London Book Fair opens in subdued mood as flight ban continues

<p>Flights to the UK remain grounded, as the international book community gathered at Earls Court for the 39th London Book Fair on what was described by one exhibitor as a &quot;subdued&quot; opening morning (19th April).</p><p>Many early attendees thought that at least half of their meetings would be cancelled, with attendance from some areas of the world down by as much as 90%. The agents centre was described in one of the numerous tweets about the fair as &quot;very thin on the ground&quot;. Some suggested that BEA or the Frankfurt Book Fair would now have to &quot;take up the slack&quot; of lost business, though others remained optimistic about meetings that could come from freed-up diaries.</p><p>One high profile casualty was former prime minister Tony Blair. Random House, which publishes Blair&#39;s memoirs this autumn, had organised for the former PM to meet all his international publishers at an event this evening at Kensington Roof Gardens, followed by a dinner with customers. But Blair is in the Middle East and unable to get a flight back to the UK. Cornerstone publicity director Charlotte Bush said: &quot;It is very unfortunate and disappointing. We have a couple of new dates and are looking to reschedule.&quot;<br /><br />Organiser Reed Exhibitions had said that it expected to run a full seminar programme, though some attended by<em> The Bookseller</em> this morning, including <em>New Forms of Adaptation </em>in the Film &amp; TV strand, were cancelled.</p><p>The London Book Fair&#39;s chairman&#39;s breakfast went off as planned, with SA PA&#39;s Brian Wafawarowa, and author Andre Brink among those who have made it across from South Africa. Industry website Book Southern Africa reported that a skeleton crew of South African writers made it through, with the site also helping to organise a &quot;Not the London Book Fair&quot; event in SA. </p><p>The largest international contingent comes from the US, with Jon Malinowski, vice president of the American Collective Stand, indicating that only 30 people from 150 that were supposed to come have made it across. </p><p><em>Publishers Weekly</em> reported that Hachette Book Group was only able to get six of its planned 12 people to the fair, including rights and international sales staff. As of Sunday, only one of Simon &amp; Schuster&#39;s team had made it to the fair and it was unlikely any more would. Random House&#39;s fair presence will be led by the UK group and it was unclear over the weekend how many staffers from Random US would be in attendance.&nbsp; <br /><br />The Charles Clark Memorial lecture has been cancelled, as has the KITAB reception and seminar at the London Book Fair. Sourcebooks&#39; London Author party to be held this evening (19th April), has been cancelled. (<em>To report any cancelled events please email, or use the comments facility below</em>).<br /><br /><strong>Exhibitors spoken to this morning by The Bookseller</strong><br /><br />Jon Malinowski, vice president of the American Collective Stand</p><p>It&#39;s going to affect the fair - how can it not - it&#39;s not just the Americans, it&#39;s the Europeans and the Asians who can&#39;t make it. It might make BEA more of a show that people will go to. I&#39;ve pushed a number of my meetings that couldn&#39;t make it back to BEA.</p><p>Jessica Howarth from McGill Queens Press (Canada)<br /><br />The impact&rsquo;s been massive. I&rsquo;m only here by chance but a colleague was supposed to be here and isn&rsquo;t. We&rsquo;re without lots of material. It&rsquo;s disappointing but you have to make the most of it. We&rsquo;re hoping to make good UK contacts.<br />&nbsp;<br />Andrew Whelan &ndash; Diamond Book Distribution<br /><br />I hope it won&rsquo;t have too much of an impact, but some meetings have already been cancelled. We still envision a very exciting fair, although it will have a slight effect on the meetings.<br /><br />Lucy Emmett &ndash; GMC Distributors<br /><br />The travel disruptions have already affected the far from our point of view. Export and rights meetings are lost already &ndash; it&rsquo;s very unfortunate. Frankfurt will really have to pick up a lot of slack, but it&rsquo;s very early to be able to tell exactly.<br /><br />Kevin Arthur &ndash; Harlequin Mills &amp; Boon<br /><br />Most of the exports have cancelled. This has had a major effect, but there are no horror stories so far. Everyone&rsquo;s talking about how quiet it is this morning. It&rsquo;s a bit early to tell how good or bad the fair&rsquo;s going to be, but I&rsquo;m optimistic &ndash; you&rsquo;ve got to be.</p><p>Ian MacDonald, sales director, Geocenter</p><p>I&#39;m amazed at home many stalls are built. But you never know what comes out of this - suddenly your diary is freed up and you can wander round, you don&#39;t know what will happen.<br /><br />Mandy Ferguson, managing director, Mills and Boon</p><p>We think the book market is challenging - but at least we&#39;re not running an airline. Not many cancellations, but in terms of international rights it will be affected. </p>