The City Council decided tonight to put the West Hollywood Book Fair, which was to have celebrated its 14th anniversary in September, on hiatus.
The Council’s decision came in response to a report by city staff members that said attendance at last year’s fair fell by a third although city spending on the event grew by 38 percent to $150,000. While the book fair once attracted an estimated 15,000 people, attendance has fallen in recent years to 7,500, and last year it attracted only 5,000 people, the staff report said.
Since 2011 the city has contracted with the Authentic Agency, a West Hollywood-based event producer owned by Liam Lynch, to produce the book fair. Last May the city agreed to extend its annual contract with Authentic to three years. Authentic also produces the annual Halloween Carnaval, for which it is paid $408,000.
Councilmember John Heilman criticized Authentic for what he said was its poor management and promotion of the event. . “This event started out as a volunteer effort. It started in my office with an intern at the time,” Heilman said. “We have spent a lot of money on an entity that is very good at making the event look good, but they are terrible at engaging the community…The lack of visibility in terms of promotion was really troublesome.”
Heilman objected to the evolution of the book fair under Authentic to include booths selling jewelry and art. “The addition of the artists booths and the handmade jewelry — I didn’t think that added anything to the event. Much of the stuff was tacky.”
Councilmember John D’Amico proposed putting the weekend event on hiatus this year, but still having the city stage a single performance or book reading by a noted entertainer or author on the book fair weekend. While the book fair is on hiatus, he said, city staff members can work to re-establish relationships with community organizations such as Lambda Literary Foundation, which were more involved in the event before Authentic began managing it.