The London Book Fair's relocation from Olympia to Docklands this year was not unanimously well received. Before it opened, a prominent group of writers protested against the book fair's links with the arms trade: its organiser, Reed Exhibitions, also arranges weapon fairs; and last September, ExCel London - the hundred-acre purpose-built conference centre to the east of Canning Town, and the new site of the LBF - hosted Europe's largest arms fair. Once the book fair opened, most of the complaints I heard were about the immensely difficult and time-consuming business of getting there from Central London. 'Reaching the London Book Fair can be part of the fun,' the promotional material cheerfully promised, 'if you travel by boat up the river. On a fine day, this will certainly be the most relaxed and enjoyable way of arriving.' It was perhaps optimistic to rely on 'good spring weather' in London at the beginning of March. At least one delegate, having made the arduous journey east in order to speak at a seminar, was inexplicably denied entry to the exhibition floor. Perhaps he'd have had better luck if he'd claimed he was there to buy tanks on behalf of the Chinese government.
LRB 23 March 2006 | PDF Download