You have probably heard the news. So long Earls Court, last one out, turn off the lights. The London Book Fair is moving for 2015 and beyond. But what may have not come through about the end of the Earls Court era of the London Book Fair, is that its new home, the Olympia London, is, well, pretty spectacular.
“I think the one clear message I’d like to get across is that this is not the Olympia it was before,” LBF director Jacks Thomas told PW. “It has two enormous new halls, which are very light, and you can now connect to them all, and through different points of access. We are not losing anything, and what we are gaining is a prettier venue. Everyone who goes in reacts to that class ceiling. It is completely iconic.”
Indeed, many long time London Book Fair attendees will recall previous shows at Olympia. But that was nearly 10 years ago, and before a £30 million refurbishment. PW toured the site with fair organizers this week, and the renovation is impressive. After years of standing around under the florescent lights of Earls Court, the Olympia’s natural light-filled exhibit halls, which are surrounded by a spacious, large second-level promenade overlooking the floor, should be a welcome change. In addition, the meeting rooms are plentiful, and nicely appointed, and there are theaters, and a state of the art main auditorium on site.
In all, there will be more than 42,000 square meters of connected exhibit hall space, and the London Book Fair will use all of it, one of the only shows that to make use of the entire Olympia complex for its conference. And, Thomas said there is room to grow.
The change comes as historic Earls Court, where the fair has been for the last nine years, is ready to be reclaimed for other uses, (although it ultimate fate yet undetermined). For a generation of fair goers, including a number of digital companies born in the last decade, in which time fair attendance has grown considerably, Earls Court is all they’ve known. And if worries existed over the fair's new location, it was because the last time a London Book Fair was anywhere other than Earls Court, it was at the ExCel Center, far from Central London and its amenities, or in the Olympia before its major upgrade. But while it may be bittersweet knowing that the fair will never return to Earls Court, it is a comfort to know that its new Olympia home is just a stone’s throw away in the same West London vicinity.
Fair organizers are now busily preparing for the move, and still figuring how the fair will exactly set up. But for fair officials who have been steadily re-thinking the event in recent years, that is almost business as usual.
“I think this year we re-thought the fair quite a bit,” Thomas said. “We looked at every single sector, at every single geography with the fair, and we honestly turned it inside out.” Thomas said the academic zone and Tech Central will move to Olympia with the Fair, and that more consumer-facing events may be added. And perhaps most importantly, the International Rights Center will have a lovely new home, with plenty of natural light.
“Photosynthesis,” Thomas said, “To help grow more deals!”