London Book Fair to go ahead despite coronavirus fears

Organisers reveal author line-up with Sharjah the market focus for 2020

The London Book Fair will go ahead as planned next week despite fears over the continued spread of coronavirus in Europe, organisers said on Tuesday.

Organisers revealed a line-up of best-selling authors expected to speak at the fair, including David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas, and Tessa Hadley, who wrote Late in the Day.

The event will also feature a programme of events celebrating Emirati authors and books.

Sharjah, which is due to host a partner book fair in November this year, has been chosen as the LBF Market Focus for 2020.

Organisers said the emirate was chosen because it has been “committed to the promotion of books and literacy for over 40 years” and has become “a centre for publishing across the Arab world”.

LBF director Jacks Thomas said: "As a significant, energetic and forward-looking participant on the global publishing stage, it is fantastic to be welcoming Sharjah as LBF Market Focus 2020.

“We look forward to working with Sharjah, our strategic partners British Council and the Publishers Association and colleagues across the Arab world to create author exchange programmes and to extend the reach of participating publishers – large and small, international and independents.”

Chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority Ahmed Al Ameri said: "We are delighted to be LBF Market Focus in 2020, to reinforce the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, to strengthen bridges of cultural communication around the world.

“We believe in the power of books to foster knowledge, broaden horizons and open dialogue.

"London is the publishing capital of the world and at LBF 2020 we will present Sharjah's unique cultural journey, that has flourished and expanded beyond the Gulf to establish itself as a global hub," he said.

Fears over the coronavirus outbreak in Europe have led to several large events being cancelled or postponed.

In France, authorities banned public gatherings of more than 5,000 people, and in Germany, several parades and carnivals were cancelled in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

The country even cancelled a book fair of its own, the Liepzig Book Fair.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday unveiled the British government’s plan to tackle the spread of the virus.

Unlike harder-hit neighbours such as Italy or France, the UK has just 51 confirmed cases of the new illness and little social disruption.

Health officials have advised people to work, socialise and travel as usual – as long as they remember to wash their hands often in warm, soapy water.