LEARNING something new is always fun at Bellingen's Camp Creative.
This unique, family-oriented summer school takes over the town for a week in early January each year and this summer the doors open on January 8 and close on January 12.
With 73 different courses organised and 820 students already booked in by early December 2017, Camp Creative coordinators Rob and Michelle Stockton have their hands more than full but thrive on the year-round challenge.
"We recruit tutors all the time," Rob said
He has been involved since before his retirement as the principal of Bellingen High School, where many of the courses are based.
He says he has always loved the summer school.
Camp Creative is now well into its third decade, so organisers are seeing a second generation of 'campers.'
They have participants as young as six and as old as 92 and the classes and workshops are particularly popular among retirees, who have fewer financial and time pressures.
Rob attributes the enduring popularity of Camp Creative, which has survived and thrived where other summer schools have faded or folded, to the attractiveness of Bellingen, its unique country town ambience and the safety, security and personal, family ethos of the camp itself.
It is also gloriously quirky.
Not content with providing a range of mainstream offerings in the art, craft, music and literature fields, Camp Creative 2018 has workshops like Irish drumming; clogging; canoe building; fly fishing and chainsaw carving using recycled camphor laurel rescued from roadsides.
The proximity of the Bellinger River will allow the canoe builders to launch their new canoes and the fly fishers to practise their new-found skills on the water.
Two years ago, Irish drumming tutor Kevin Kelly brought 1000 bodhran (Irish drum) players together to set a Guinness World Record for the largest number ever to perform, a record which still stands.
Camp Creative always hosts a free public outdoor concert in Welcome Park, this year from 5.30pm on January 11.
Rob said the camp, which has been calculated to bring about $3.5 million of extra revenue to the town, was financially self-supporting; had never needed a grant and contributed $20,000 annually to Bellingen through its donations program, including air conditioning local classrooms.
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