BOSSES at Big Pit are aiming to help traders in Gwent's booktown to secure their long-term financial future.

We reported yesterday how more than 5,000 people turned out for the launch day in Blaenavon on Saturday to make it a huge success.

Nine new book stores opened at the weekend, and organisers say there are plans for five more.

But now, say the booksellers, who have been attracted to the town, and traders who were already there, people visiting Big Pit must be attracted into their stores - rather than leaving Blaenavon to visit other towns - to ensure they have a viable financial future.

Ric Beachey, 55, of Celtica Crafts, in Morgan Street, said he had his shop before, as a base for his energy audit business, and has invested very little in diversifying into books. He said: "It will be a struggle. It's a long-term project. People who have set up think there will be customers coming in all the time - but we need the infrastructure, like bed and breakfasts here."

The Royal British Legion shop has sold books for five years and Stuart Cox, chairman of Blaenavon RBL, welcomed the newest arrivals.

But he, too, said more help is needed if the new arrivals are to make a difference to Blaenavon in the long run.

* Pictured: Ric Beachey

He said: "We were told at a meeting that Hay-on-Wye was in a far worse state than Blaenavon. But we need Big Pit to be involved."

Kartherine Stowers, marketing manager of Big Pit, said she is hoping to organise a meeting soon to diuscuss ways the booktown and pit can help each other.

She said: "We are 100 per cent behind the booktown. It has got to be for the benefit of the town.

"In the next two weeks I am looking at ways in which we can encourage people into the town, maybe by giving out leaflets or getting our guides to talk about the town.

"I am hoping to arrange a meeting with the organiser, James Hanna, in the near future, to see how we can help."