IT is home to just 1,000 people but a small town in Dumfries and Galloway is now celebrating 20 years as one of the key literary sites in Scotland.

Wigtown, home to a successful annual book festival and more than a dozen booksellers, is this week marking two decades with the title of Book Town.

Nearly 250,000 people have attended the festival, which began in 1999, and it generates £3m for the local economy.

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The Association of Wigtown Booksellers is marking Book Town’s 20th by inviting the local community to a tea party.

Richard van der Voort, association chair, said:“We really want to thank everybody in the town for all they have done to make Book Town such a success. "So many people have given so much time over the years – it’s just been wonderful.”

Mr van der Voort was one of those drawn to Wigtown because of its Book Town status, moving up from London in 2002 to open a sci-fi and detective fiction shop called At the Sign of the Dragon.

Over the years he has seen a steady increase in footfall.

He says: “I think it’s because we have achieved a critical mass here, and the town is such a wonderful base for exploring the countryside – here by the Machars, on the edge of the Solway Firth and set in a horseshoe of beautiful hills.

“People also get to know you, and when they want a particular book in future they will give you a ring or drop you an email.”

Sandra McDowall, who was secretary of the community council at the time and is the current Wigtown Festival Company chair, was one of the driving forces behind the town’s successful bid in the national competition to be Scotland’s Book Town.

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She said: “Things were in a bad way, so many jobs had been lost, shops were closing, young people were leaving.

“Then there was an article in the newspapers about the search for a new Book Town for Scotland and we just thought ‘right, let’s go for it’. And when the judges came we showed we had the enthusiasm, the properties and a wonderful rural setting.”

The 20th Wigtown Book Festival, which has grown over the years from three to 10 days, takes place from September 21 to 30.