EKEBI ticks all boxes with its programs

The National Book Center of Greece (EKEBI) has accomplished much of what it set out to do in the past year and has some new projects in the pipeline, director Catherine Velissaris told the press Tuesday at a luncheon to cut the New Year «Vasilopita» cake. In the last four years, Velissaris explained, EKEBI has instituted 30 new programs. There were 400 visits by writers and illustrators to schools throughout Greece in 2007. Biblionet, an electronic database of Greek books, is continually updated, and now covers 120,000 titles. A series of activities, including a conference and exhibitions, that was held in tribute to Greek poet and painter Nikos Engonopoulos was a great success. The reading clubs that EKEBI began promoting in 2006 grew to 150 in 2007. The book workshops covering professional skills such as creative writing, editing and Internet use also expanded, with 20 workshops catering to 500 participants last year. The Thessaloniki Book Fair has continued to develop, offering a platform for the Greek book trade to do business with publishers from abroad and an opportunity for children to come into contact with books and the people who create them. A new program of supporting literary events at bookshops has been well-received by booksellers, with 30 events organized in two months at stores all over Greece, from Lamia to Iraklion and Arta to Chios. This year will see the first Children’s Book Fair in Athens, to be held at Helexpo in Athens, February 1-4. The fair is for publishers and for children themselves, with a wide range of cultural events and activities and the Netherlands as guest of honor. EKEBI will celebrate International Poetry Day (March 21), open a new link to literary events on its website in April and hold the Thessaloniki Book Fair (May 29-June 1), with France as guest of honor. In September, Greece is guest of honor at the Beijing Book Fair, where EKEBI will present Greek books. The reading clubs will be extended to include schools and there will be a tribute to the writer M. Karagatsis (the pen name of Dimitris Rodopoulos) on the centenary of his birth. It’s not a bad effort at all, considering that EKEBI’s staff was cut back from 60 to 40 and its budget from 2 million euros in 2006 to 1.5 million euros in 2007.