Italy: Children's Book Fair makes a full 50

The mix of cultural aspirations and good business attracts publishers, writers, and illustrators of children's books to Bologna every year. Ever since 1964.

The President of BolognaFiere Duccio Campagnoli (r.) welcomes author Daniel Pennac.(Photo: BolognaFiere)
The President of BolognaFiere Duccio Campagnoli (r.) welcomes author Daniel Pennac.(Photo: BolognaFiere)

When it comes to children's books, many immediately think of the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. Her characters Pippi Longstocking, Kalle Blomquist, Karlsson-on-the-Roof have had an international career. It was therefore only natural for the organizers of the Bologna Children's Book Fair to chose Sweden as the "guest of honour" of this year's anniversary exhibition. For the 50th edition of the "Fiera del Libro per Ragazzi" a prominent Scandinavian guest came to Bologna, the Swedish Minister of Culture, Lena Adel Liljeroth. Together with the President of BolognaFiere, Duccio Campagnoli, she attended the official welcoming ceremony in the Palazzo d'Accursio at the end of March. Sweden also presented itself during the exhibition with numerous activities in the city and in the exhibition halls. Among other things, the best illustrators of the country were showcased at the fair. 

Another prominent visitor to the Children's Book Fair was Daniel Pennac. The French author has written numerous novels for children and teens. He received the "honorary award for education" from the University of Bologna. This and other prizes awarded during the exhibition are meant to promote the marketing and growth of children's book culture. This ties the present Children's Book Fair to its beginnings in 1964. For decades the event has brought together authors and illustrators, promoted cultural debates and the interchange among all players. At the same time, the trade fair is a huge market for licenses, as well as the annual convention of around 1,200 exhibitors from over 70 countries. This combination of cultural aspirations and business opportunities makes the Fiera del Libro per Ragazzi unique, as those responsible at the Bologna Exhibition Centre emphasise. New trends in literature and illustration are discussed just as much as the future challenges posed by the digitisation of the media world.

Illustrations are important for children's books. (Photo: BolognaFiere)
Illustrations are important for children's books. (Photo: BolognaFiere)

With a foreign share of 92 percent among the exhibiting companies, the Children's Book Fair is the most international show in Bologna. At 39 percent internationality is quite high among visitor attendance as well. Other shows in the capital of Emilia Romagna likewise attract many exhibitors from abroad. Prominent examples are the beauty and cosmetics exhibition Cosmoprof, the leather goods trade fair Lineapelle, or the construction cereamics exhibition Cersaie. These events ensure a strong home base for the BolognaFiere and make the fairground the second most important in Italy. Moreover, BolognaFiere bolsters its international ambitions through activities in Eastern Europe, Asia, and North America. The three exhibition themes mentioned above are now also held abroad - in Moscow (the shoe and leather goods fair Obuv. Mir Kozhi.) and in China (Cosmoprof, Lineapelle, Expo Building & Ceramics). Cosmoprof also takes place in the United States, the next edition from 14 to 16 July 2013 in the gambling city of Las Vegas (


"New key markets abroad conquered"

Photo: Enrico Pazzali
Photo: Enrico Pazzali

The recession in southern Europe has left its mark on Italy's economy as well. This applies as well to the leading exhibition company in the country, Fiera Milano. The last quarter of 2012 in particular has put a damper on the company. In order to alleviate the impact of the crisis, Fiera Milano has developed a "dual strategy" - with measures at home and abroad. Internationalisation plays a fundamental role in the medium as well as long-term. This was once more apparent last year, when Fiera Milano went on an extensive shopping spree around the globe. "We have conquered two new key markets," said Enrico Pazzali. "Turkey and South Africa," says the CEO of Fiera Milano SpA. Shares in these two emerging countries were acquired. Further acquisitions were made in China and India, among others by Hannover Milano Fairs India, the joint venture with Deutsche Messe Hannover. "Our foreign business partially offsets the slump in our home market," emphasizes Enrico Pazzali. Its growing importance is reflected in the figures. In 2012 domestic rented space dropped by nearly four per cent to 1.48 million sq. meters. In contrast, it rose by 0.7 percent outside of Italy. In recent years Fiera Milano has vigorously increased its foreign activities through subsidiaries and in joint ventures with foreign partners. This was accomplished from a standstill, so to speak, as not too long ago the focus was on the home market. While in 2007 not a single foreign fair was held, this year more than 70 events were organised around the world. And the trend is rising, because "any advantageous opportunity is to be used", as Enrico Pazzali affirms (


Author: Peter Borstel

This article was published in TFI issue 3-4/2013


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