A NEW CHAPTER DAWNS FOR RICHMOND

Richmond has become a focus of attention in recent months with an influx of several newcomers who have added a new wave of excitement to the little village. Long forgotten by tourists on their journey to the Cape, Richmond is about to become the BOOKTOWN of South Africa

What is a Booktown?

The idea of a Booktown was conceived up by the maverick Richard Booth back in the sixties. His dream was to create the largest second-handbook-selling centre in the world. Today, Hay-on Wye in Wales attracts over a million tourists a year. Today, Hay-on Wye has 38 bookshops, and the idea of Booktown is to be found in over 25 countries in the world. The Booktown in Richmond will now mean that there exists a Booktown on every continent of the world.

If you think that Richmond with it's handful of booksellers can never succeed with their dream of a Booktown, it is worth noting that Booth started it all off by himself, with just one bookshop! Slowly he bought up the empty buildings in a town whose population was dwindling, and turned these buildings into bookshops. Booth always maintained that 'a town full of bookshops could be an international attraction'.

A Booktown is a small rural area, usually a small town or village with a concentration of booksellers, mainly second-handand antiquarian bookshops.The bookshops are often twinned with coffee shops, internet cafes or with artistic enterprises such as paper production, calligraphy, book design, book illustration and the dwindling art of bookbinding. Many of these bookshops also sell arts and crafts in their shops.

The goal of Booktowns to resurrect the flagging economies of towns, to revitalize a neglected region by developing a local book-based economy with a definite tourist dimension. Most Booktown develop around villages of historic significance or of scenic beauty.

Richmond in the Karoo, the 'land of thirst', long scorned by travellers, is fast attaining the status of one of the most romantic destinations in South Africa, with it's vast open spaces, clean air and starry night skies offering the perfect antidote to city dwellers choked lifestyles. As a result of Booktown Richmond, many of the village's older buildings, saddened by decades without human companionship, have come back to life again as thriving bookshops. The growth of Booktown Richmond has contributed immensely to the conservation of the cultural and architectural heritage of the little dorp.

In only its early stage of growth Booktown Richmond can already boast three quality booksellers. At the top of Loop Street is "Richmond Books and Prints", with an excellent array of Africana, sports and history books on offer. Right next door you will find "Richmond Book Emporium" which carries a particularly eclectic mix of books and other sundries. They have deep comfortable chairs, which, with a book and cuppa in hand, are a recipe for a very contented morning in the Karoo.

A little further down the street, on the same side of the road, next to Die Richmond Supper Klub, (which has an excellent non lending collection of Africana books), is the KarooZing Richmond Gallery which has a superb little BooKarooze in the back. Specialising in fiction novels and books on the Karoo, BooKarooze is a wonderful spot to relax on the stoep under the blue Karoo sky with a good book and a superb cappuccino. Darrel Conolly, the Librarian-in-Chief, came to Richmond originally in order to complete his thriller Novel "Take Good Care of My Baby". Watch this space. BooKarooze has an annex, the Book Orphanage, housing a lovely collection of coffee table books and Afrikaans literature.

Richmond is already seeing the spin-off effects of becoming South Africa's first and only genuine Booktown as increasingly visitors are spending more and more time in the dorp perusing what is on offer, rather than seeing the town as a half-way petrol stop only.

Darryl David, a lecturer of Afrikaans at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the main author of Booktown Richmond says that he has noticed that more and more of the visitors to town are very discerning individuals with a keen awareness of the need to preserve village life in South Africa The tourist orientated businesses in town certainly see the need for the town to attract top quality tourists, both local and international. The 'bibliophiles' Richmond is attracting are searching out the top quality accommodation on offer in town as well the other attractions, from the very unique Richmond Horse Museum, Boer War Grave Yard and Fort, the magnificent Dutch Reformed Kerk and that very special ambiance gained by a casual and relaxing walk about town. They patronise the local cafes, restaurants and some have even decided to becomeone of the heretofore best kept secrets in the Karoo.

Richmond would like to invite people to be a part of this special project. Please contact:
 Darryl David cowboys@sai.co.za (083-486-4297)
or Peter Baker at pcbaker@mweb.co.za (011-447-2517)