square kilometers, or about 3,500 square miles, of territory from Moscow’s forces in the region of Kharkiv, handing Russia the biggest setback since it invaded in February. That is more than one-tenth of all areas Russia gained and kept since the invasion.”

And Lili Bayer, Hans von der Burchard, and Clea Caulcutt, writing for Politico today, point out that “Ukraine’s swift battlefield advances are forcing European governments to once again confront an uncomfortable question: Will they significantly boost weapons deliveries? It’s a touchy subject in many European capitals, where the energy crisis and cost-of-living woes have dominated public attention over the past weeks, prompting warnings of war fatigue.

“But Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russia in recent days has changed the narrative—at least for the moment—giving a new opening to those wanting European governments to step up their arms deliveries.”

Book Forum Participants’ Comments

Bogdan Logvynenko and Olesia Yaremchuck at a Lviv Book Forum discussion. Image: Lviv Book Forum and Hay Festival

The Hay Festival offers prepared testimonial statements from many of the participating speakers in the upcoming Book Forum program.

MacMillan, for example—Publishing Perspectives readers will recall she was chair of the Cundill History Prize in 2017—is quoted calling Book Forum “a welcome candle against the darkness of our times. The invaders of Ukraine are attempting to annihilate its culture, rewrite its history, and deny its identity. I am honored to add my voice in support of Ukraine’s struggle for its independence, its own culture, and its future. May there be many more events and partnerships like this one to remind us of our common humanity.”

Atwood is quoted, saying, “Putin’s war is an attack on democracy and freedom, not just in Ukraine but around the world. In joining the Lviv BookForum and Hay Festival program, I support Ukrainian writers and readers as they share their work. May this theatre of ideas and talent inspire more to raise their voices and share their gifts.”

Oliver Bullough says, “It says so much about what Ukrainians are fighting for that they’re going ahead with a festival of free speech in wartime.”

And Gaiman is quoted, saying, “It says a lot that, even in the dark days of a war that should never have been necessary, the festival continues in a brave act of resistance and allows writers like me to stand in solidarity with the writers and the readers of Ukraine.”

At an event for librarians at the Lviv Book Forum. Image: Lviv Book Forum and Hay Festival


More from Publishing Perspectives on the Hay Festival is here, and more on the world publishing industry’s book fairs, festivals, and trade shows is here.

Follow our coverage of Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine and its impact on the country’s publishing players and international industry reactions. More on the Ukrainian Book Institute 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 is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he 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.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (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.

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