THIS year's Bradford Literature Festival (BLF) attracted record audiences of more than 70,000 - a 40 per cent increase on last year and a huge rise from a humble audience of 968 when it began as a two-day event four years ago.

The 10-day festival, which ran between June 29 and July 8, has earned the title of 'Most Diverse Festival in the UK', as it has continued to attract audiences from different ethnic, cultural and religious communities. This year, 51 per cent of visitors came from black or minority ethnic backgrounds. The festival is structured around a unique ethical pricing policy, which provides free tickets to anybody in receipt of benefits, living in social housing, those living on a state pension, refugees and asylum seekers as well as discounted tickets for students, senior citizens, and the disabled.

As a result, 52 per cent of all tickets sold this year were either free or discounted. Organisers say this suggests that more than half of all visitors might not have been able to afford to attend otherwise. The diversity of the festival has also been highlighted by visitors, with 83 per cent of people saying they mixed with people from different social and/or ethnic backgrounds and 84 per cent saying they felt a sense of inclusion.

BLF's schools programme has also grown, more than doubling session attendances this year from 12,133 in 2017 to 30,676.

Festival Director, Syima Aslam said: “I’m delighted with the success of this year’s festival which demonstrates a significant step-up that we as a team are exceptionally proud of. Each year BLF brings together some of the greatest writers, thinkers and personalities to create a festival of ideas, imagination and conversation, which is also a fantastic showcase for the city of Bradford, from its incredible heritage and beautiful architecture, to the strength of its communities and the passions and creativity of its people.

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, Bradford Council leader, added: “It is fantastic to see so many local people from such a broad range of backgrounds enjoying the Bradford Literature Festival. We are delighted that the schools programme has been so popular. Inspiring young people to read is an important step in developing literacy and the love of books can provide a lifetime of enrichment and knowledge.”