Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania Working Towards the 2018 London Book Fair

  • 2015-02-05
  • By Michael Mustillo

The memorandum for the united participation of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania at the 2018 London Book Fair was signed in Brussels in 2014 by Baltic Estonian culture minister Urve Tiidus, Latvian culture minister Dace Melbarde and  Lithuanian culture minister Sarunas Birutis. This memorandum signaled their intent to promote close cooperation, which will hopefully see the three Baltic countries attending the 2018 London Book Fair, ‘’The Market Focus’’. This is dependent upon a contract begin signed between Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the London Book Fair.

Jacks Thomas, director of The London Book Fair said:  “We welcome exhibitors and visitors from the Baltic states to The London Book Fair every year and we are inspired by its entrepreneurial and creative publishing industry, which is ambitious in its efforts to increase literature and other books in translation from the region available around the world. As part of the London Book Fair, we run an annual Market Focus programme which is open to any country or region which wants to boost their publishing industry to an international audience. We think the Baltic states could run a wonderful and exciting Market Focus for The London Book Fair but nothing has been agreed as yet’’

The initial cpordination efforts for this united project between the Baltic states have been progressing gradually. The memorandum states that project managers will be appointed for each Baltic country, and this has already taken place: Janis Oga (Latvian Literature Centre) and Ausrine Zilinskiene (Lithuanian Culture Institute) will represent their respective countries, while  the Estonian Ministry of Culture has formed a working group led by Asta Trummel, from the Estonia Ministry of Culture, which will coordinating the country’s participation. Trummel informed The Baltic Times that a full-time Estonian project manager will be appointed in 2016. Trummel further stated that all three Baltic countries are anticipating that the contract with the organisers of the London Book Fair, whose partners  are the British Council, and the Publishers Association of the UK,  will be signed in spring of this year.

The memorandum between the Baltic countries further covers a range of other intended commitments, such as the proportionate sharing of exhibition space, and the advertising and marketing costs of participation at the 2018 London Book Fair. Furthermore, the culture ministers have agreed on a plan to organise an extensive joint culture program at the 2018 London Book Fair, but cultural programmes outside the Fair will be entirely up to the countries themselves. The memorandum’s action plan will be reviewed twice a year.

The Baltic project managers, who will involve partners from the fields of literature and publishing, intend to meet for their first coordination meeting in Riga in late February 2015.
Recent comments made to the Baltic Times by Latvian culture minister Dace Melbarde, and Lithuanian culture minister Sarunas Birutis concerning the Baltic countries united participation echoed the importance being attached and placed on the cultural and economic benefits of a united effort in presenting Baltic literature at the 2018 London Book Fair.  

Dace Melbarde, has stated in comments forwarded  to The Baltic Times  that ‘’as a small country with limited linguistic borders our key to global literature area is translations of Latvian literature in English. There is ongoing work of translation and it will continue, significantly widening the readership of works of Latvian literature. The award of 2014 European Union Prize for Literature received by Janis Jonevs for his novel “Jelgava ‘94” clearly highlights the value and potential of our writers and may promote the translation of contemporary Baltic literature. The decision to participate at the London Book Fair in 2018 also adds an international dimension to the upcoming centenary of Latvia’s independence and helps to promote cooperation between Latvia and the UK which is particularly important in light of the fact that the UK was the first country to recognise the independence of Latvia in 1918.”

Sarunas Birutis‘s comments to The Baltic Times also reflect the importance that Lithuania is placing on the 2018 London Book Fair: ‘‘we are delighted to be one of the focus countries of the London Book Fair 2018. This project will hopefully empower our authors, encourage translations, and boost our networks in the publishing industry worldwide. It is the best, most simple and brilliant way to tell our stories through books and culture. Still waters run deep - let’s see if the Baltics can indeed become mainstream through their creativity and innovation,” said Minister Birutis.

Furthermore, Estonian Minister of Culture Urve Tiidus has officially stated that “To be the main guest at one of the world’s most important book fairs provides Estonian literature with unique opportunities to stand out and shine. It motivates us to translate and publish Estonian authors both in English as well as in many other languages. To be at the centre of global attention with our literature and culture in London in 2018 would be a wonderful present for the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia.”

The London Book Fair was founded in 1971 and has over the years  emerged as one of the most significant trade fairs in the world. The London Book Fair is a global marketplace for the negotiation of rights and the sale and distribution of content across print, audio, TV, film and digital channels. It offers a unique opportunity to explore, understand and capitalise on the innovations shaping the publishing world of the future, and will bring the Baltic countries into direct access with customers, content and emerging markets.

The London Book Fair “The Market Focus” was established in 2004. Its primary objective has been the focus on creating commercial and cultural ties between publishers and authors of a specific country or region, highlighting its publishing industry and the opportunities for conducting business with the rest of the world. Jacks Thomas, Director of The London Book Fair, said  

‘’This year we are welcoming Mexico as the Market Focus and we look forward to a cultural and professional programme which will showcase their publishing industry to the international community. If any publishers from the Baltic states would like to meet more Mexican publishers they are encouraged to sign-up to the matchmaking taking place at the Fair. ”

The 2015 London Book Fair will take place from the 14 – 16 April at London’s Olympia.