A FORMER Tory cabinet minister, an Oxford maths don and a young man who writes with his eyes will top the bill at the first Swindon Spring Festival.

The two week extravaganza of music, poetry, literature, dance and philosophy replaces the Swindon Festival of Literature, which last year celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Launching the programme at the town hall yesterday, founder Matt Holland said the new Swindon Spring Festival was an opportunity to celebrate and promote arts and cultural groups in the town.

He said: “The town is alive with arts and cultural activities – and it’s longing for more and it has an appetite for more.”

The Swindon Spring Festival was just the tip of the iceberg as far as arts in the town was concerned, Matt said.

“Unlike the world’s real icebergs, this figurative one in Swindon is not melting, it’s thriving.

“Putting together this programme has been an amazing experience. A tricky one, but an amazing one: a voyage of discovery.”

Thatcher’s education secretary, Kenneth Baker, will speak about lust – and the six other sins that have claimed the careers of many a politician. Asking whether a computer could write a novel will be Oxford professor Marcus du Sautoy, co-host of Dave quiz show School of Hard Sums. And Wiltshire boy Jonathan Bryan, who has severe cerebral palsy and is unable to move or speak, will explain how he wrote his first book by moving his eyes between letters on a spelling board.

As well as the ever popular dawn launch event at the Lawns, where festival goers can watch the sun rise over Old Town, this year’s programme includes a free day-long family event at Lydiard Park. Called Festival in the Park, it will see circus performances, puppetry, a chance for children to try their hand at acrobatics and storytelling.

There are more than 50 events on the packed programme, although Spandau Ballet fans may be disappointed to learn the Martin Kemp speaking at the Devizes Art Centre is a history of art professor - and not 80s pop favourite. Prof Kemp, emeritus professor of history of art at the University of Oxford, will give a talk on his latest book about Leonardo da Vinci.

Poet Sara-Jane Arbury will create a new work based on snippets of text contributed by BBC Wiltshire listeners. At a Think Slam, held in the Devizes Road Arts Centre, people will have three minutes to present a thought provoking idea or theory.

For the first time ever, the festival will run a quiz – guest-starring TV Egghead and six times World Quizzing Champion Kevin Ashman. In another first, the festival presents a Richard Jefferies Lecture, with historian Dr Will Abberley making the case for the Swindon-born journalist and writer as a pioneer of modern nature writing.

Town author Karen Gregory wrote her first book as a member of Swindon writing group Mum's the Word. Karen, who has signed a three-book deal with publishing house Bloomsbury, will talk about writing and motherhood.

Journalist Bella Mackie, who is married to Radio 1 Breakfast Show DJ Greg James, will speak about how running helped save her mental health. Appearing alongside her will be refugee and keen runner Omer Homer, who fled to the UK after he was seriously injured in a landmine explosion.

Swindon Spring Festival runs from May 6 to May 17.

For a full programme, visit: www.swindonspringfestival.co.uk.