As agents and publishers voice hugely positive feelings about this year’s London Book Fair (18-20 April) with most reporting a “back to normal” verdict, some disquiet is also being aired about a near calendar clash with next year’s fair.  At the moment LBF 2024 is scheduled to run 16-18 April, but the Bologna Children’s Book Fair (BCBF) recently announced that its 2024 fair will run 8-11 April.

LBF director Gareth Rapley said: “We released our dates for The London Book Fair 2024 in October 2022. We were only made aware of Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2024 dates in March 2023, and the dates were decided without prior consultation with LBF.”

Elena Pasoli, the director of BCBF, accepted the timings were difficult, but added:  “BolognaFiere’s calendar is particularly busy in March due to the presence of two very large B2B trade fairs, which occupy the entire fairground plus some additional temporary halls built specifically to accommodate them. Logistically, therefore, the set-up and dismantling times are long and impose a shift of the other trade shows to April.

For some overseas visitors, having the two fairs close together is convenient; for others, it means exhaustion and a limited amount of time for the follow-up work that fairs create.  The proximity of Easter is a problem for some delegates too.  One scout told the Bookseller: “It means that working towards either/both fairs won’t give anyone time to really enjoy Easter, as everyone will be working through it, trying to keep up with the pre-fair workload. And it also messes with people with children, who have to work around Easter holidays in the run-up to the fairs.”

While there is much optimism about this year’s LBF, with the major houses saying they are back to full-strength in terms of staff attending, there remains this date clash in the back of people’s minds for next year.  Some even wonder if the three major fairs – LBF, Bologna and Frankfurt – can attract enough attendees.  As the editor the Bookseller Philip Jones put it: ‘For now publishers are voting with their feet, but sentiment will only work for so long, and we are all now wondering if three remains the magic number.’

But Rapley concludes: “We will strive to ensure minimal disruption to our visitors.  It is a shame that the issue around dates seems to be splitting the industry, forcing people to choose one fair over the other.”