Hustle and bustle in March 2019: visitors on the stairs to the book fair stands in the glass hall of the Leipzig exhibition center
So much thought had been given in order to be able to hold this year’s event. Now the Leipzig Book Fair boss Oliver Zille has announced that the health risk would still be too great at the end of May.
VA year ago, the Leipzig Book Fair was the first major victim of the corona pandemic. It was canceled a few days before it started in March 2020. This time the bad news comes much more in advance: As the Leipzig Book Fair boss Oliver Zille announced in a press release that has just been published, this year’s edition, which is planned for the end of May, will also be canceled.
In coordination with the German publishers and the city of Leipzig, he had already postponed the event from its usual date in mid-March by more than two months last summer: to a time when the pandemic was promised to be successfully contained especially warm weather, so that large parts of the public events for the 300,000 book fair visitors to date could have been relocated to the outside areas of the Leipzig exhibition center. This plan failed early on. The reasons for this are the vaccination campaign, which is starting much more slowly than hoped, and above all the incalculable risk from mutated virus variants.
The ongoing uncertainty among exhibitors should not be underestimated for the decision to cancel the book fair again. Foreign participation was hardly to be expected any more, but this loss would have been easier for Leipzig to get over than for the much more internationally oriented Frankfurt Book Fair. However, Portugal would have been the guest country in Leipzig this year, and the pandemic is particularly bad there at the moment. One of the central program complexes would have collapsed. And important German publishers had not yet clearly spoken out in favor of participating in the fair, some had even canceled before the current news.
For the German-speaking book industry, the failure is a drama, because now it has to hope for Frankfurt as the next trade fair, and the Leipzig example will not give the organizers there much courage – after all, all of Oliver Zille and his team’s considerations for this year’s event were previously considered promising . And possibly even greater drama is the rejection for the city of Leipzig and its hotel and restaurant business, which the book fair would have brought the first major income in more than a year. The failure of the Leipzig Book Fair signals to all of us that this year is likely to be even tougher for culture than the last.