Thessaloniki’s 2024 Book Fair Closes With 85,000 Attendees

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

With Sharjah Book Authority as guest of honor, the 20th edition of the Thessaloniki International Book Fair promotes cultural outreach and diversity.

On the exhibition floor at the 2024 Thessaloniki International Book Fair. Image: TIBF

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

Koukis: ‘Taking a Place on the Map’
The 20th edition of the Thessaloniki International Book Fair with the United Arab Emirates’ Sharjah Book Authority as guest of honor closed on Sunday (May 19), now reporting 85,000 attendees as compared to the 90,000 attendees of last year.

(The smaller figure than last year’s is considered to be a result of Sunday’s football match with northern Greece’s PAOK winning its fourth Greek championship and the city center being closed on that day, the fair’s conclusion, for the football fans.)

The show now reports 850 exhibitors, as many as 1,500 Greek and international writers, some 500 events, and a footprint of some 16,000 square meters.

The four-day public-facing book fair stressed themes of diversity, with Sharjah’s guest of honor program devised to emphasize historic Greek-Arab relations. Today (May 22), a part of the extended program surrounding the fair has included a meeting on Arabic and Greek translation in Athens, an event that bookends the dialogue held before the fair with Arab and Greek illustrators.

Nikos Koukis

Nikos Koukis, president of the lead producing body, the Hellenic Foundation for Culture, on the close of the program—coordinated again this year by Nopi Chatzigeorgiou—on the closing of the fair says, “We’re proud of the organization of the 20th anniversary Thessaloniki International Book Fair and its dynamism, with the valuable contribution of the Central Macedonia Region; the Municipality of Thessaloniki; HelExpo [the venue]; publishers; writers; speakers; and the cooperation of cultural bodies of the city.

“With the its second professional program and, of course, with its substantial, diverse content, the Thessaloniki fair definitely has taken a place on the map of the international landscape of books and book fairs.

Nopi Chatzigeorgiou

“The cooperation with regional, national, and international bodies promotes the profile of the book fair and expands its audience.

“In addition, this year’s presence of the Arabic world—either in the framework of Sharjah as the guest of honor or in events of the general program—highlights issues regarding the need for bridges of understanding and dialogue between different cultures in the fight against the stereotypes from one side as well as from the Western perspective.”

Indeed, Ahmed Al Ameri, the CEO of Sharjah Book Authority spoke of how part of the intent of the UAE’s third emirate’s program was “build bridges between two cultures that have had relations for over 5,000 years.”

Al Qasimi: ‘When Everyone Has a Seat at the Table’

Passing the Guest of Honor Sharjah pavilion at the 2024 Thessaloniki International Book Fair. Image: Nabs Ahmedi

The Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi—chair of the Book Authority, president of the American University at Sharjah, and the immediate past-president of the International Publishers Association (IPA)—was on-hand, as well, both in her role as the founder of the PublisHer international network of women professionals in the book business—Publishing Perspectives outlined the programming offered by PublisHer at the fair.

Bodour Al Qasimi

PublisHer’s own stand was at the fair, with its exhibition of significant books for and about women, while the organization’s programming was held in the professional program’s Dialogos Stage area.

In her opening comments, Al Qasimi said, “‘The publishing world is rich with stories, yet the women who help shape many of these narratives often don’t get to lead. This is a missed opportunity that’s hurting our industry.

“Diversity is about unlocking human creativity, because when everyone has a seat at the table, the narratives we create are richer, and our decisions more balanced and innovative.’

Al Qasimi also emphasized her high regard for the World Book Capital Network created by UNESCO with Ian Denison’s coordination. Sharjah in 2019 followed Athens as the 2018 holder of the prized World Book Capital designation.

A part of Al Qasimi’s engagement in the broader UNESCO program and the World Book Capital Network is her publication of her own book for children, and at one point during this year’s Thessaloniki far events, she met children in Greece and signed copies for them of her book.

As Sharjah’s guest-of-honor appearances sometimes do, the Thessaloniki presence included the Emirati Ayala performers, sometimes called “stick dancers” for their stately moves and ebullient vocals and drumming.

At the 2024 Thessaloniki PublisHer stand’s exhibition of books for and about girls and women. Image: Nabs Ahmedi

Weam Ibrahim’s arch motif was the signature visual of the Guest of Honor Sharjah pavilion, and several translated books reportedly focused on the literature of trauma, reflecting on the Syrian and Palestinian issues, the refugee crisis and a need for understanding across borders and peoples.

The Syrian poet Nouri Al Jarrah announced a poetry prize named “Meleagros” and designed to promote dialogue between the Arabic-speaking and the European countries of the Mediterranean.

The professional programming featured as many as 30 speakers, and some of the Emirates Publishers Association‘s participation included best practices for publishers, and the Sharjah program engaged collaborative concepts with the Vafopouleion Cultural Center; the AUTH; the Central Municipal Library; the National Theater of Northern Greece; the MOMus Museum of Contemporary Art; the Museum of Photography; the Center of History; the Museum for the Macedonian Struggle; and the Thessaloniki Film Festival.

Overall, the programming featured 109 events, and the fair reports some 3,000 students and visits from some 60 school and preschool visitors as part of its footfall.

In the Dialogos Stage programming area at the 2024 Thessaloniki International Book Fair. Image: TBF

More from Publishing Perspectives on Greece is here, more on guest of honor programs at publishing’s trade shows and book fairs is here, more on Thessaloniki International Book Fair is here, more on Sharjah and its publishing market is here, more on guest of honor programs is here, and more on Europe 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.