THE Central Library courtyard was buzzing with book lovers yesterday as the details of this year’s Swindon Festival of Literature were announced.

Some of the world’s greatest thinkers and writers will be gracing stages around the town in May, including war correspondent Kate Adie, children’s author Jacqueline Wilson and politician turned Strictly Come Dancing star Ann Widdecombe.

Now in its 21st year, and to pay homage to the heroes of the Great War during the centenary year, the festival is taking a more sombre look at literature and asking harder questions about what it means to read and write and what kind of lives we should be leading.

Festival director Matt Holland said: “Now we are 21, we are meant to be properly grown up. This means we can not only have fun but also be serious and idealistic about things that matter in our everyday lives.

“We’re taking things a bit more seriously this year because we are now 21 and like many 21-year-olds, we are being a little more self-reflective and asking questions about ourselves and where we are going.

“That’s why we haven’t got any comedians this year and instead are talking about a number of serious topics we hope people will be able to get involved with.

“We’ve also kept the colours of the programme quite sombre in recognition of the First World War.”

But that does not mean the festival will be without some celebrity, with Ann Widdecombe billed as one of the most entertaining speakers during the event.

Matt said: “We have 12 packed days of speakers we have had flown in to Swindon especially for the festival.

“This is a festival that brings people together in Swindon to enjoy things well-thought, well-written and well-said.”

Over the years the annual event has become a firm fixture in the Swindon calendar and has continued to gain more authority in the literary world.

Swindon Council leader David Renard, who also spoke at the launch, said: “The Swindon Festival of Literature has been with us for a long time, and it is a very important part of the Swindon calendar.

“It does annoy me that some people seem to suggest there is no cultural scene in Swindon when this festival proves that we are a cultural hub and that people from all over the world are actually travelling to be a part of that.”

For more information on this year’s festival, visit www.swindonfestivalof