The rescheduled Bologna Children’s Book Fair has been cancelled following the coronavirus outbreak in Italy.
Last month, organisers announced they were postponing the event until May because of the virus. But, with the whole country placed under lockdown as the health crisis escalated, the fair was called off today (11th March).
A string of publishers including Penguin Random House and Hachette had already said they would not attend.
BolognaFiere said the outbreak had “dashed every hope” of holding the fair and it would be trying to “re-create” the atmosphere and business of the fair online instead.
Antonio Bruzzone, general manager of BolognaFiere, said: “In these days we are dealing with a genuine emergency, one that involves not only our country but, unfortunately, has an international dimension. The need to contain the spread of the coronavirus has made it necessary to introduce strict limits on travel between countries, thus having a significant effect on all forms of business.
“The trade fair system, which is based on face-to-face meetings and networking, has had to deal with an unprecedented situation: the aim, now more than ever, is to support businesses and ensure the best circumstances for the repositioning of individual initiatives in light of this situation.
“For the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, for which 90% of exhibitors arrive from abroad, it would have been unthinkable for us to propose an event at which participants would not be able to take part with the necessary peace of mind and in the atmosphere of friendship and collaboration that characterises this great international community that each year comes together in Bologna. It was not easy to take the decision to postpone the event until 2021, but we have done so in the knowledge that we are providing an important contribution to overcoming this current situation.”
For publishers, the news was not unexpected and many had already said they would be holding meetings over Skype and finding new ways to market their books away from the fair.
Elinor Bagenal, rights director at Chicken House, said: “I knew in my heart that it wasn’t going to happen but now the fair has definitely been cancelled I feel like it is a real body blow. It is as if the terrifying wolf we never acknowledged before has finally been let out of his cave and is busy trying to blow all our houses down.But of course, we will all try to stop him.
“As a result of the cancellation of LBF, we were already very busy making up all sorts of ways of communicating with the world in a way that represents the essence of Chicken House and our list. Now we will just have to try even harder.
“One of the consequences of all the chaos is that we are already nearly booked for Frankfurt. Perhaps a good idea would be for Frankfurt to officially start on the Tuesday so we could see more people. Whatever happens, maybe the situation will bring out something extraordinary and new for us and our publishing companions around the world.”
Macmillan Children’s Books publisher Belinda Ioni Rasmussen said: “We remain concerned about our Italian publishing partners and wish them all well, but in terms of the work we’ve been able to continue, we have had really positive virtual meetings with many international customers, and have been joined in this by our adult publishing counterparts with whom we have worked to run a virtual book fair in lieu of both Bologna and London. I have been terribly impressed by how everyone has improvised and so many colleagues and partners have adapted schedules to manage the situation. Our new, flexible office space and the technology we have at The Smithson have really supported us, which is fantastic.
“I have no doubt that this will be the same as we approach what would have been the original dates for Bologna Book Fair, as we now enter an extended fair season this month."
Usborne’s director of foreign language operations, Paula Ziedna, also said business would be covered by other methods, including digital send-outs and virtual meetings.
She said: “None of that is as efficient as a face to face meetings, but in these exceptional circumstances all sides are fully geared up to make this work. We are finding our customers are generally having same reactions: sadness of missing Bologna catch-ups mixed with relief that this decision was made at this point, so that everyone can plan accordingly.”
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