THIS year's Ilkley Literature Festival features its largest ever programme of events with over 40 authors turning out to read and discuss their work.

Once more the festival, which opens on Friday, October 4, has attracted many of the nation's top writers.

Louis de Bernieres, author of the global phenomenon, Captain Corelli's Mandolin will be attending the festival that begins on October 4. A.S. Byatt, Carol Ann Duffy, Iain Banks and Ann Widdecombe are just some of the other big names also appearing at the 16-day event.

The venues selected to host the events include Riddings Hall, Ilkley Playhouse, The Crescent Hotel and Craiglands Hotel.

Ilkley Literature Festival is the north of England's oldest and largest literary event. Some of the highlights of the 2002 festival include BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson reading from the third part of his autobiography Looking for a Story, on Friday, October 4. The first two volumes, Strange Places, Questionable People, A Mad World and My Masters reached best-seller status with their revealing and humorous anecdotes. This third volume is eagerly anticipated.

On Saturday, October 5, one of the country's most respected writers, A.S. Byatt will appear at Riddings Hall. She is the author of eight novels, one of which, Possession, has been made into a film due for release this autumn.

And at the same venue and on the same day, poet Carol Ann Duffy will read from her new collection Feminine Gospels. The popular poet has written many collections including Mean Time - winner of the Whitbread Award, and The World's Wife. Since 1994 her work has been on the GCSE syllabus in schools and she is widely regarded as one of the nation's leading living poets.

One of the highlights of the festival is on Sunday, October 6 when Louis de Bernieres will be at the Craiglands Hotel to read and discuss his work.

The internationally- acclaimed author of The Wars of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts, Red Dog and of course Captain Corelli's Mandolin is the first Brit to win the Commonwealth Writers Prize.

Described by The Times as "the most imaginative British novelist of his generation," cult author Iain Banks will read from his latest novel on Friday, October 11. Dead Air begins with a group of characters hearing a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center. He will also talk about his work.

The final day of the festival on Sunday, October 20 sees more big names. Outspoken and often controversial, politician Ann Widdecombe attends the festival to talk about her second novel An Act of Treachery. Portraying a love affair between a young French girl and a Nazi officer, the novel deals with illicit love against the backdrop of the holocaust.

Ann believes the book is as much about hatred as it is love - not your standard romance novel. She says, "There are no heroes in this story...People behave badly and well is often like that."

The festival closes with an opportunity for the less well-known writer to showcase their work.

The Arriva Open Mic Awards provide a stage for anyone who is interested to perform.

A stopwatch keeps the performers moving quickly and guarantees a lively and varied night out.

The best entrant is awarded £300 at the end of the night.

The festival this year has The Grove Bookshop as its official bookseller. The Ilkley shop will stock books by all festival authors, and will provide a service for those who cannot attend the event to order signed copies of the books.

The Grove Bookshop is also selling tickets for the event. Tickets can also be purchased online, by post or by telephone.

Booking early is recommended as many events sell out.

If you are aged between 16 and 24 or disabled you can claim two free tickets to the festival, subject to availability.

For further information or to book tickets, contact the Festival Box Office on (01943) 816714 or write to Ilkley Literature Festival, The Manor House, Ilkley, LS29 9DT, or visit