THOUGH it may not have the academic prowess of the Oxford Literature Festival, Swindon is certainly holding its own in attracting big names to this year's Swindon Literature Festival which will run between May 5 and 18.

And on its bill are Poet Laureate Andrew Motion; Booker prize winner Ben Okri; playwright, actor and theatre director Steven Berkoff and Tim Smit, founder of the Eden Project in Cornwall.

But question marks hang over if The Kinks frontman Ray Davies will make a special appearance later in the festival.

However festival organiser Matt Holland confirmed that although music legend Eric Clapton had been asked, he was unable to make it.

At yesterday's launch, at Borders at the Orbital Shopping Centre, north Swindon, Mr Holland said the festival was gaining in literary clout every year.

He said: "From Swindon's days of being a railway town have come drama groups and writing groups which can stand against any university town."

Mr Holland said that the theme of this year's festival had been inspired by ecology and the environment.

"It's a festival of facts and ideas rather than fiction," he said. "More about how we live our lives."

The festival will showcase the talents of novelists, poets, playwrights, philosophers, storytellers and many more.

The Swindon Slam and Swindon Youth Slam competitions will also allow budding poets of all ages to perform their work.

Mr Holland added that Swindon was, according to publishing house Harper Collins, in the top five literature festivals requested by the biggest names in the literary industry. The Swindon Literature Festival has received funding from the Arts Council for the last three years, something Mr Holland says is a recognition of its success.

This was a sentiment echoed by last year's Swindon Slam! winner, Alison Brumfitt, who also performed some of her poems at the launch.

"This has really come from being a small thing to being on the festivals' calendar," she said.

Alison added the festival was a real opportunity to hear artists perform live.

Swindon's Mayor Coun Michael Barnes, who attended the launch, said the festival accommodated all ages and literary tastes and promised to be better than ever.