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This is the LitNet archive (2006–2012)
Visit the active LitNet platform at www.litnet.co.za

Feeste | Festivals > Artikels | Features > Boekbedonnerd 2011: Book Town Richmond

Boekbedonnerd 2011: Book Town Richmond

Bibi Slippers - 2011-11-04

Richmond is a small town in the middle of everywhere. 821 km from Johannesburg and 720 km from Cape Town, Richmond's claim to fame is its status as a book town. The little village has 13 bookshops, and the town's website explains exactly why Richmond was a great choice for a book town.

With the Boekbedonnerd festival Richmond comes alive - accommodation providers welcome streams of tourists to town; the three restaurants are filled with lively conversation; locals seize the opportunity to sell their wares (anything from pannekoek, beskuit and skaaptjops to antiques and handcrafts); and writers descend on the town in droves to discuss their work with eager audiences.

Festival organiser Darryl David, from Howick in KwaZulu-Natal, had the following to say about the booktown project:

How did the idea for a booktown and the Boekbedonnerd festival come about? 

Round about 2003 at my university (the University of KwaZulu-Natal) Prof Lindy Stiebel started a project on literary tourism. Being a bok for all things literary and touristy I got on board. My great dream was to buy the Alan Paton home in Pietermaritzburg. But that dream went through the window with the property boom. At that time I was as good as a Neanderthal with computers. But while I was Googling the word book the predictive text threw up the word booktown. That was the start of a three-year journey searching the Karoo for a suitable town for fulfilling what can only be described as a magnificent obsession. After an article appeared on Richmond in Country Life magazine I had a gut feeling about the town. I sensed it was on the up and rumours were doing the rounds in the Karoo that a "mad Canadian" was buying up books and houses. That mad Canadian, Peter Baker, was the first person to say "That's a whale of an idea – let's do it" after hearing about my idea for a booktown. But even better, he knew a certain John Donaldson who, like himself, owned a few houses in Richmond. As luck would have it, John was planning to open a bookshop in Richmond as well. I once heard Ian Player talk about “synchronicity”. I think it was a combination of synchronicity and pure luck that saw Richmond brand itself as South Africa’s national booktown. 

Boekbedonnerd? Instinctively something told me we had to have a literary festival. It has proven to be a stroke of genius, always keeping the booktown in the public eye. Of course it needs to be said that the name Boekbedonnerd divides people like the Ongers River in Richmond divides the white and coloured neighbourhoods. But symbolically my house is right on the river and hopefully Boekbedonnerd will unite rather than divide people as time goes on.

Read the full interview here.


The Karoo

Richmond as seen from the old fort on the little hill bordering the town

The N1 snakes through the Karoo landscape.

The old Dutch Reformed church on the main street

Festival-goers on Richmond's main street

Loop Street, Richmond

Quaint decorations outside The Book Orphanage, one of Richmond's 13 bookshops

Some Boekbedonnerde festival-goers browse the book stands.


Return to the Boekbedonnerd Bookshelf | Keer terug na die Boekbedonnerd-boekrak.