Sunday, 18 October 2015
A numbers game
To get into Frieze Art Fair (in London last week; 160 galleries showing work; visitors were advised on the website: ‘Please remember, Frieze London is an event for galleries to conduct business’ - if you were there just to look, just to enjoy the art, you were there on sufferance) cost £35 (plus booking fee, plus £5 cloakroom fee for your bag). Tickets were sold out. To get into the Free Verse Poetry Book Fair in London last month (80+ publishers) plus all events was free; ditto to the All Tomorrows’ Publishers book fair over yesterday and today (CBe table above), which included many of the UK’s most important small presses and work more adventurous and interesting than much of that put out by the mainstream.
Number of visitors to the poetry book fair, I’d guess several hundred; to today's book fair, fewer. Given that this is London, one of the capitals (both cultural and business) of the West, and given the growth in recent in recent years of creative writing courses (there must be thousands of students on these in London alone: anyone got any figures?), and given also that both events had ACE funding and the organisers put in a huge amount of work and could not have been more welcoming, these figures are pretty pathetic, no?
(All relative, of course. Tickets for next Saturday’s West Ham v Chelsea match are available at ‘from £112’. West Ham ground capacity 35,000, Chelsea 41,000.)
I don’t lose much sleep over this. I think I like it this way, while being well aware of the smugness that attaches to that (the doctor Fiddes, who works in a charity hospital, in Kennaway’s Some Gorgeous Accident, ‘wondering why he’d chosen to be the kind of doctor who makes no money: there was such awful, English arrogance in that’). But I’m still curious:
Why (in my experience) are most art students keen to attend art fairs and exhibitions, but creative writing students (in general) not interested in book fairs?
Why is there, both financially and in public interest (7.7 million visitors to the Tate galleries in 2012/13, plus almost double that online), such a gulf between the art world and the literature world?
Answers on a postcard.