The Northern Cape town of Richmond, just off the N1, is a sleepy little settlement most days of the week. You’ll see farmers talking to one another in the street, normal township activity and the odd dribble of tourists at the Horse Museum. And look out for the ever-present traffic cops near the 80 km/h zone on the N1.
But when it’s time for a literary festival in Richmond – and at last count there were at least three on the annual calendar – it’s a totally different story.
Hundreds of book lovers and festival fans stream in from all corners of South Africa to listen to authors presenting their latest works, rootle around in the main street bookshops and feast on all things Karoo.
The Richmond Boekbedonnerd event – traditionally held late in October – began some years ago when a KwaZulu-Natal lecturer called Darryl David got together with a Canadian vet called Peter Baker and they brought the international Booktown concept to the Karoo.
Baker already had the Richmond Supper Klub – a bit of a pop-up pub and feasting venue – and other associates had the bookshops. Darryl David brought the inspiration and the marketing and the rest is Karoo history.
There are still traces of the various Anglo-Boer War activities that took place more than a century ago around Richmond. One of the most interesting old sites is Deelfontein, a railway siding west of Richmond.
It once housed the largest British Surgical and Convalescent hospital in South Africa. If you pass it today, you’ll see the ruins of a once-gracious hotel called The Yeomanry and an overgrown graveyard full of British soldiers – nothing more.
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