THE Swindon Festival of Literature will return next week with in-person events for the first time in three years.

Organiser Matt Holland launched this year's week-long event on the top floor of the Central Library which kicked off with Michael Fergie playing the kora, a stringed instrument from West Africa.

This ties into the Royal African Society partnering with the Swindon staple to host an evening of African poems, music and stories at the Town Hall at 7.30pm on the penultimate day of the festival, May 7.

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As always, it will begin with the traditional free Dawn Chorus, which will see a dedicated bunch of festivalgoers head to Lawn Woods for music, circus skills and storytelling as the sun rises at 5.30am on the bank holiday Monday.

Other attractions include a children and families day at Lower Shaw Farm from 10am on May 8, with campfire storytelling, circus entertainers, a puppet show, a music workshop, and more, held just before the festival's grand finale in the Town Hall at 7.30pm.

The festival reached a new international audience by going online during the pandemic - with viewers from America, New Zealand and Botswana tuning in, but Matt Holland is happy to have face-to-face talks, workshops and family fun days returning.

He said: "Even people who don't like literature should come along because it's really about life and people. We celebrate freedom of expression and action.

"It's a festival of ideas where people of different views and backgrounds can listen carefully and civilly to each other in an attempt to understand and learn from each other.

"Literature is simply the best words in the best order to entertain, move and inform - and if they tell a story, even better."

A newly-launched collection, Swindon Writing 2, gathers together short stories, poems, a short graphic novel, all created by imaginative Swindonians.

Mayor Garry Perkins attended the first literature festival and is thrilled by its continued success.

He said: "Matt and his team have raised Swindon's cultural heritage to a higher platform.

"It's been great to see such a diverse and varied festival be maintained and grow and be held all around the town.

"The heart of Swindon is its cultural side. Without a heart, a town loses so much, so we need to make sure it keeps going even with all this pressure on budgets."

Programmes are available from the Central Library. For more information, visit

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Who's coming to Swindon for the festival?

An array of authors will be coming to Swindon to talk about all sorts of subjects and stories.

Isabel Hardman and Caroline Williams will focus on the benefits of outdoor exercise on May 2 while Charlie Corbett hails the joys of birdsong.

On May 3, A.C Grayling and Jon Alexander will mull over how to do good for the world and be a good citizen as Naomi Shragai explores how to feel happier in the workplace and Sue Birley talks about the joys of taking life slowly.

A busy May 4 will have explorer Benedict Allen recount lessons learned from his ambitious treks, Xanthi Barker and Charlie Gilmour discuss how they dealt with absent fathers, and see a spotlight on storytelling with Abigail Williams and Katie Ackrill.

Swindon's own Richard Wintle will look back on 40 years of photographing celebs, sports stars, politicians and peacemakers on May 5, which also has Jules Howard delving into the minds of dogs, Jim Al-Khalili praising the joys of science and Richard Firth-Godbehere looking into the history of emotions.

On May 6, Bernard Henin will reveal the possibilities of ocean worlds and life among the stars, mother and daughter Sally and Libby Page will chat about how stories have shaped their lives, and Christina Patteson will discuss her memoir.

Festival guests can try their hand at bookbinding on May 7 or take part in a writers' lunch and creative writing workshop.