The LitFest Blog
Festival Director Isobel Abulhoul, Assistant Director Yvette Judge and Travel and Hotel Administrator Mary Ann Miranda attended the London Book Fair 2015. Yvette shares her experiences from the Fair.
Having spent two weeks in France relaxing, reflecting on LitFest 2015 and doing a huge amount of reading, I left my quiet village for the hustle and bustle of London; this was quite a culture shock, as I had settled into a place where in recent years the most exciting events in the village have been:
- A caravan stuck in the narrow road outside my house; towed by a British registered Range Rover, I couldn’t understand why the family in the vehicle were not having the most enormous ‘domestic’ – instead, they just sat there (they couldn’t get out because the doors wouldn’t open; literally jammed between two stone houses, looking straight into my window… if this had been my family, there would have been at the very least an air of I-told-you-so. They were not normal.
- A car reversing off the village square with its back wheels suspended in mid-air for a time.
- My furniture arriving and having to be carried into the village – yes, the removals truck wouldn’t fit between the houses either.
And so – a leisurely train journey through France and suddenly I am in London, unable to work out how to cross a road or where I was going. Finally making it to the hotel, I got off to a bad start by picking up the small bottle of water on the desk before I saw the note saying £3.65 (AED 22) and hastily dropping it when I saw the price and then discovering that by removing it from its tray I had already charged it to my room!
However, I finally took myself in hand and met Mary Ann from our team at Earls Court tube station, whisked her to the hotel and then met Isobel to attend our first events – a celebration of 100 years of Ladybird books at Waterstones Piccadilly and then a reception at the Queens Club given by the Hachette Group, where we were delighted to meet two of our 2015 authors – Sophie Hannah and David Nicholls.
The next three days were full of meetings with publishers to discuss which of their wonderful writers would be good for the 2016 Festival, and in total we had 40 meetings. Mary Ann did an amazing job of recording all the names – probably around 300 suggestions in total! What shone through all these meetings were the comments from 2015 writers, who all had such a brilliant time. Without that feedback, it would be hard to convince publishers of the benefits of encouraging their authors to visit, and so a huge thanks to LitFest team members, sponsors, volunteers, moderators and audiences for giving everyone such a great experience this year.
LBF is held at Olympia, which is a huge exhibition space in London, and part of our challenge was finding our way round; we weren’t alone in this, and so some meetings were delayed which led to even less time to grab a bite to eat to stop us from fainting! Each publisher has a stand, crammed with tables, where the meetings take place. We were lucky that the weather was superb, so we didn’t need coats or umbrellas; squeezing our way round hampered only by a bag full of books was difficult enough.
We saw lots of familiar faces from Dubai too – bookshop staff, locally based publishers and authors, as well as Jo James, who assists in the management of our writers’ Green Room at the Festival, and those involved in Sharjah Book Fair. A great opportunity for networking! We chatted with Chris Gribble of Norwich Writers’ Centre, and I hope to visit when I am next back in the UK. Chris came to our Festival this year, and has plenty of knowledge, expertise and experience which he is happy to share.
Claudine Pabst, Montegrappa First Fiction Winner 2015 was there meeting Luigi Bonomi to discuss her novel, and seemed to be having a great time.
Although very much a commercial event (not a Festival of Literature), alongside the publishers’ stands are events by authors and also several sessions of interest to writers, including how to get published, marketing etc. Definitely something for everyone!
The final events were a series of talks on Thursday afternoon for anyone involved in running a Literary Festival – well, that must be us then – the most interesting of which was on the Do’s and Don’ts of Successful Festival Organisation. I was pleased and relieved to discover that we seem to be strong on the ‘Do’s’ and had hardly any negative points. Phew.
The final event was organized by Walker Books and featured one of my favourite children’s author/ illustrators – Anthony Browne, who has already been to our LitFest and even remembered me.
Then it was back to the hotel to collect my luggage, check-in to my next hotel and meet my daughter for a spot of shopping on Oxford Street. Thankfully for the bank balance, my feet were not up to trying on shoes…