London Book Fair comes around each year with terrifying rapidity. No sooner have you spotted the first daffodils of spring do you find yourself up to your elbows in European publishers as they descend on South Ken and its environs, all suave and set, ready for some bookish business.
With rights deals flying left, right and centre and with printers showing off their latest wares (transparent foil on de-bossed, spot-varnished, laminated, quarter-bound jacket anyone?), everywhere you turn it appears that books are very much everyone’s bag.
This year, LBF has sneaked up on me even more so than usual (and it’s usually pretty sneaky) as it comes in the wake of the Paris marathon. From a Monday lounging by the canal in Paris, recovering from 26 miles of pavement pounding, sipping good coffee and enjoying the sunshine, to a Tuesday in Olympia working through one 30 minute meeting after another, glugging obscenely priced water (£2.25 a bottle? Seriously?!), it is quite the culture shock. Even more so since the move from Earls Court Exhibition Centre to Kensington Olympia this year has caused a degree of discombobulation all round.
On Tuesday morning it appeared that no one was entirely sure of how they had found themselves at the Book Fair at all, let alone where their next meeting was located and, after a few glasses of wine at the end of a busy day, it was clear that no one was entirely sure how to get home again.
On the plus side, this year I’ve gained a trusty assistant, who is sufficiently well-attuned to my ‘organised’ (read ‘control freak’) ways that he wisely turned up to the Fair fifteen minutes before my ludicrously early ‘suggested’ (read ‘required’) time of arrival and already had everything set up by the time I arrived.
It was his first day at his first Fair and he soon learned how splitting one’s day up into half hour segments causes it to evaporate before you. He also came to appreciate the sneakiness of those publishers who ignore these designated time segments, as well as those who loiter around the stand, claiming meetings where there were none and thus necessitating the skill, honed over a number of fairs, of hastily scoffing a sandwich while still engaging in a conversation (and making sure that stray bit of rocket isn’t resting between your teeth).
Despite hitting me like a train, the London Book Fair always reminds me how much I love my job and my industry. Everyone is just so nice and so enthusiastic and at critical mass publishers generate an infectious energy (and that’s how books are made).
Moreover, Olympia offers the added bonus of masses of natural light, rather than the dimly-lit halls of EC1, meaning that when you emerge from a day at the Fair you feel more like a real human and less like a mole. Well situated on the balcony, with good neighbours, a cafe and toilet in close proximity and with just enough buzz, (but sufficiently safe from the hubbub below) we have our best spot at the Fair yet. And business is good.
While I feared I may not be able to walk post-race, my legs have recovered sufficiently to allow me to stride the halls in my high heels. My immune system seems to have taken something of a nosedive however and I fear that with all of the schmoozing and two-cheek kissing I may be inflicting my so very sore throat on all of my European counterparts.
Still, I’ve been supplementing my recovery with protein shakes and plenty of fruit and veg, plus the Crush stand in hall 7 has been enjoying much of my custom as it’s rich in vegan salads, soups and wraps.
The Fair also brings with it the temptation of a glass of wine (or two) but with so much to celebrate, a new home for LBF and such good business to toast, it would be rude not to indulge!