After my first Clunes Booktown Festival in 2012, reliving the experience in 2013 seemed a terrific idea, particularly as this time I’d be in the company of horror writers Jason Nahrung and Kirstyn McDermott, who had recently moved to Ballarat.
So off on adventures I went, meeting Jason at Wendouree train station and joining him, Kirstyn and Kirstyn’s mum Cornelia on the pleasant drive to the little booktown that could.
We had not been in Clunes more than fifteen minutes when Kirstyn displayed her secret superpower for the first time. She finds the best, most wonderful, most excellent books in the store – no matter how overcrowded or disorganised the bookshop. No matter if there are three thousand dull books and the prize is buried at the back of the shop, under fourteen boxes and a sleeping elderly cat that bites all who come near. Kirstyn. Will. Find. The. Perfect. Book. She ended the day with four or five gems, but this was her first – a book of fairytales illustrated with photographed book art.
I am filled with envy. It’s a beautiful book.
But the day had its pleasures, even if Kirstyn pounced on all the gorgeous art books.
There was the lovely entry to the children’s areas, where readings took place on and off during the day.
And the unintentionally hilarious buckets of ‘Women’s Books’. I’ve never really understood the use of that term. Is there a hit squad that comes after men who read any of these books? And why haven’t they been hunting me down for reading… not these books. They do present a lovely vision in pastel colours I suppose.
Some attendees were not there for the books. Actually, a lot of people brought their dogs for the day. They must have all been bookish dogs, because they were very well behaved. So were most of the people, especially considering how very crowded the tents, shops and streets were.
One of my favourite little shops had shelves of books by Ethel Turner and Mary Grant Bruce, both staples of my childhood.
That shop also had a whole section on beekeeping, which naturally made me think of Sherlock Holmes as well.
The festival this year covers even more ground than last year’s, with the basketball court behind the courthouse also filled with tents and literature. It’s fabulous but exhausting. After wandering around Clunes for several hours (and yes, I did find a book about music slang terms which I can use in my new rock-and-roll-saves-the-world-from-monsters project), we withdrew with aching feet and returned to Ballarat.
There I refreshed myself at the new Mitchell Harris Wine Bar. Besides stocking excellent local wines (including their own) and share plates, the rather cool venue has this beautiful art by street artist Vexta painted straight onto the distressed-industrial brickwork.
And from there, Tim and I dined perhaps a little too heartily at The Lane, which specialises in local produce. Above you see a lamb that died so that I might have deliciousness, and creamy, perfect cauliflower cheese that could have been a meal in itself. The Ballarat Wightwick Pinot Noir that accompanied my feasting went down rather well too.
Tomorrow I brave not the madding crowds of Day 2 of the Booktown Festival, but the knights errant (and possibly erroneous) of Ballarat’s newly reopened Kryal Castle. I hope to report soon on both jousting and a torture museum!
- Visit the official Clunes Booktown site
Disclosure: Narrelle travelled to Ballarat and Clunes and dined out courtesy of Ballarat Regional Tourism.
Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.