Interview with Elena Pasoli. Manager of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.
Author: Paolo Grossi
How would you sum up this year’s edition of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in terms of the number of publishers taking part and the different activities involved?
I would say we are very pleased with the results of the second virtual edition of this event, which we organised with the same enthusiasm as last year, but with an undoubtedly broader and better understanding of the digital dimension. We involved exhibitors, above all at a business level, offering them a new, much improved version of our GRE – Global Rights Exchange platform, to which we added a new section devoted to licensing, linking the Children’s Book Fair to the activities of the more specific sister event, the Bologna Licensing Trade Fair. Overall, there were more than 800 exhibitors registered on the platform, with more than 20,000 titles and licenses. As for the events offered, we organised ninety different events, including masterclasses, conferences and presentations, while publishers contributed by organising 120 meetings. Moreover, we also launched a new initiative, BolognaBookPlus, devoted to general publishing rather than just children’s publishing, carried out in collaboration with the Italian Publishers Association (AIE). There was a large international conference focusing on new post-Covid scenarios, a training course on the book rights market in the children’s sector, a masterclass and an exhibition on book design and book covers, amongst other things.
What do you you think will change in book fairs and the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, in particular, after the pandemic? Do you think we will go back to how things used to be, with everyone physically present, or will the pandemic change the way this type of event is organised?
I think that fairs at which people are physically present will continue to be the norm and continue to be events that nobody wants to miss. This was confirmed by everyone we spoke to in the extensive dialogue we maintained with the sector throughout the pandemic. At the same time, however, the enormous digital experience that everybody has acquired will help us to make the fairs even more interesting, enabling us to reach a far broader target than in the past by adding new initiatives and seizing the new opportunities offered.
For the next edition, the fifty-ninth, will there be anything particularly innovative? And which countries will be the guests of honour etc.?
Well, thankfully, we will finally be able to welcome as guest of honour the Emirate Sharjah, which had been scheduled first for the 2020 edition and then for the 2021 edition, both of which had to be held exclusively online. Sharjah will bring the best works of illustration and children’s literature from the Arab Emirates, which will result in some extremely interesting forms of collaboration with the Italian publishing sector, and there will be a series of events that will involve the entire city of Bologna, its schools, families and young readers. The main new development, however, will be the first true edition of BolognaBookPlus, as an essential part of this event is an exhibition, which was obviously missing in this year’s edition. Our guest director, Jack Thomas, and his British team are already working to create a BBPlus that will be truly innovative and full of surprises.
How are you promoting the Children’s Book Fair internationally? Do you have any new partnership projects other than those with Russia and China?
We are currently preparing a book and illustration festival for children in Gran Canaria, after being invited by the Biblioteca Insular de Gran Canaria, with whom we are working closely to organise the event. There will be exhibitions, meetings for professional illustrators, workshops for children and international conferences. In addition, thanks to the support of the ICE (Italian Trade Agency), we will be taking part in four international book fairs, where we will be presenting a wide range of events and exhibitions studied specifically for the different targets at these book fairs, namely the Frankfurt Buchmesse, the Sharjah International Book Fair, the Feria Internacional del Libro de Guadalajara and the Salon du livre et de la presse jeunesse de Montreuil/Paris. This project is of great importance to us and we will be working closely with the Italian Publishers Association (AIE), with whom we also recently signed a memorandum of understanding to carry out initiatives together to promote Italian books internationally. We will bring the very best of Italian literature and illustration to these prestigious events located in different parts of the world, while also focusing on our own activities, publishers and books that have been awarded the most important Italian literary prizes, as well, of course, as providing an anticipation of what will be happening at the next BolognaBookPlus.