On my final day at the Fair I had a meeting with SHJIBF Director Ahmed Al Amri, who was still energetic after nine days of festival and satisfied with how his event had gone. The Book Fair is interesting because it’s a kind of melting pot of festivals – part trade fair, part consumer book fair, part cultural program – which makes it pretty unique. I would say it’s a tough job bringing all those elements together but it seemed to be a huge success: 100,000 people visited on the final weekend (!!), loads of books were sold, and there were almost 800 publishers in attendance and 200,000 titles for sale. Nice.
Ahmed was already looking forward to 2011 when I spoke to him – the 30th year of the Book Fair. He promised it would be bigger and better, with an even stronger cultural program, an expanded cooking demo program, and even more international guests. He pointed out that with festivals you need to keep gradually building on success, something that definitely resonated with me. (Eight years ago the EWFwas a one-day zine fair, in 2011 it will be an eleven-day festival!) I can’t wait to see what they come up with next year (hopefully in person, but if not, then through #shjibf!).
Lowlights were: events not starting on time or being cancelled at the last minute; the English language program wasn’t comprehensive so I missed a few events I would have liked to see; there were no really great chillout/relaxing areas (though there were a few cafes); and the English language books were mostly educational and kids books.
The balance is on the whole amazing – it was a superb festival and I had a fun and educational and enriching (erk) time. I will definitely be watching to see how the Book Fair develops in the future. I have no doubt it will go on to great successes.
Thank you so much to the Sharjah International Book Fair and the Sharjah Department of Culture and Information for inviting me to Sharjah and showing me such amazing hospitality while I was there. I loved it, not just the Book Fair but exploring the cultural sights of Sharjah also. Thanks also to Rupert B for being the man on the ground that made so much happen!