Desirable, feasible, viable – making the Clunes Booktown Festival more sustainable

For the past nine months the board of Creative Clunes has been working hard on the 2017 Clunes Booktown Festival, and in the coming days you’ll hear more from us about the exciting program we have lined up. But we’ve also been working on ways we can make the Clunes Booktown Festival more sustainable.


We met and spoke with the organisers of successful Festivals at a State, national and international level, including those at the International Conference of Booktowns in Switzerland in 2016 (which Clunes will host in 2018). We compared our models and prices to theirs, and heard how they’ve sustained their Festivals over time.

We considered all the feedback and data from 2016 ticket buyers, which showed 90% of attendees said the $10 weekend Festival pass was either ‘fair’, ‘cheapish’ or ‘a bargain’.

We also examined the different ways people engage with the festival. Some come to the Festival because they’re serious book browsers; others come for a relaxed day out to enjoy the entertainment and the atmosphere; a few come specifically to see their favourite author… Of course many come to do all three and more.

Our goal was to take all this feedback and make the festival accessible, successful and sustainable.

Entry to the Festival

In 2017, entry to the Festival (the whole weekend) is:

  • $10 for adults
  • $5 for secondary school students (aged 12 to 18)
  • FREE for children under 12 years
  • FREE for 3370 residents

This gives access to:

  • A number of selected author talks, including Tim Fischer, Jock Serong, Mark Smith, Libby Angel and Annie Raser-Rowland
  • Live music, including sets by the region’s brass bands
  • Entertainment and experiences, including buskers, horse and cart rides, cartoon portraits and circus workshops
  • The Kids Festival area
  • A series of “flash” workshops for emerging writers
  • Our new Magazine In A Weekend program, which collects some of the best magazines, government and industry bodies together in one place and is accessible to anyone who wants to explore the pathway into this world
  • Our new schools program, which this year includes Hannah Kent, author of Burial Rites, which is on the VCE English reading list
  • Access to all booksellers
  • Access to all food stalls
  • Access to the Wesley College Bluestone church, which will host:   
    1.  the State Library of Victoria’s exhibition curated specifically for the Festival, including one of Samuel Johnson’s original dictionaries;
    2.  a collection of the best rare, antiquarian and art booksellers in Victoria,
    3.  a series of Scrabble games hosted by the Ballarat and Victorian Scrabble Associations.
  • Entry into many of Clunes’ heritage buildings, not generally open to public access

And supports our events program across the whole year. To give one example, the Booktown on Sunday author talks run on the third Sunday of each month, at 2pm, and every monthly Booktown on Sunday event is FREE.

The future of the Festival – part of a bigger picture

These rich offerings are set to grow in the coming years as partnerships (such as our great relationship with Federation University Australia) develop, awareness spreads and our systems get better, but only if we’re practically and economically able to deliver them.

For a good idea to be a successful good idea, innovation gurus suggest that the idea has to be desirable, feasible and viable.

Booktown, and Creative Clunes, has one key goal, and that is to deliver positive cultural and economic outcomes for our town and our region.

I think everyone would agree that supporting a vibrant, sustainable, inclusive and creative community is desirable. As a small not-for-profit, we rely both on government support and on hundreds of hours of volunteer labour each year to deliver the festival and the year round calendar of events and workshops. The questions keep coming up: Is it viable to rely on government funding? Is it feasible to rely on a volunteer workforce?

Regardless of how desirable the festivals and workshops, and the broader outcomes we deliver are, we need to plan carefully for a changing future. Our job is to ensure that there are enough people with enough energy to supply the hundreds of hours needed, and that we can pay reasonable rates to the various artists, suppliers and contractors. So we have to find ways to deliver what is a great idea, while increasing the feasibility and viability of future Booktown Festivals and events.

Tickets for some author talks

With all of this in mind, in 2017 we will be:

  • Ticketing some author talks at $10 for adults and $5 for students and children (unless sitting on a lap, in which case they are free). Ticketed author talks will be held in the Town Hall.
  • Offering multiple sessions with many of our authors across the weekend, which can be pre-booked on our ticketing site prior to the Festival, until booked out. We believe this will enable those interested in specific talks a better chance of access to them and the ability to pre-plan their weekend.

Looking forward

We’ve tried to make sure that coming to Clunes is well worth the trip. Bring yourself, your VCE students, your little kids, your antique book-loving mum and dad, your book club members or your culture-loving friends. Show them some of the most beautiful and rare books in Victoria and the heritage buildings, grab a bargain or get a new copy signed, have a laugh, eat some great local food, enjoy a coffee or a wine, join a workshop, and listen to some brilliant Australian authors.

You can see your $10 as a way to support the future of creativity, thinking, reading and books in regional Victoria, or you can see it as just incredibly good value. Either way, you should end up feeling pretty good about how you’re spending your money.

We thank you for being part of the conversation,

Tim Nolan,

Chair of Creative Clunes.