In view of the risks posed by hosting a mass event during the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Book Council is regretfully announcing that the Malta Book Festival will not be taking place in its traditional brick-and-mortar form, but will be moving online. A number of small events with limited audience numbers will still be held at the Mediterranean Conference Centre.
Although the decision is made with a heavy heart, it is deemed necessary in the interest of audiences and the long-term existence of the event. We cannot take the risk of being responsible for one single infection at the Festival and we cannot hold an event that would endanger our clients, stakeholders and staff. Furthermore, over the past seven years the National Book Council has worked very hard to make the Malta Book Festival into a reputable and successful brand. One single case would jeopardize all the hard work we made over the past years.
It is therefore clear that unless a vaccine is announced and distributed, or the virus and the pandemic dissipate in any other way, we cannot run the risk of holding the Malta Book Festival in its traditional form. Should a vaccine be distributed in time, we are ready to hold the event in its traditional format, but as it stands now the Malta Book Festival 2020 will be held in a virtual form, and the general public will be able to participate in events which will be streamed online on the National Book Council Facebook pages and Malta Book Festival 2020 event page, along with other events organised by publishers in their respective pages. As always, publishers, who are the main stakeholders of the Malta Book Festival, will be fully supported in this transition. School children will still be able to attend events online, and the usual book vouchers would also be made available.
We are working towards delivering the same level of experiences between readers, authors and publishers that the community has come to expect of the Malta Book Festival, but in a shape that reflects all the latest guidances and safety protocols. Even in the shape of a virtual festival, we believe that the events featuring the participation of of local and international authors and publishers have the potential to convey the same spirit of exchange among a growing book-loving community.
The National Book Council sees this as an opportunity to facilitate the industry’s transition into the online retail sphere. We have to make sure that Maltese books are available for purchase in an easy and accessible way via websites and smartphone applications – the survival of the Maltese book industry depends also on this.
Simultaneously, we are asking the government and the public broadcast provider to offer their full support in this necessary transition, thus supporting an industry which is crucial for the educational and intellectual development of society.
The Malta Book Festival will be held from 11–15 November. The full programme of events with all the activities will be issued in the coming months. For further updates on the Malta Book Festival 2020 and event details follow the National Book Council’s website and Facebook page.