London Book Fair: A Keynote From Mayor Khan on the Climate Crisis

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

With a focus on Ukraine and daily keynotes each morning, London Book Fair’s programming is beginning to take shape.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, whose new book on the climate crisis is to be released in May, gives a keynote address at London Book Fair on April 19. Image: Greater London Authority, Caroline Teo

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

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London Book Fair Names Main Stage Speakers

Climate Crisis: The Focus of Khan’s Forthcoming Book
Following the many examples of international book-industry trade shows and book fairs giving special focus to Ukraine under Russia’s invasion—for which the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin—London Book Fair has announced that Ukraine is its ‘guest spotlight’ country for the trade fair, running April 18 to 20.

The news comes from organizers along with a note that London Mayor Sadiq Khan will be on the main stage at 10 a.m. on LBF Wednesday, April 19, in a keynote conversation with Kwame Kwei-Armah, artistic director of the Young Vic. Khan has a book, Breathe: Tackling the Climate Emergency, set for a May 25 release (Penguin Random House UK/Hutchison Heinemann).

Fitting nicely with the “sustainability hub” focus that the fair’s organizers are planning, today’s edition (March 23) of The Guardian in London also carries an op-ed from (Labour’s) Khan and Chris Skidmore, the Conservative MP for Kingswood, demonstrating the kind of bipartisan action they say is critical “if we are to make our cities cleaner, healthier places to live, work and raise a family.”

“Last summer,” Khan and Skidmore write, “London faced record-breaking 40C weather [104 degrees Fahrenheit], causing wildfires and the busiest day for the London fire brigade since the blitz. The year before, we saw the devastating impact of flooding, leaving tube stations filled with water, roads impassable and people losing their homes. All these things are a trailer for a movie we really don’t want to watch, which is why national and local leadership is so important.”

Sidiq Khan

Especially in light of the dire conclusions of the new AR6 Synthesis Report, Climate Change 2023, from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the timing is right for more than a book release, and this is part of what Kwei-Armah is expected to discuss with Khan during his keynote.

The Thursday (April 20) keynote session is to feature author and Women’s Prize for Fiction founder Kate Mosse in conversation with television presenter Louise Minchin.

Announced earlier, Brian Murray, president and CEO of HarperCollins is the opening-day keynote speaker.

Dan Conway

For the Publishers Association, CEO Dan Conway says, “We’re absolutely thrilled to welcome such distinguished guests to take part in our agenda-setting seminar program this year.

“The publishing industry makes a crucial contribution to the UK’s arts industry, and we look forward to hearing Mayor Khan’s insights into this and how the book world can contribute to the sustainability agenda.

“Kate Mosse is one of the UK’s most respected writers and industry voices, and it will be fascinating to hear about her latest projects and her vision for championing women’s voices in literature in the UK and around the world.

Guest Spotlight: Ukraine

The Ukraine focus is to be reflected in a series of events developed with organizations including:

  • The Ukrainian Book Institute
  • English PEN
  • The Publishers Association
  • The International Publishers Association
  • The British Council

Programming takes the form of conversations on topics including how Ukrainian writers have responded to the Russian assault; the role played by books in countering disinformation and the support of democracy; women’s voices in such discussions; and writing from the battlefield. Stand B201 is to have a display of contemporary Ukrainian publishing.

Karine Pansa

In a prepared statement, Karine Pansa, president of the International Publishers Association, is quoted, saying, “At a recent IPA event on the freedom to publish situation in Ukraine, all of our Ukrainian speakers were clear.

“You can support us by continuing to work with us as peers, by licensing our books, by keeping us part of the international book sector. It’s great to see London Book Fair doing that and providing Ukrainian publishers with the means to keep working with their international colleagues despite the atrocities of war they face at home.”

Oleksandra Koval

For the Ukrainian Book Institute, director Oleksandra Koval says, “We are grateful to the organizers of London Book Fair for inviting us as a ‘Guest Spotlight’ market and helping us with our stand. … Ukrainian authors will be able to tell their story at one of the most important cultural venues.

