UK theme country for 47th International Kolkata Book Fair

18 – 31 January 2024 – Salt Lake, Kolkata

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Kolkata Book Fair
(L-R) Milinda De, head - Public Relations & Media, Publishers & Booksellers Guild; Raju Barman, joint secretary, Publishers & Booksellers Guild; Tridib Kumar Chatterjee, president, Publishers & Booksellers Guild; Alison Barrett MBE, director India, British Council; Sudhangshu Sekhar Dey, general secretary, Publishers & Booksellers Guild; and Debanjan Chakrabarti, director, East and North East India, British Council. Photo IPP

British Council, the UK’s international organization for cultural relations and educational opportunities, along with the Publishers & Booksellers Guild, have announced the United Kingdom as the theme country for the 47th International Kolkata Book Fair (IKBF), to be held from 18 – 31 January 2024 at the Central Park Mela Ground in Salt Lake, Kolkata. 

Marking the 75th anniversary of the British Council’s presence in India, the UK program at the fair will offer an immersive experience, providing attendees with insights into the vibrant education, science and creative cultural heritage of the UK. The details were announced on 13 December 2023 at an event at the British Council premises in New Delhi.

This is the fourth time that the UK has been announced as the focal theme country for the International Kolkata Book Fair. 1998, 2009 (Scotland) and 2015 (Great Britian) were the previous years when it was featured. The UK will present a line-up of speakers at the fair and the associated Kolkata Literature Festival.

The International Kolkata Book Fair is said to have highest visitor numbers of any book fair in the world. About 2.6 million people visited the book fair in 2022 with reported book sales of Rs 25 crore. The fair will celebrate 19 January 2024 as Theme Country UK Day while 21 January and 24 January will be commemorated as Children’s Day and Senior Citizen’s Day, respectively. Around 1,100 publishers including literary magazines are expected to participate, compared to 950 publishers in 2023.

Alison Barrett MBE, director India, British Council, said at a promotional event, “We are delighted that the UK will be the theme country at the International Kolkata Book Fair once again. This fair holds significant cultural importance for India and Kolkata, providing us with a valuable platform to showcase vibrant UK-India partnerships in education, science, the English language and the creative sectors. The design of the UK Pavilion aims to create an immersive experience reflecting the essence of British culture, emphasizing its modern contributions to education, the English language and the arts. As we mark our 75th year in India and Kolkata, we are looking forward to continuing our partnership with the Booksellers and Publishers Guild.”

Bangladesh pavilion with 71 publishers

Penguin Random House, Bloomsbury, Hachette, Rupa, Harper Collins, Orient Blackswan, Pan Macmillan, among others have already registered as exhibitors for the fair and will have their own pavilions. Several countries such as the US, Argentina, Peru, Germany, Bangladesh, Spain, Australia, Russia, Italy, Argentina, Cuba and other Latin American countries have confirmed their presence at the fair. Bangladesh will have a pavilion of around 71 publishers similar to its 2023 numbers. 

Notably, the National Book Trust will have a pavilion at the London Book Fair from 12 – 14 March 2024, and the Publishers & Booksellers Guild has consented to be a part of it.

The UK Pavilion will present its literary traditions, arts, science, education, and English language learning opportunities. In celebration of the evolving global impact of the English language, the interactive displays at the Future of English exhibition will demonstrate its reach and influence across the world. An array of events and activities are aimed at promoting cultural exchange and greater understanding between the two nations.

Publishers from Indian states, including Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Chattisgarh, Bihar, Tripura, Assam, Telangana, Odisha, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Kerala, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh will put up stands in an effort to unite book lovers from different parts of the country. The Asiatic Society, the oldest research institution and publishing house in India, founded by Sir William Jones, will showcase an exhibition highlighting the history of the society with a special emphasis on the contribution of British scholars toward the development of intellectual pursuits in the erstwhile colony. 

Lucky draws of visitors will be held on all days of the fair. Each day, fifteen winners will be receive gift coupons of Rs 1,000. Four bumper lucky draws will decide winners of gift coupons worth Rs 25,000, to be redeemed at the fair stands. 

The 10th Kolkata Literature Festival will take place at the auditorium adjacent to the fair ground from 26 – 28 January 2024. The 2024 edition of the LitFest will engage literary personalities and celebrities from India and overseas in conversations and interactive sessions. Each evening of the literary event will present music and dance performances. 

UK speakers at Kol LitFest

Roma Agarwal, a pioneering structural engineer and advocate for women in engineering associated with the design of the London landmark The Shard, will join Nandini Das from the University of Oxford, recognized for her work Courting India: England, Mughal India, and the Origins of Empire (winner of British Academy’s Best Book Prize in 2023). Known for his historical fiction Birdsong and Charlotte Gray, Sebastian Faulks is an invited speaker.

Meghnad Desai, British economist, former politician, and a Padma Bhushan awardee, will add his literary perspective to the event. Michael Wilson, specializing in popular performance and storytelling at Loughborough University, and Robert Potts, a teacher of AI and design at Manchester Metropolitan University, will engage with LitFest participants.

Anupama Raju, a versatile poet, journalist, and translator known for Malayalam-to-English translations, along with Kishwar Desai, author and columnist recognized with the Costa Book Award for Witness the Night will enrich the discourse. The British Council through its vibrant exhibits and presentations, plans to highlight the synergy between the UK and India in empowering young minds to be catalysts for positive global change.

At the promotion event in the capital, Tridib Chatterjee, president of the Publishers & Booksellers Guild, said, “We’re thrilled to welcome the UK once again as the theme country for the International Kolkata Book Fair. The UK’s previous participation significantly contributed to both the fair’s and the city’s international programming and cultural connections. Literature transcends regional boundaries, and it’s exciting to engage with Delhi to discuss the upcoming IKBF. The British Council’s active involvement during those editions was instrumental in elevating the fair’s cultural significance. We eagerly anticipate another enriching experience for all attendees, fostering cultural exchange and dialog.”

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