WALLINGFORD'S Agatha Christie festival is providing a major boost for tourism in the town and attracting visitors from around the globe, according to its organiser.

The best-selling crime writer lived at Winterbrook House in Cholsey from 1934 until her death in 1976 and there is now a commemorative blue plaque on the house.

She is buried in the churchyard at St Mary’s Church, Cholsey, and the third festival dedicated to the popular writer takes place this Friday to Sunday.

Festival organiser Judy Dewey, who is also the curator of Wallingford Museum, said she hoped the celebration of the crime writer could become an annual event.

She added: "This year Agatha Christie's grandson Mathew Prichard has agreed to come and give a talk at the Corn Exchange which is a real coup for us.

"Winterbrook House was the place he remembers visiting his grandparents so he will be talking about that.

"I think the Agatha Christie festival and her connection with the area could potentially be worth thousands of pounds to the tourism industry.

"The festival has attracted visitors from Italy and Japan and throughout the year fans of Agatha Christie visit her growth and leaves messages and mementos."

The curator said if the festival was to continue she would welcome additional support from South Oxfordshire District Council.

She added: "At the moment the event is organised by the museum and the community association in Cholsey.

"There is some financial risk involved and more backing from SODC would be welcomed."

Mrs Dewey added that the council has helped to produce a special website – Visit Midsomer – which promotes locations connected with Midsomer Murders, the TV detective series filmed in the area.

She added: "Midsomer Murders attracts coachloads of tourists – we also want them to come here for Agatha Christie and more could be done to promote the connection.

"A bespoke website showing people where to come could work very well and make Wallingford the murder capital of South Oxfordshire.

"She sold more copies of her books worldwide than anything but Shakespeare and the Bible."

The Mathew Prichard talk takes place at Corn Exchange on Saturday afternoon at 3.30pm.

Mrs Dewey said the permanent Agatha Christie exhibition at the museum in High Street, which details her life with her archaeologist husband Max Mallowan, was being updated with new information boards and new photos provided by the Christie Archive.

The exhibition takes visitors behind the scenes to her home life, featuring photographs, letters and memories of local people who met her.

At the weekend there will also be a Christie exhibition at the Old School in Cholsey.

Mrs Dewey said she was opposed to plans for gravel extraction in the Wallingford and Cholsey area, as it would take place alongside a Christie walk for visitors, if it was given the go-ahead.

Agatha Christie was president of the drama group Sinodun Players, which now performs at the Corn Exchange.

Cinema manager at the Corn Exchange John Warburton said: "The museum has done a great job of reminding people of the town's connection with Agatha Christie – it's a good way of bringing in more visitors."

For further information visit wallingfordmuseum.org.uk