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How the Publishers' Forum created an International Literary Festival and a National Book Fair in Ukraine

The founders and organizers of the country's main cultural festival are the Publishers' Forum. For more than 20 years, from the private initiative, the organization has managed to become a powerful institution that promotes reading and popularizes book publishing in Ukraine. The leading projects of the Publishers' Forum are the Lviv International Literary Festival and the National Book Fair.

About the NGO "Publishers Forum"

To develop a civilized book market in Ukraine and integrate it into the world publishing context such a mission was set in 1994 by a team of enthusiasts from the city of Lviv. Public figures, culturologists, art critics, journalists, and publishers went public with the need to respond to the book trade crisis of that time in Ukraine. Thus, they established a platform for business communication between book market players - primarily publishers and bookstore owners. A wider cultural circle was involved in the discussion: authors, translators, artists, musicians. The starting point was an unprecedented event in September 1994 the Publishers' Forum in Lviv. The program included a set of 25 professional and literary events, as well as a book fair. Even then it was literary actions and competitions, presentations of publishers and authors, author's meetings, literary readings, autograph sessions, discussions, round-tables, performances, etc.

Publishers and booksellers gathered to present themselves and get to know each other and to think together how to survive and develop, in order to later get closer to the realities of the nearest Western experience - the Polish book market. 

In early 1995, the non-profit NGO “Publishers' Forum” was registered.

Since then, the NGO “Publishers' Forum” has started to participate in the organization of collective exhibitions at international book fairs in Warsaw, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Pisa, Vilnius and to represent Ukraine at publishing events worldwide.

In the year of its foundation, the NGO initiated the contest "The best book of the Forum". Thus, the organizers began the annual tradition of celebrating the best books published during the year in various categories. This encourages publishers to explore global industry trends and stimulates healthy competition. "The best book of the Forum" is one of the most important events in the book life of the country. Every publisher dreams of getting such a status. The competition is now called the “BookForum Best Book Award”.

This is how one of the main cultural festivals of the country was born. In 1997, within the framework of the Publishers' Forum in Lviv, a large literary festival was outlined, which has had an international level for over 20 years. In 2013-2014, the Forum had the status of "Country - Guest of Honor".

Every year, the Publishers' Forum develops a cultural product and expands its target audience. In 2002, the organization founded the children's reading contest "The Best Reader of Ukraine". This marked the beginning of the children's festival "Book Mania". In 2005, the event reached the national level. During its existence, the competition was attended by about a million children from all regions.

In 2007, the contest "The Best Reader of Ukraine" and the festival "Book Mania" became part of the book fair "Publishers' Forum for Children". It is the only one in Ukraine and one of the few events in Central and Eastern Europe dedicated entirely to children's literature and reading. In 2011, the event expanded its format and geography. Then the "Forum of Publishers for Children" was renamed the Lviv International Children's Festival.

Since 2007, the Publishers' Forum in Lviv has introduced a program of professional events for book publishers, and since 2010 - for librarians.

The Publishers' Forum has become one of the organizations thanks to which Lviv received the status of a “UNESCO City of Literature” in 2015, joining a large network of creative cities around the world.

In December 2017, the NGO "Publishers' Forum" became a member of Versopolis. It is a prestigious pan-European poetry platform that promotes young poetry and brings together 24 festivals from 23 European countries. Versopolis facilitates the translation of authors into English and other European languages. The members of the platform are 219 authors. Instead, the “Publishers' Forum”, as a member of Versopolis, regularly delegates Ukrainian poets to the platform.

For 27 years in a row, the non-profit NGO “Publishers' Forum” has been providing comprehensive promotion of reading and popularization of book publishing in Ukraine, as well as representing Ukrainian books around the world. The organization's institutional activities promote cultural diplomacy and interdisciplinary dialogue in the Ukrainian and international dimensions.

Oleksandra Koval, the founder and president of the NGO “Publishers' Forum” and now the director of the Ukrainian Book Institute, explains her desire to create an event and develop the organization in the 1990s by saying that she wanted her daughter to grow up among good, intelligent, free and joyful people who read books and to believe that she would change this world.

About the international "BookForum" festival 

The literary festival within the Publishers' Forum in Lviv gradually became a large-scale event, first of all, national and later international level. In 2000, the event covered 25,000 visitors. And next year - already 40 thousand. Since 2001, foreign guests have taken part in the Literary Festival.

Over the past 23 years, the festival has covered more than 2,500 unique authors from 43 countries, as well as 15,000 professionals in the book industry. Every year more than 10,000 people come to the festival from outside Lviv.

This is the territory of freedom. Every year the festival formulates a focus topic around which the program is built. These are hundreds of events in different locations of Lviv. The program of events is formed by thematic clusters and special projects, such as "History", "War", "Media", "Comics", "Education", "Business and Economics", "Woman in the subject", "Science and Technology", "Philosophy", "Health", "Travel", "Lifestyle", etc.

Visitors can enjoy discussions and performances, lectures and workshops, book presentations and autograph sessions, concerts and film screenings, public interviews, exhibitions, stage readings, and many more interactives. One of the most popular events is the "Night of Poetry and Music non-stop".

Paulo Coelho, Oksana Zabuzhko, Zygmunt Bauman, Ivan Dziuba, Peter Vaidgaas, Roman Viktyuk, Justin Gorder, Janusz Leon Wisniewski, Erland Lou, DBC Pierre, Frederic Beg, became honorary guests of the festival in different years.

Traditionally, the Forum hosts the most famous Ukrainian writers: Oksana Zabuzhko, Yuriy Andrukhovych, Viktor Neborak, Iren Rozdobudko, Svitlana Povalyaeva, Taras Prokhasko, Tanya Malyarchuk, Larysa Denysenko, Yuriy Pokalchuk, Natalka Snyadanko, Serhiy Zhadan, Serhiy Zhadan, etc. 

A separate part of the program is the international poetry festival "Kyiv laurels", for which the magazine "SHO" is responsible.

In 2008, thanks to the festival, the Reading Marathon was held in Lviv schools for the first time: Ukrainian writers met with schoolchildren in their classes day after day.

In 2014, the festival program for the first time included more than 1,000 events.

Every year the festival hosts the Ukrainian-Jewish Meeting project, a joint initiative with the foundation of the same name.

In 2018, the “Lviv Publishers' Forum” changed its name to BookForum and under the renewed name established itself as the main cultural festival of the country and one of the largest literary festivals in Central and Eastern Europe.

In 2020, the 27th BookForum will be held. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event will take place online. The festival aims to become a global online platform for discussing socially important topics, which will allow everyone to attend the event without leaving home, as well as become even more accessible to less mobile groups. So the event will cover even more people in Ukraine and abroad.