Interview by Laura Pugno
Viaggio in Italia (attraverso premi e festival) [A Journey Through Italy (through awards and festivals)] tells the story of our country through interviews with organizers and participants of major literary festivals and the most important events on the publishing calendar. On italiana.esteri.it and on New Italian Books.
In this fourth episode, we stop off at the Turin Book Fair, which returns to its spring position in the annual literary calendar, from 19 to 23 May 2022 at the Lingotto Fiere with the wonderful title ‘Cuori Selvaggi’ (Wild Hearts).
And this year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation is taking part in the fair with the event ‘Libri italiani fantastici e come esportarli: le strategie della Farnesina con l’Associazione Italiana Editori e il Centro per il Libro e la lettura’ (‘Fantastic Italian books and how to export them: the strategies of the Ministry with the Italian Publishers Association and the Centre for Books and Reading’), in the Professionals programme, on 21 May at 1.45 pm in the Sala Lisbona, in the Conference Centre, with Simona Battiloro, Angelo Piero Cappello, Lorenzo Cresci and Fabio Del Giudice
In the past, for the book fair, italiana.esteri.it talked with the director Nicola Lagioia about the project BookToScreen.
Now, with a special focus on young readers, who are the future of the world of books, we interviewed Maria Giulia Brizio, who has for many years been in charge of the school and children’s sector.
Moreover, as we know from the third episode devoted to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, not even the pandemic has got in the way of the momentum of Italian children’s books, which, according to the AIE, the (Italian Publishers’ Association), “reached 286.6 million in 2021 (+19.3% compared to the previous year), with 24 million copies sold, 18.2% more than in 2020. Books for children and young people also continue to be very successful abroad: in 2020, the rights for 2,812 titles were sold, 33% of the total. It is the most popular genre in other countries, more popular than fiction and non-fiction. Suffice to say that children’s and young people’s books account for 10% of the titles published every year in Italy.’
Maria Giulia Brizio, how did the Children’s programme at the Turin Book Fair come about and how was it developed?
The Book Fair has always focused particular attention on schools and young people since its earliest editions in the belief that the promotion of reading must start with children, families and schools. The area dedicated to young readers has grown with the fair: from the early stand to the Spazio Ragazzi, created in 1997 covering 1,500 square metres, to the Bookstock area created in 2007 and which now occupies 7,500 square metres. 10 workshop spaces, 3 meeting spaces, a large 300-seat arena, exhibitions, a programme of more 430 events over 5 days, an editorial team of young aspiring reporters who talk about the fair on the pages of the Bookblog. The proposed activities range from readings with Nati per leggere (Born to Read) for children aged 0 to 6 to educational activities for young university students. Workshops for all ages, shows, meetings with authors, editorial presentations. The programme is built around the guiding theme of the fair in collaboration with publishers but also cultural institutions, local authorities, Ministries.
What relationship does the event have with the city and the local area, especially with regard to activities for young people?
The relationship with the local area is essential; we work all year round with networks of schools, reading groups, school and civic libraries, bookstores and other cultural entities. Our vision, however, is national and, by conviction and institutional vocation, we work to promote reading in the most widespread manner, as a vehicle for personal and civil growth. During the year, we promote projects online and in person that engage children and young people from all over Italy. In the Bookblog, a space for collective stories, young people can freely publish reviews of their favourite books. With Un libro tante scuole (One Book, Many Schools), we distributed 6,000 copies of a great novel (Albert Camus’s The Plague in 2021 and Elsa Morante’s Arturo’s Island in 2022) to children in 18 regions. The book is accompanied by a series of podcasts and in-depth lessons led by contemporary authors.
With Adotta uno scrittore (Adopt a Writer), we have (for 20 years now!) been travelling to schools, from primary to universities and prison schools, where the authors meet their adoptive class three times with the aim of establishing an intimate and free relationship with young people and transmitting the love for stories and reading.
What advice would you give to a cultural tourist coming to Turin during the Book Fair?
Turin is home to a wealth of cultural sites: museums, galleries, theatres, cinemas, libraries, meeting centres, Case del Quartiere (neighbourhood houses). We recommend to anyone who will be in Turin during the Book Fair to explore these sites through the many events organized by Salone Off, the great festival of books and culture held outside the Lingotto throughout the districts and municipalities of the Metropolitan City. It will be an opportunity to visit well-known places but also to discover unusual spaces, such as the beautiful Monumental Cemetery or to take part in artistic walks through the city’s arcades.