Like many other mass cultural events, the Madrid Book Fair has also been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The 79th edition of the literary meeting this time will not take place in the Retiro Park, as has become customary, and lovers of letters have lost an annual meeting point which, in turn, is also a reflection of the passion of those who make up the sector. However, it does not mean that it will not be celebrated.
The Madrid Book Fair ‘En Directo’, as it has been called on this special occasion, maintains the dates after having been postponed: from October 2 to 18, but proposing a series of activities, talks and cycles via streaming who will try to bring their spirit to our homes. Obviously there are limitations, such as the loss of connection between reader and author so typical of the fair, but this new route also allows other possibilities: it is no longer necessary to be in Madrid to enjoy the content.
“Perhaps the most positive element is the transnationality that the fairs adopt from the introduction of digital elements. We have prioritized quality over quantity. It was not about doing lots of activities because people with confinement are tremendously exhausted from talks by Zoom, Google Meet and being in front of the screens “, explains elDiario.es Manuel Gil, director of the Fair.
The intention, explains the person in charge of the event, is “to use the Live Fair as a kind of laboratory to check the behavior that could be expected in the future”, since there is a certain consensus that the next editions will probably be hybrids, half path between the face-to-face and the digital part.
For this occasion, they took advantage of those activities that could be easily transferred to the digital world and that, in addition, reflected the heterogeneity of the public that normally attends the Feria de Madrid. “We have tried to cover what would be the spectrum of the multiple public that we have, since the fairs do not have a typical public and they go from children to elderly people”, Gil observes.
Storytelling for children, talks by authors to analyze creation in times of pandemic, the work of cultural journalism or an activity to commemorate the centenary of the birth of Aurora Bernárdez in which the author’s career beyond her link with Julio Cortázar. Also noteworthy is the talk that closes the cycle, which will address what public policies are being implemented to help the book sector and which will include representatives of the Madrid City Council, the Community and the Ministry of Culture.
An important part of the Madrid Book Fair is also its value as a literary showcase, both for publishing houses and for the catalog of works available to the public. Spending the afternoon at the Retreat, attending a talk and then walking through the stands to take a book home is not going to be something that can be done in 2020, but literary consumption does not have to be affected either. “Fortunately the bookstores are already open and what we recommend is that people go to their local bookstore”, Gil recommends.
And what will happen in 2021? The Madrid Book Fair then celebrates its 80th edition and, given the round number of the anniversary, an event is planned that is up to par. “We understand that by then there may still be a certain level of capacity control and security measures. But in parallel, there will obviously be a much more complex development of virtual elements,” says the director of the Fair.
The idea is not that there is no plan A for a face-to-face event and a plan B for a virtual one, but rather to integrate everything into a single project that will be modified according to events and security measures that, hopefully, allow the culture to can go back to the parks.