Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Are we still allowed to call it Olympia Bookfair?

After a very busy week in New York, both in and out of the marathon 5 day bookfair, I am back on British soil and making plans for my home fixture in the great travelling Circus (No Animals but plenty of Clowns) that is the ILAB International Antiquarian Bookfair Calendar.

New York is a fair unlike any other. The Buzz, the impressive Park Avenue Armory building that houses the fair, the Customers (where else in the world might you see Chelsea Clinton, Yoko Ono, Me and Steve Martin all in the same place at the same time), and the backdrop of one of the most exciting and vibrant cities in the world make it a tough act to follow.
                                                          (Yoko is the one on the left)
                                                                  (Who's Ya Daddy)
                                                      (Steve "just call me Steve" Martin)
                                            (Me, playing Hide-and-Seek, on Park Avenue)

This year my Booth partners (The approachable and chirpy James, and the flawlessly elegant Georgina Hallgate from Lucius Books in York.) and I drew the short straw. We got one of the rear wall booths, right next to the cafeteria area of the bookfair. Not a popular choice with either of us as it meant that we couldn't unpack and set up until very late in the first day, we got on with it and didn't complain (too much, or to the right people it seems).
To our surprise it turned out to be a good spot when the bookfair actually opened. Most visitors to a bookfair can't go a whole day without needing a sit down and a restorative drink or something to eat, so pretty much everybody who came to the bookfair walked by, and several into, our booth. I met many new customers, some known to me but who had always walked past me to get to the dealers that they knew, and many that I wasn't aware of before. I got several requests to go on my mailing list for catalogues and some of these new faces even bought books at the fair.

Added to the succesful business was some great evenings in wonderful bars and restaurants, including a sublime Japanese meal in a terribly fashionable eatery (not sure why they let me in) in the East Village where we watched an ultra-skinny Model make a single portion of sushi last over an hour before declaring herself full and leaving her friends to their third or fourth courses. I'd love to know what she made of our table, which resembled Chimps feeding time at the Zoo whenever our waiter minced over with another tray of the most delicious food only to see it all gone in a minute into our hungry, but appreciative, mouths.
If I can ever find it again (trendy places don't advertise, or even look like restaurants from the outside. You have to be in the know, Daahlink) I will work my way through the other half of the menu.

But after New York Bookfair comes, inevitably, London Bookfair, or Olympia Bookfair as it is generally known.
I am not aware of any threats from the International Olympic Committee about the name appearing on posters, adverts and websites, but maybe they haven't noticed it yet. A notoriously aggressive  body when protecting their "Brand", the IOC have used their great wealth and Power recently to take on opponents like the owner of the Olympic Cafe in Stratford who was ordered to change his business name or face legal proceedings. Faced with a large bill for new signage he got his paint brush out and simply painted over the O. Presumably he will wash it off when the IOC turn their attention to the next host city at the end of the games.

This year the Olympia bookfair is moving to the bigger exhibition hall, right next door to its regular home in Hall 2 since 1998. This increase in space has also seen an increase in booth sizes and the number of exhibitors. This means that there will be more books on show this year, even allowing for the handful of dealers who only bring about a dozen books (yet still seem to take hours to set up), than ever before.

The fair is being held a couple of weeks earlier than usual this year. This is to avoid clashing with the school half term holidays and the Royal Jubilee celebrations. The bookfair is a big draw for many but the ABA knows that pitching its flagship event against the first official holiday of the summer and an old Queen (......No. Better not.), is a battle it can't win.

The fair opens on Thursday 24th of May at 3pm and closes at 8.30pm. This is half an hour earlier than usual as some of the more vocal Gentlemen bookdealers resented work getting in the way of their drinking time.
Friday 25th the doors oepn at 11am until 7pm and saturday 11am until 5.30 pm.

With a series of Lectures, demonstrations of Bookbinding, Printing, Calligraphy and Engraving, Guided tours of the fair and the ABA roadshow (where visitors can bring in their own books for valuation) there is plenty to fill the three short days. There is even much hope that the dreaded catering will be vastly improved this year.

I will be on stand number 131 (just in the entrance and turn right, four stands in from the centre) so do stop by and say hello. The multi-talented Maz (Paul Foster Books is the official sponsor of the Mad French Bird) will be on hand to deal with those who choose not to talk to me.

If you want free tickets you can either download them from the official website- www.olympiabookfair.com , or let me know your postal address and how many you would like and I will send them by first class mail.