TWELVE secondary schools joined mayor Andrew Bennett and Swindon's patron of reading and writing Joffre White at The Platform yesterday to officially launch this year's Youth Festival of Literature.

Now in it's eight year, and funded by the Swindon Association of Secondary Heads (SASH) it is one of the only festivals nationwide which sees a collaborative effort between schools across the town.

It is still a couple of weeks before the first of 19 guest speakers start appearing at the festival which begins on November 6.

Young adult author, Philip Reeve of the science fiction Mortal Engines Quartet, joins the festival as part of his nationwide tour of latest novel, Railhead.

The headline event of the festival, however, will take place on November 12 at the Wyvern Theatre, when secondary school students will welcome Steve Cole, the new author of the Young James Bond series to talk about his work.

Yesterday organisers welcomed students and staff participating in this year's festival, which is expected to be better than ever before.

Stella Rogers, learning resources centre manager at Isambard School, who helped to organise this year's event said: This year's festival is bigger and better than ever, and it grows ever year.

"I think we're probably the only place that is doing this. There are towns doing youth literature festivals but nothing where there is a collaborative effort between all the schools to bring this together.

"So it's a real event and because of that the authors who come here want to come again, and they speak to their friends and tell them about it.

"I think that's very important because it means it's being taken seriously and it is a fixture in authors' calenders."

Organised by librarians from 11 different secondaries, the likes of Virginia Bergin, Phil Earle, David Gatwood and Elen Caldecott will descend on the town between November 6 and November 13 to visit schools for readings, performances and workshops.

As well as the speakers, there will also be transitional events aimed at primary school children, and a smattering of competitions including the annual book quiz, creative writing competitions and illustrating competitions.

The festival is designed to encourage the love of reading, and offer youngsters an insight beyond exams and the classroom into what reading is about.

Mrs Wendy Conaghan, Kingsdown School headteacher and chairman of SASH said: "It is the eight year we've held this event and every single year it seems to get bigger and better than ever before.

"SASH fund this but it is really down to the librarians at every school who pull this together.

"This year there were 53 different schools who participated and in the eight years its been running there have already been 48,000 students who have taken part."