The Occasional Tales of Ailsa B du Bois

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Archive for the ‘Literary Events’ Category

A Literary Day in Clunes, Victoria.

Posted by Ailsa B du Bois on May 4, 2009

Yesterday afternoon, we drove to Clunes again (for the 7th or so time).  This time, we went for the annual Booktown weekend (held on the 1st weekend each May).  60 or so specialist (mostly second hand and antiquarian) booksellers from around Australia are crammed into all manner of quaint heritage buildings throughout this slightly spooky old gold town.  There were some decent visiting authors (like Frank Moorhouse) giving talks, a bunch of food stalls, some wine-tasting, a top-notch Punch’n’Judy show, plus face painting, an old style confectionery store and a pony-trap ride for the kids.  I discovered a really interesting new independent publishing house, called Arcade.  They do historic tales about Victorian characters from the past: quite cool.  It was a nice day.  We’ve decided we’ll go ‘back to Booktown’ every year.

Clunes is home to only 1,100 people, and was the first gold town: the discovery that started the crazy boom in July 1851. The town’s population peaked at over 30,000 residents in the late 1880s.  Gold mining eventually came to an end in 1893, and Clunes is now recognised as one of the architecturally most intact gold towns in Victoria.  It’s a bit of ghost town normally, particularly because the local council works hard to keep the main street void of any conspicuously modern elements.  In fact, whenever anyone wants to make a period film on site, this is where they film (the 2003 Ned Kelly movie, for instance, starring Heath Ledger & Naomi Watts).  It’s just 34 km’s north of Ballarat, so it’s one of our many quirky neighbouring towns in the Hepburn Shire and surrounding hill-tops.  There’s lots of sweet little villages to visit around here: Daylesford, Talbot, Smeaton, Creswick, Castlemaine, Tretham, Gordon and so on.  Most of these places have monthly Farmer’s Markets as well, so you can get lots of fresh, local produce, if you’re into slow food, and good cheeses, relishes and so on.  We like it, and it’s a great environment in which to bring up a child.  We take our 5 year old to see Alpaca Shows, travelling circus’ and all sorts of regional charms.   Shetland ponies, hay bales and wind mills are good things for a child’s visual landscape, I think. Call me a wistfull romantic!

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