Festival the stuff of fiction | gallery

DRIZZLY weather did little to deter the thousands of readers who braved Clunes over the weekend for the township’s annual celebration of all things literary.

Clunes Booktown festival founder Graeme Johnstone said the “business end” of the festival, with booksellers engaged in a frenzied trade and exchange session, was as usual complete before Saturday morning was even done.

The weekend then evolved into a non-fiction, photography and biography event on Saturday, followed by an exploration of all things fictional on Sunday, finishing up with vendors fossicking for end-of-festival bargains.

Mr Johnstone commended new festival artistic director Ailsa Brackley du Bois on her skills in attracting high-profile writers such as Anna Bligh, Cate Kennedy, Arnold Zable and Peter Yeldham.

He also praised the talents of Richard Frankland, the last-minute replacement for Stan Grant, who was called away on duties for his new position on the Referendum Council – Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

“The replacement we got for Stan on short notice was of exceptional quality,” he said.

Frankland, a Gunditjmara singer, songwriter, actor and filmmaker and Indigenous advocate, spoke on Saturday afternoon.

Mr Johnstone also said local talent such as Anne Beggs-Sunter, Sandy Jeffs, Noel Hayes, Nathan Curnow and even Clunes mime artist Aiden McHarg continued to impress visitors to the region.

He said organisers aimed to perfect the blend between local talent and national headliners.

“We want to encourage locals so Clunes is seen as a centre (for literature),” Mr Johnstone said.

Numbers this year were solid, with higher-than-expected turnouts for the additional train services from Ballarat to Maryborough via Clunes. Commuters had the additional benefit of being entertained by pop-up Shakespeare performances by Federation University students.

Documentary photographer Helga Leunig was one of Saturday’s presenters, speaking about her new book Mother Country.

Leunig, who had a long career in newspaper photography before going freelance, said she was started to see things change in her profession, which had long been male-dominated.

She also said she took photos in an “instinctive” way, knowing she would get a good shot whenever she had an emotional reaction to something she was seeing.

Leunig also said modern technology like Instagram showed her the wealth of photographs already available in the world, and forced her to be more selective and hold back for the right shot.