Australia has a record turnout at this year’s Bologna Children’s Book Fair after a campaigner lobbied its government to free up funds for independent publishers.
The initiative was led by Allen & Unwin rights and sales director Angela Namoi, who was frustrated that the Australian government routinely gave publishers money to attend fairs in Asia, but that very little funds were available to “go West”, meaning the cost of attending BCBF for smaller indies was prohibitive.
Namoi said: “I appreciate the politics of the government wanting engagement in Asia, but the reality is that for Australian children’s publishers to get their books and authors out to the wider world, they need to be in Bologna.”
After an 18-month lobbying effort, Namoi secured a four-year grant of $160,000 from the Department for Communication & the Arts. This has enabled 13 publishers to exhibit on the Hello! From Australia collective stand, nine more than in 2017. Additionally, a dozen authors and illustrators will be leading events at the stand’s Creatives Table during the fair.
Three indies on the stand—Magabala Books, Scribble and Windy Hollow Books—were up for the Bologna BOP awards’ best publisher prize for the Oceania region. Namoi said: “I think this shows the money is well spent, as you have to be an exhibitor to be eligible [for the awards]. It’s really important that the money has helped bring [indigenous list] Magabala and the Indigenous Literacy Foundation to Bologna, which will help bring our indigenous books and authors to the wider world.”
Scribble is the two-year-old imprint of Melbourne-headquarted Scribe. The indie’s UK m.d. Sarah Braybrooke, who is standing in for Scribble publisher Miriam Rosenbloom at the fair, said it was “incredibly helpful” to join the collective stand.
She added: “It feels more important than ever that Scribble can have a presence this year, given our shortlisting. I first visited Bologna just as Scribble was starting, and it’s amazing to be back just two years later with shelves of gorgeous, award-winning books to display, and to be alongside a range of other Australian publishers that we really admire.”