SWINDON’S Festival of Literature will return on Monday with more than 50 different acts and events set to take place during the next two weeks.

Some of the country’s greatest thinkers and writers will be gracing stages around the town until May 17, including war correspondent Kate Adie, children’s author Jacqueline Wilson and politician turned Strictly Come Dancing star Ann Widdecombe.

Some events are so popular they have already sold out, with other less well-known speakers drawing audiences for their quirky themes, including Nick Cohen, on why you cannot read his book.

Festival director Matt Holland said: “I am very excited about it.

“I defy anyone to say there isn’t something that interests them, whether it’s to do with running or to do with crimes of passion or to do with badgers or to do with whales or to do with crime writing or to do with penitence.

“There are also events on the role of libraries and asking what universities are for, so I really defy anyone to say there isn’t something there for everyone.”

Each year Matt and his team spend many months planning for the annual festival, contacting speakers and putting the programme together.

He said: “Each year it takes nine months to organise so I think it’s the nearest a man can get to giving birth. My wife did say that it has nothing of the pain there is with giving birth so there is the strain but not the pain. And the Swindon Festival of Literature is like my baby. All the events are like my babies and I want everyone to come along and see them.”

The festival is now in its 21st year, and to mark the centenary of the First World War it will take on a more serious theme.

Matt said: “There are three birthdays people celebrate and they are the 16th, 18th and 21st birthdays and at 21 you can do anything. You can vote, you can make love, you can drive, you can do anything.

“This year is like one big party. At the same time a number of events do mark the 100 years since the First World War, so it is a party but it is a bit serious as well.

“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.

“This is a festival that brings people together in Swindon to enjoy things well-thought, well-written and well-said.” For more information on this year’s festival, visit www.swindonfestivalof literature.co.uk.