PLANS are coming together for the 21st Swindon Festival of Literature as Ann Widdecombe has been confirmed as one of the first batch of authors to attend.

The politician and star of Strictly Come Dancing will join a host of other writers for the two week festival from May 5 to 17, and talks are underway with Rory Bremner, Germaine Greer, Dave Gorman, Julian Barnes, Deborah Bull, Ian McEwan, Bettany Hughes, and Julie Burchill.

Ann will be joined by poets, speakers and performers as festival organiser Matt Holland hopes to expand on the successes of last year.

“Ann Widdecombe is a brilliant dancer and I wanted some excellent dance at this year’s festival,” Matt said. “This is a festival which is not academic or bookish, but more of a celebration.

“We look for authors in the first instance who are able to be a presence on stage and celebrate storytelling and individuals with words.

“They have a knack with words and are the perfect exponents of literature. Ann Widdecombe ticks all the boxes for these criteria.

“They have all written books, and we all want to know about Ann’s life. Once we have a big name others will be able to bask in their light. We also have Kate Adie, who was the BBC’s chief foreign and war correspondent, and is now a regular speaker on Radio 4. She has written a book about women in war.

“We also have Jonathan Porritt, who is a government advisor on the environment.”

Swindon Festival of Literature depends on funding from year to year, and Matt said it was great to have everything in place for 2014.

“For this year we are safe but we do not know about 2015 yet,” he said. “The council supports us, and I think everyone has recognised that even though we might get roads, drainage systems and good schools, a bit of culture is no bad thing.

“When you have got all those other things sorted some culture will do a lot of good. I am a believer in people being able to express themselves in words.

“At a festival, literature is much more about the stories we tell to one another. It is what people do in the pub. The festival is two weeks to talk about things and hear others talk. Weeks after each festival people stop me in the street to tell me they are still thinking over some of the ideas.

“What works really well in Swindon is that people want to explore ideas, but in the absence of a university, for two weeks of the year we have a good chat about the meaning of life. As usual, we will have some funnies along the way.”

Financial support is provided by Dominic Winter Book Auctions, Swindon Council, Artswords, and the council’s Adult Community Learning project, and Lower Shaw Farm.

For further information contact 01793 771080 or