A TOTAL of £18,000 has been raised in less than two months since the launch of shares to acquire the Book Shop in Crediton High Street.

Committee chairman Ken McKechnie said members had been 'bowled over' by the level of support the community had given the project.

'We now have over 60 shareholders in addition to a similar number who had already pledged their support as volunteers.

'This surely demonstrates that Crediton is putting its money as well as its mouth behind keeping a bookshop in the town, and shows what community enterprise can do,' said Ken.

'It's not just Crediton people who are backing us. Thanks to our gift voucher scheme for shares, which got generous coverage in a national newspaper, we also have shareholders in Australia, New Zealand, Ukraine, Germany and France.'

The £18,000 is a significant amount of the £44,000 target.

Among the grants secured is a £1,500 donation from the Devon County councillors' locality budgets, with support from Cllr Nick Way and Michael Lee.

This money will be used to support the launch costs of the enterprise, which up to now have been paid from the pockets of committee members.

Mr McKechnie said: 'This comes as a vital vote of support. Raising money from grants is not easy, and money which we can use towards our basic expenses is particularly hard to find.'

Cllr Nick Way said: 'I see it not just as a way of us putting our weight behind what the community is showing it wants, but also of supporting enterprise on the High Street.'

The committee is looking to recruit a part-time manager to take over the running of the shop when current owner Jill Holden retires in the spring. The committee is keen to not rest on its laurels, with over half the money needed still to be raised.

Mr McKechnie said: 'We urge everyone who has not yet done so to go to our website, learn about our plans and help make them happen by buying some shares while the opportunity remains open.

'One share, priced £20, gives its owner as much right to have their say as the biggest shareholder. So as well as helping to give an independent bookshop a new lease of life in community ownership, the shareholder will have a genuine stake in the business.'

The community bookshop has attracted the support of well-known literary figures. Dame Babette Cole, Mal Peet, Michael Morpurgo and William Trevor have all agreed to be Patrons of the enterprise.