In this Olympic year, the Festival goes for literary trophies and golds, seeking medals galore in the field of Literature-related action, ideas, and entertainment.

The physical action begins on day one, Bank Holiday Monday 7th May, which sees Festival followers up at dawn for outdoor literary frolics in Lawn Woods, followed by walking, storytelling, running, and book events in Lydiard Park.

During the subsequent fortnight, the Festival, which has become something of a festival of ideas, and has been described by Melvyn Bragg as ‘down to earth’, by Joan Bakewell as ‘delightful’, by John Major as ‘punctual’, by Jon Snow as ‘a real surprise’, by Shaun B as ‘comparable to sex’, and by Mary & Peter as ‘the reason we moved to Swindon’, sees international ideas come thick and fast with talks from the BBC’s World Affairs Correspondent John Simpson on his book Unreliable Sources; and Channel 4’s News Editor Lindsey Hilsum on action in Africa, Libya and the Arab Spring.

Ideas about time come from Radio 4’s Claudia Hammond; while ideas of fairness in society are explored by Observer columnist and leader of the government’s Fair Pay Review Will Hutton; who will be followed by key writers and speakers from Occupy London on what their challenging international movement aims to achieve.

Author of Shattered Lives: Children who live with Courage and Dignity Camila Batmanghelidjh knows exactly what she wants to achieve: a better life for children.

As does Brigid Moss with her talk on IVF treatment and people’s wish simply to have children; and local author Lynne Copp on what the contents of your handbag represent and lipstick leadership.

While Professor Mark Williams brings his theories of Mindfulness to town.

By way of entertainment, there’s best-selling travel writer and broadcaster Stuart Maconie with his new book; best-selling novelist Marina Lewycka; actor, best known as Boycie in Only Fools and Horses, John Challis with his newly-published memoir; glamorous best-selling rom com author Ali McNamara; a luscious literary cabaret, celebrating the work of Charles Dickens, with the terrifically- grown up Scary Little Girls; an hour of verbal mischief-making with Edinburgh award-winning word-watching funny-man Alex Horne; and a live recording for Radio 4 of the Wondermentalist show.

As well as these, there are also more than fifty other events that include numerous authors and performers, the national Battered Moons Poetry Competition, the third Swindon Think Slam, a Children & Families Day, an alternative Comedy Club, the eighth Youth Poetry Slam; the premiere and performance of the Toothill Long Poem; a celebration of past local writers Richard Jefferies and Alfred Williams; and the launch of this year’s Domestic Cherry magazine. Festival Director Matt Holland said: “The nineteenth Festival offers memorable experiences for everyone, and proof that life is for learning, and where possible, pleasure too. People of all ages and backgrounds can come along, get together, have a good time, meet authors, join in lively talk, explore new ideas, and even have a laugh. It is all very exciting!”

The 2012 Swindon Festival of Literature is made possible by funding from Arts Council England, South West, whose support represents recognition of the good things that have been achieved in Literature development in Swindon. Financial support is also provided by Dominic Winter Book Auctions; Swindon Borough Council’s Culture Swindon & Artswords; Swindon Libraries; the Council’s Adult & Community Learning project; and Lower Shaw Farm; plus valuable support and assistance from First Great Western, the Swindon Advertiser, the Link Magazine, Wiltshire Life, BBC Radio Wiltshire, Swindon 105.5, Holland Handling Recycling, SwindonWeb, Acorn Press, Waterstone’s Bookshop, Swindon Visitor Information Service, Friends of the Festival, as well as a host of other local organisations and individuals.

It is heartening that all these people see the value of a festival of Literature in Swindon! The festival runs from Monday May 7 to Saturday May 19 at various venues in Swindon.

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