The 39th annual Ilkley Literature Festival got in full swing on Friday with the arrival of some good weather and crowds of book lovers.

Festival director, Rachel Feldberg, is delighted with the enthusiasm shown so far for the 2012 event, and has plenty of confidence this year’s programme will be another triumph.

She said: “It’s been fantastic – we’ve had an absolutely wonderful first few days.

“The audiences have been very enthusiastic, the artists have been delighted by Ilkley, and Ilkley was looking wonderful, with beautiful sunshine. People have really enjoyed Ilkley at its best.

“We’ve had a very, very good first weekend for the festival, and some really lovely surprises.”

One such surprise, she says, was the excellent turnout for a family games session at the bandstand in The Grove. Parents and children took advantage of Saturday’s unseasonable sun to join in a host of games, ranging from skipping and an egg-and-spoon race to popular Asian sport kabaddi, which was led by a team of young cricketers.

A second surprise addition to the festival, says Ms Feldberg, was Baildon choir Noteworthy Women joining Benjamin Zephaniah on stage at the King’s Hall.

The choir, under the leadership of Lesley Lear and Gilly Fordham, had made their own arrangement of one of Zephaniah’s poems, and met up with him for a private performance.

He was so moved by it he invited the full choir to perform it for a packed King’s Hall at his Literature Festival engagement.

Many headliners are still to come, and Ms Feldberg reminded festival-goers of the Children’s Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, featuring workshops, storytelling and theatre, plus a show and skills workshop by the Suitcase Circus Performance.

A first for the Ilkley festival will be the appearance of an unusual ‘poetry sphere’ behind Ilkley Playhouse on Saturday evening.

The glowing sphere will have poems created by the festival’s official poet and apprentice poet in residence projected onto it. Aspiring local poets can also submit poems for inclusion via Twitter.

Among the many events coming up in the week ahead are a Conversations about Empires day school tomorrow, and Speak Of Me As I Am – A Conversation With Ira Aldridge on Saturday.

Leading Polish novelist Pawel Huelle will be at Ilkley Playhouse on Tuesday, and Dame Harriet Walter will appear with her new husband at Ilkley Playhouse on October 13.

Tickets are also available for big names, including Chris Mullen, Roger McGough, Simon Armitage, Stephen Roche and Ned Boulting.

l See next week’s Ilkley Gazette and Wharfedale and Aireborough Observer for the final 2012 festival guide, plus all the latest news and reviews.