Bookworms despair as coronavirus concerns cancel London Book Fair

By Zoe Osterloh
March 6 2020, 18:00

The London Book Fair organisers have cancelled the event amid the coronavirus outbreak. 

The annual book fair was due to be held from March 10 to 12 at the Hammersmith Olympia. People regularly travel from more than 135 countries to attend the event.

In a statement released on March 4, organisers Reed Exhibitions said: “The effects, actual and projected, of coronavirus are becoming evident across all aspects of our lives here in the UK and across the world, with many of our participants facing travel restrictions.

 “It is with reluctance that we have taken the decision not to go ahead with this year’s event.”

Internationally renowned authors Lynda La Plante, David Mitchell and Waterstones children’s laureate Cressida Cowell had been due to attend the event. 

Leah Little, from Austin, Texas, spent £50 on a three day pass for the event. 

Ms Little was planning to visit the book fair in between attending an authors’ conference and visiting a friend in Yorkshire. 

She said: “Now I plan to visit museums and the theatres as it’s been many years since I’ve spent any time in London.”

Travel agency director Ako Mushkiashvili was planning to travel all the way from Georgia to attend the book fair with his mother Lia Shalvashvili, the director of Georgian publishing house Shemetsneba. 

He estimates that he and his mother spent $2200 in total on costs associated with attending the book fair, including visas. He said: “I don’t know how to manage it.” 

Mr. Mushkiashvili also expressed concerns that Shemetsneba would lose business, and said he did not think it was necessary to cancel the fair over the coronavirus outbreak. 

Despite the cancellation, some attendees have decided to turn their disappointment into new opportunities. 

Jo Unwin, who describes herself as a ‘literary agent but nice’, took to Twitter to organise an alternative literary dog walk.

She called for people interested in publishing to join her for a walk in Brockwell Park in Brixton, with or without a dog.

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