HOTELS and restaurants across Oxford will benefit from the arrival of visitors for the Oxford Literary Festival.

The festival has been running for more than two decades and thousands of guests book in to stay every year so they can attend author talks and events.

There will be more than 200 events at this year’s festival, which runs from this Saturday to Sunday, March 25.

Among the speakers will be celebrity chef Rick Stein, political commentator Robert Peston, children’s author Judith Kerr, novelist Ian McEwan and biographer Claire Tomalin.

Martin Walker, a spokesman for tourism organisation Experience Oxfordshire, said the festival provided a financial boost for hoteliers and retailers.

He added: “We know fans of the festival come to Oxford from different locations right across the UK because there is always such a great line-up. As well as booking hotels, they dine out in the city’s restaurants and visit the county’s other attractions.

“It’s Visit England’s Tourism Week the same week as the festival, so it’s the start of the tourist season at the same time.”

One of the highlights of this year’s festival will be the large number of talks taking place at the Grade I listed Sheldonian Theatre, which can accommodate an audience of more than 750 people.

TV chef Mr Stein will speak at the theatre on Saturday, March 24 at 2pm, while historian and broadcaster David Olusoga gives a talk there on Sunday, March 18, at 10am. He will talk about his role in the BBC’s update of Kenneth Clark’s landmark documentary Civilisation.

Booker Prize winners Ben Okri and Penelope Lively return to Oxford and the festival also welcomes Man Asian Literary Prize winner Su Tong.

Comedian and writer Ruby Wax will talk about her new manual for mental health, How to be Human.

Former Cabinet minister Alan Johnson will discuss his multi-award-winning series of autobiographies and the future of the Labour Party.

One of the key events will take place on the first day of the festival – the presentation of the Bodley Medal to Claire Tomalin.

The medal is awarded to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the worlds in which the Bodleian is active, including literature, culture, science and communication.

Ms Tomalin will be at the Sheldonian Theatre on Saturday, from 6pm, with Bodley’s Librarian Richard Ovenden.

The biographer last year published her own memoirs, in which she recalled her wartime childhood, the death of her journalist husband Nicholas Tomalin on assignment, bringing up four children on her own, success as a literary editor and discovering her true vocation.

Previous recipients of the Bodley Medal include Peter Carey, Alan Bennett, Oliver Sacks, Hilary Mantel, Nicholas Hytner, Ian McEwan, Prof Mary Beard and William Boyd.

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