Visitors during an earlier edition of the London Book Fair. Image Credit: WAM

London: The London Book Fair (LBF), in partnership with Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) and the British Council, today announced the Sharjah Market Focus programme for writers and a seminar. A series of cultural events celebrating Emirati authors and books and a professional programme designed to enable and enhance business opportunities will support the United Kingdom and international publishers as they expand into this culturally vibrant region.

LBF is the largest spring book trade and publishing event in the world and will take place at Olympia London, from April 5-7, 2022, marking its first in-person edition since 2019.

Emirati writers participating in the programme include Omar Ghobash, author of ‘Letters to a Young Muslim’ and champion of Arabic literature on the global stage; Dr Abdulaziz AlMusallam, novelist, writer, researcher and consultant in cultural heritage; short-story writer Mohammad Al-Murr; popular Arabic poet Khalid AlBudoor; and writer and journalist Dubai Abulhoul.

Emirati poet Dr Afra Atiq will be the Market Focus Author of the Day, appearing in conversation with Joelle Taylor at the PEN Literary Salon on April 6. Ahmed Al Ameri, chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority, will be in conversation with David Taylor, managing director of Lightning Source UK, on the LBF Main Stage on April 6, discussing the Future of Book Supply.

Development of creative sectors

LBF and the British Council have worked with SBA over the past three years to encourage deep connections and support the development of creative sectors through publishing, translation and author programmes, which continue with events at LBF and outside the fair, including a celebration of Emirati literary traditions at the British Library at 7pm on April 5.

Sharjah Market Focus pavilion

Sharjah’s Market Focus pavilion will be coordinated by SBA and will showcase cultural initiatives from across Sharjah, including projects by Al Qasimi Publications, Department of Culture in Sharjah, UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY), Kalimat Group and Dr Sultan Al Qasimi Centre of Gulf Studies. SIBF Publishers Conference will host a reception for publishers. Other cultural highlights, such as traditional music, henna a stunning gallery showcasing the heart of Sharjah, will also feature on the pavilion.

sharjah book fair crowd
Sharjah’s Market Focus pavilion will be coordinated by SBA and will showcase cultural initiatives from across Sharjah. Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News Archives

The pavilion will also highlight SBA’s flagship initiative, Sharjah Publishing City (SPC), which is the world’s first publishing and printing freezone, offering premium services and commercial advantages to publishers, authors and other literary professionals from around the world. The pavilion will be inaugurated at 2pm on April 5.

Centre for publishing across the Arab world

LBF’s Market Focus is a truly global celebration of literature and publishing. Over 40 countries and regions from across the globe have participated, including Mexico, South Africa, China, Australia, Korea and 2019’s Market Focus Indonesia. For Sharjah this will be a return to the Market Focus programme as they were one of the 20 states who participated in the Arab World Market Focus in 2008.

Under the leadership of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, the emirate is committed to the promotion of books and literacy for over four decades now. It has become a centre for publishing across the Arab world, with Sharjah Publishing City, the influential Sharjah International Book Fair, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2020, and the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival. In 2019, Sharjah was also designated as the UNESCO World Book Capital.

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‘Global forum for exchange of cultural ideas’

Andy Ventris, director of the London Book Fair, said: “We are very pleased to be able to welcome Sharjah as Market Focus at The London Book Fair, after the pandemic forced us to postpone for two years. One of the most important aspects of the fair is its role as a global forum for the exchange of cultural ideas and literature, and we are delighted to shine a spotlight on all that Sharjah publishing and Emirati literature has to offer.”

‘Power of culture’

Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, chairman of SBA, commented: “We are delighted that Sharjah will be LBF Market Focus in 2022, as it will be an important opportunity to share the vision of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, of the power of culture, and literature especially, to build bridges around the world. We believe that books are a crucial way to gain knowledge, open new horizons and establish dialogue between different cultures, and we are eager to showcase Sharjah’s unique role in this in endeavour in April in London, the publishing capital of the world.”

‘An outstanding group of authors’

Rachel Stevens, director Literature, British Council, said: “We are delighted to see Sharjah take to the stage as Market Focus at London Book Fair this year. Building on our programme together over the past three years, our partners, the Sharjah Book Authority, will be showcasing an outstanding group of authors representing both contemporary stories and the rich cultural heritage of the Gulf. As long-term strategic partners we continue to build connections between our literature and publishing communities and support the development of our creative sectors with a special focus on translation and cultural exchange.”