1 All figures are from the 2014 market and readership report from the
Polish Book Institute, available at www.bookinstitute.pl.
Harriet Williams is Programme Manager at the British Council.
The key thing to note about the literature scene in Poland
is how fresh and agile it is. It’s responsive to challenges,
actively seeking out new audiences and thinking in new
ways about a landscape that is constantly shifting.
In Kraków we heard about a UNESCO-funded project
that allows readers to borrow e-copies of books from
virtual libraries hosted at bus stops; an interactive
museum themed around the Polish epic poem “Pan
Tadeusz”; a “literary emergency room” that handed out
book prescriptions to children; and a series of city games
for families, leading them around a city and setting
In Warsaw the book scene was different, although no less exciting.
It attracts a younger, more “hipster” crowd. The Big Book festival
hosts literature events in factories or abandoned buildings,
re-energising lost community spaces. They set up crime scenes
and bring crime writers with their audience to analyse them.
The Institute of Reportage runs a creative non-fiction writing
course that leads the world. The range of exciting projects was
impressive, with festival planners thinking laterally about the
challenges that we all face in the literature and publishing sectors.
The challenge that faces the British Council now is how to bring
the flavour of all this activity to the UK throughout 2017. At the
heart of the programme is the author delegation representing
something from each different genre: fiction, reportage and non-fiction, poetry, graphic novels and children’s books. There will be
around 10 writers, chosen in consultation with our partners the
Polish Book Institute and including an “Author of the Day” who
will take part in various activities organised by LBF and Midas
PR. The programme at the Fair will be augmented by a large
public programme that takes place both during LBF and in the
months afterwards, meaning that there is more time for the focus
on Polish literature and literary culture to have an impact.
It is, of course, a particularly interesting time to be focusing
on Poland, the first EU Market Focus country in the wake
of the Brexit vote. We hope that the varied programme will
demonstrate that though the UK is leaving the EU, we are
still very much Europeans, and that the Market Focus will
serve to strengthen the longstanding close relationship
between the UK and Poland. ■