As many of you already know, this is the last time the Earls Court Exhibition Centre is hosting the London Book Fair (the LBF)! If like me you can only remember the LBF being held at Earls Court, you are probably a little saddened by this fact or are perhaps feeling a bit sentimental right now. After all, even though it is a business event there’s been many a good time had at the LBF over the past few years!
So why the need for a venue change? Well, certainly UK publishing folk may remember (or have recently been reminded about) the media coverage regarding plans for a redevelopment in Earls Court and West Kensington. Sadly this also includes plans to demolish the Earls Court Exhibition Centre. After reviewing the media coverage regarding The Earls Court Opportunity Area, the London Book Fair felt that the future of Earls Court as an exhibition venue from 2015 onwards, was uncertain and would probably be unavailable. In December of last year (2013) Reed Exhibitions announced that due to the uncertainty surrounding Earls Court’s availability as an exhibition venue, The London Book Fair 2014 (the 43rd) would be the last to take place at its current venue, Earls Court.
At the time of the decision being made, The London Book Fair presented two prospective London venue options to The London Book Fair Advisory bodies: 1) The ExCel Centre in London’s docklands and 2) Earls Court sister venue, Olympia. After extensive consultation with The Advisory bodies, a decision was made for the LBF to make the move to Olympia from 2015 onwards. Jacks Thomas (Director of The London Book Fair) said that she felt moving to Olympia to currently be the right move for the publishing industry, due to the industry having a “great affection for West London”.
Of course, LBF has been hosted at Olympia many times before, and was actually held their annually until as recently as 2006. Interestingly enough, the Fair was originally called the ‘Specialist Publishers Exhibition for Librarians’ (later abbreviated to SPEX) and the first one was held in November 1971. The concept of the London Book Fair came from someone called Lionel Leventhal. After attending the London Arms Fair he was inspired to help start up an exhibit for librarians by small publishers ie SPEX! Then eventually from 1977 onwards, the book fair became known by its current name: The London Book Fair.
But what was wrong with the ExCel centre? London-based publishing consultant Janey Burton is just one of many publishers that are relieved to hear the LBF isn’t returning to the Docklands, where it was temporarily held back in 2006. As she recalls “there was a lot of ‘airplane hangar’: LBF was on one long side, there was a food court in the middle and a beauty/skincare Fair on the other side. I think the beauty Fair was geared towards customers and not the beauty industry so there were lots of members of the general public wandering around, often getting in the way of publishing industry members trying to do business at the LBF! In my opinion it wasn’t a very good experiment, and I believe there was also a general outcry from the publishing industry to go back to Earls Court, which of course they did.” (Further reading and more comments from industry members can be found over on Publisher’s Weekly)
So this week, I know we’ll all be making the most of our last time at Earls Court (and for some of you it’ll actually be your first time too). But whilst we do bid one final farewell to the venue, let us try and remember to welcome our new future LBF home which is just next-door in Olympia.