20 October 2011 by Chris Marais

Richmond - In The Bookish Karoo…

This coming weekend (October 27 - 30) sees the 5th anniversary of a very special event here in the Karoo: the Booktown Richmond Festival.

This tiny settlement on the N1 south of Colesberg comes alive with literary types who flock in from all corners of South Africa to rub shoulders, lift elbows, discuss deep bookish things, celebrate the written word, party till very late and generally take the town by its horns and swing it around and around.

Darryl David and Peter Baker, one an Indian lecturer in Afrikaans in KwaZulu Natal, the other a vet in Johannesburg, are the driving forces behind the festival. They own property in Richmond, believe in the place and the power of books to lift an impoverished community.

But the Booktown Festival has taken on a life of its own, and over the years I’ve seen some serious wordsmiths wander its streets come October time. I’ve also seen a number of famous photographers display their wares, in a festival nod to the power of the image as well. And now the artists and musicians are starting to arrive as well, making it a bit of a unmissable jamboree.

Some book fiends stay in the town b&bs, others find a bed on a farm somewhere in the district and drive in every day. They’ve even organised a campground for the hardy and mobile.

If you find yourself tootling down the N1 (watch out for the devilish Richmond traffic cops, they have no mercy) and decide to pop in on the festival, head first for Die Richmond Supper Klub, which is the party headquarters. Then stroll down the road to the old library, which is the Booktown HQ and the venue for most of the lectures.

This year they’re expecting the photographic likes of Obie Oberholzer and Ian van Straaten and a posse of great writers including Mongane Wally Serote, Dana Snyman and Ivan Vladislavic. And best of all - it’s all happening in the Great Karoo…

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