FANS of fascinating fiction, wonderful workshops, and cracking conversations enjoyed a virtual festival of literature from the comfort of their homes.

One of Swindon's biggest cultural events returned with a packed week of talks, shows and interactive activities.

The 26th Swindon Festival of Literature kicked off with the traditional Dawn Chorus in Lawn Woods at 5.30am last Monday, where a small group of performers heralded the sunrise while a few early birds and passing dogwalkers stopped to watch.

Dancers, acrobats, storytellers, musicians and frolicking lambs featured in the outdoor celebration. For those who preferred a lie-in, the festivities can be watched for free on the festival's YouTube channel along with every other event in the schedule.

Organiser Matt Holland said: "It took place just before the storms moved in, so, though it was cold, the sun appeared from behind the clouds and rose over Queen’s Drive and east Swindon.

"It was a beautiful morning and quite the best way to start the Festival, which from now on is consigned to indoor events.

"In the first two days alone, we already had scores of viewers from Swindon but also from all over the world - including Austria, Africa, Australia, France, Spain, and the USA.

"At Lower Shaw farm, the festival’s HQ, the team is delighted. We are very pleased that the people are pleased and the hard work and perseverance is paying off."

The power of technology allowed the festival's guests - which included authors Jasper Fforde, Jon McGregor, Blake Morrison and Sally Bailey along with former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, guitarist Richard Durrant, former professional boxer Paddy Fitzpatrick and broadcaster Miranda Sawyer - to attend from all over the UK or even abroad.

Music and circus skills shows for families, interactive Zoom games and workshops for children’s storytelling ideas and poetry writing provided plenty of variety from the book talk.

Hosting the festival online also let viewers provide instant feedback on what they were watching.

One comment said: "I have enjoyed two very challenging and unusual speakers. Great value. Makes a change from the usual stale and expensive offerings at some literary festivals."

Another said: "It’s great that the festival is happening in these difficult times."

To catch up on the festival's events, visit and pick any show or talk that catches your interest.