The first two days on the collective NZ publishers’ stand at Frankfurt were jam-packed. With a steady flow of jet-lagged publishers arriving to set up their panels, an energetic team of volunteers helping with all the fiddly but necessary details, and a very small but incredibly efficient stand-build team on the go at all times, the NZ stand was completed just in time for the 5pm Opening Ceremony.
It’s hard to believe that we have made it to this point in such a short time. The NZ collective stand, managed by PANZ, almost tripled in size this year with 35 publishers represented. And the stand design by the Auckland-based Designworks added a brand-new, sophisticated dynamic to the look – a bright-white set to contrast with the dark of the Pavilion in the day/night While You Were Sleeping theme of NZ Guest of Honour at the Fair.
The NZ stand setup, not quite there yet.
Belinda Jones (CNZ) and Anne de Lautour at the wheel.
By 3pm most of the publishers had escaped to doll-up for the Opening Ceremony. The New Zealand delegation arrived in force to a packed hall in which politicians (both German and Kiwi), dignitaries, publishers, writers, readers and booksellers celebrated the opening of the 2012 Frankfurt Book Fair.
Speeches were made by Book Fair Director Juergen Boos, as well as the German deputy prime minister and Frankfurt mayor. New Zealand was represented by authors Bill Manhire and Joy Cowley, alongside Deputy Prime Minister Bill English.
There were discussions around New Zealand and Germany's shared goals, the challenges facing the publishing industry, the power of children's writing and the significance of independent bookshops for a robust cultural environment. Digital was of course touched upon, although it appears that the Germans currently prefer their reading to come in more traditional formats.
There were also many quips about the smallness and isolation of New Zealand, but perhaps the strongest impression was the sense that New Zealanders now have a history, in storytelling.
Following the official part of the ceremony, guests wandered over to the NZ Pavilion, the spectacular star-lit realisation of the NZ cultural theme, designed by Pattersons architects. The audience were free to wander through in the dark, as singers Aivale Cole and Sarah Castle performed from where they sat, their feet dipped in pools of moonlit water.
Tomorrow the trade fair begins, and the NZ stand will be given its official blessing at 8.30am before publishers take to their meeting posts. Let the games begin.
Here’s a link to NZ Book Council’s Catriona Ferguson’s live podcast interview with Kevin Chapman on the eve of the Book Fair:
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