'Surreal' LBF down by 'a fifth', flights could start Tuesday

<p>More than a fifth of the seminars scheduled for today&#39;s (19th April) programme at the London Book Fair have been cancelled, and exhibitor numbers are down, also by a fifth, as a result of the travel chaos, organisers have said.</p><p>The latest news on flights from NATS is that there is now &quot;the possibility that restrictions to airspace above England and Wales, including the London area, may be lifted later tomorrow (20th, Tuesday)&quot;. The news concludes what was described as a &quot;surreal&quot; first day, with LBF organisers now actively assessing a &quot;missed appointments&quot; day on Thursday (23rd April). </p><p>An LBF spokesperson said &quot;anecdotally&quot; exhibitor numbers, including in the rights centre, were down 20-22%. General attendance could not be measured at this early stage, but the main hall was noticeably quieter than last year. The International Rights Centre was well down, with some estimates that as many as 50% of tables in the normally packed room were unoccupied. </p><p>Andrew Franklin, managing director of Profile, said: &quot;It&#39;s looking really forlorn. It&#39;s been very hard to conduct business because there is no one here to conduct it with.&quot; Peter Usborne, founder and chairman of Usborne, said the fair would recover, &quot;we are all in this together&quot;. Usborne also revealed that the company had 18 members of staff stuck in Hong Kong, after an &quot;incentive trip&quot;. </p><p>Agent Carole Blake: &quot;It&#39;s been surreal, but people are putting a huge effort in to get here. We had 12 South African authors scheduled to attend, and have got only three here. We&#39;ll do the business but it will take longer, and I don&#39;t know, but it may make people realise we don&#39;t need it. &quot;</p><p>Of the 87 events planned, roughly 20 have been cancelled. Fair co-ordinators said this was down to the &quot;heavy emphasis on market focus&quot; events, as many of the representatives of this year&#39;s market - South Africa - have been been unable to attend. Events for the rest of the fair are also likely to be affected, although it was hoped that alternative speakers will be found in time.</p><p>Tomorrow the fair will be running an &quot;enhanced&quot; version of its helpline in the main hall at the International Welcome Point, in order to help those who have made it to the UK from overseas plan their next move. The spokesperson said: &quot;The problem will turn into &#39;OK, you&#39;ve got here - now how do you get home?&#39;, so there will be a continuing level of support.&quot;</p>