Booktown brings a boom to Clunes

NEW and old Clunes businesses are reaping the benefits of the annual Booktown festival. 

The two-day event has gained international momentum, with people visiting from Asia, France, Belgium and New Zealand.

Creative Clunes chair and festival organiser Dr Tess Brady said the Clunes Booktown Festival had put the tiny town on the map. 

“We have more and more people come each year,” Dr Brady said.

“I was told someone on the first shuttle train service was from Western Australia.”

“It’s brilliant, we are connected to Ballarat, Melbourne and Australia,” she said. 

The official attendance figures for this year’s Clunes Booktown Festival will be released later this week. 

Dr Brady estimated 20,000 people would have attended the 2014 event. 

“I think the attendance is very strong. It is at least more than last year,” she said.

Ten new businesses have set up shop since the festival began in 2006, including Lucky Strike Lounge on Fraser Street. 

Co-owner Gareth Sharpe said the business was in its fourth week of trading. 

He and his partner Wendy Roberts opened the business outside of its regular trading hours at the weekend to accommodate the Booktown demand. 

“We are not operating as we would be operating; we are a cafe this weekend because so many people are around,” he said. 

The new restaurant specialises in food, wine and music. 

“We had the writers’ special function last night and we were packed,” Mr Sharpe said. 

It's all about the books: Wendy and Vanessa Dwyer from Melbourne

It's all about the books: Wendy and Vanessa Dwyer from Melbourne

Fellow Clunes businessman Graeme Johnstone was also run off his feet at the weekend. 

“We are fully booked and rooms are booked a year in advance,” Mr Johnstone said. 

“From a business point of view, we get a lot of people who come back to Clunes.”

Mr Johnstone said the population of Clunes had changed since the Booktown Festival began.

“New businesses have come to town; 15 years ago they would have closed down and that would have been it,” he said.