A consortium of British indie publishers visiting Frankfurt for the first time are in an “awkward” position as a result of the UK’s vote to leave the EU, but will be using the fair to forge closer ties with publishers on the continent.
The Northern Fiction Alliance (NFA), founded in April, comprises four publishers based in the north of England: Comma Press, Dead Ink, Peepal Tree and And Other Stories. The initiative was backed by a £56,167 award from Arts Council England’s International Showcase Programme, which has been used to fund the NFA’s trip to Frankfurt. The visit is driven by a desire to showcase independent British fiction and the “thriving publishing scene outside” London.
But Ra Page, founder and managing editor of Manchester-based Comma Press, believes the Brexit vote has made it a tricky fair: “It’s an awkward position to be in, trying to build bridges when, elsewhere, [UK] governmental wheels are in motion to pull them down. That’s the challenge.”
Page is concerned that an “over- simplified” media narrative in the UK has painted the north-east of England as “a Brexit heartland where people have no interest in Europe or the wider world”. He added: “No one would judge an international friend or colleague on how the majority of their compatriots voted. We wouldn’t stop speaking to our American friends if Trump got in.”
Nathan Connolly (pictured), director of Liverpool-based Dead Ink, said he saw his business as “a decidedly European publisher”, adding: “Brexit can go to hell. I’m European and Dead Ink is European. Nobody else is going to decide that for me. I will be redoubling efforts with European colleagues and showing that, at least in these northern cities, we feel a close affinity with Europe—now more than ever.”
Hannah Bannister, operations manager at Peepal Tree, agreed. She said: “It’s a wonderful time to reach out to our European colleagues; the exchange of ideas and culture becomes ever more vital in these strange times.”