“Since the beginning of the war, our reality has changed: we have witnessed what social media hides by marking photos as ‘sensitive content.’ Our truth is not aimed at impressing, but at testifying to the crimes that Russians commit every day against Ukrainians and Ukrainian culture.

“We have learned to move on, to write and publish books, but our experience is going to stay with us forever. We [will] show this duality with the project by Daria Bila and Sofia Hupalovska at our booth: new books from Ukraine and furniture from Ukrainian libraries destroyed by Russian shelling.

“We covered the war-torn library furniture and books with white paint. We are covering up the reality so that we can move on with our lives, but it’s still visible and speaks through new Ukrainian books.

“Among the authors of our program who will speak about Ukraine are Olesia Khromechuk, Mariana Savka, Luke Harding, Victoria Amelina, Oleksandr Mykhed, Iaryna Chorhohus, Orysia Lutsevych, Kateryna Babkina, Tetyan Teren, Nina Murray, Tanja Tuma, Iva Pezuashvili, Paul Robert Magocsi, and Vladislav Davidzon. The truth must be told–the truth about the war, writing during the war, and what art will look like after it when Ukraine overcomes the colonizing pressure of Russia.”

The institute has worked with the British Council on “The UK/Ukraine Season,” a response to the needs and struggles of the country under attack.

Rachel Stevens

Rachel Stevens at the British Council says, “In this past year, the ‘season’ has provided a platform for Ukrainian creatives and enabled us to understand better the changing needs and priorities of the Ukrainian cultural sector, so that we may continue to strengthen the ties between our countries to collaborate and do business together for years to come.

“It’s of vital importance now that we continue to support independent critical discourse in Ukraine and hear from the plurality of voices within the cultural sector.

“As international strategic partner to the London Book Fair, the British Council is committed to providing opportunities for UK publishers and their international counterparts to develop their networks and understanding of new markets.”

Dan Gorman

And Dan Gorman, director of English PEN, says, “We continue our focus on Ukrainian writers and writing, which began at last year’s London Book Fair, in partnership with PEN Ukraine and the British Council.

“Our session with Tetyana Teren, Victoria Amelina, and Kateryna Babkina will consider the future of Ukrainian literature and highlight how writing can become a form of resistance.”

Selected Program Highlights

April 18, 9:30 a.m., Focus Theater
Guest Spotlight welcome: Ukraine Opening Ceremony

April 18, 1: 30 p.m., English PEN Literary Salon
Art After War: The Future of Ukrainian Literature

April 19, 3:30 p.m., English PEN Literary Salon
You Cannot Mute the Truth: How the Ukrainian Publishing Market Works in Wartime

April 20, 9:30 a.m., English PEN Literary Salon
Prove Who You Are: The Face of Ukrainian Culture Today

April 20, 1:15 p.m., English PEN Literary Salon
Writers on the Frontline: Stories from Ukraine


A programming note: Publishing Perspectives will moderate a special look at international copyright issues on London Book Fair’s main stage on its opening day:

April 18, 2:30 to 3:15 p.m.

Copyright in a Global Context: Current Threats and Emerging Issues

Copyright laws and intellectual property rights vary in different countries. How is the legislation changing across the world, with legal challenges on different continents? What are the expectations of the industry? What can the industry do to encourage free expression and copyright? “Copyright exhaustion”: what does it mean for the industry? Topics explored will range from intellectual property framework copyright agreements in a post-Brexit Britain to new regulations currently impacting South Africa and the region.


Catch up with all our coverage of Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine and its impact on the country’s publishing industry and players. More from Publishing Perspectives on the Ukrainian market is here, more on the freedom to publish and the freedom of expression is here

More from Publishing Perspectives on London Book Fair is here, more on rights trading in the international marketplace is here, our Rights Roundup series is here, more on licensing is here, more on academic and scholarly publishing is here, and more on the United Kingdom’s publishing market is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the world media partner of the International Publishers Association.

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.com, 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.