MORE than 25,000 book lovers are expected to give the Oxford economy a boost as they arrive for the city’s annual literary festival.

This year, the festival at Christ Church has been extended to run for an extra day from Sunday, March 29, to Sunday, April 5.

Tei Williams, a spokesman for the literary festival, said: “The festival is in its 14th year and can now attract world-class names including AS Byatt and Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York.

“We are now firmly on the literary festival map and can’t be far behind Cheltenham and Hay.”

Festival organiser Sally Dunsmore added: “I think this is our best line-up ever and reflects the international status of Oxford. People are coming from all over the world to talk at this festival.”

Sponsors include the Sunday Times, The Oxford Times, Blackwell’s, The Randolph Hotel and the Aga Khan.

City councillor Colin Cook, executive member for the city centre, said: “The Oxford Literary Festival is a real financial boost for the city because many visitors use hotels and restaurants and spend money in the shops.

“I’m sure it’s an event that businesses in the city look forward to every year because they know it will give them a lift.

“It’s great to see the festival bigger than ever this year and that certainly bodes well for the future.”

Philip Pullman, award-winning author of the fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials, is among the 350 writers taking part. This year’s line-up includes Ian McEwan, AS Byatt, PD James, Jeffrey Archer, Kate Atkinson, Joan Bakewell, Raymond Blanc, Martin Bell, Louis de Bernieres and Donna Leon.

Richard Blair, George Orwell’s adopted son, will speak in public for the first time about life with his father.

And on Monday, Melvyn Bragg will host a Royal dinner in honour of PD James, with the Duke of Kent.

Lord Bragg will talk about her contribution to crime writing.

The adult programme includes debates and writing masterclasses with Philip Pullman, Joanne Harris, PD James and poets Bernard O’Donoghue and Craig Raine.

The children’s programme includes Philip Ardagh, Malorie Blackman, Shirley Hughes, Michael Morpurgo, and Francesca Simon.

Further details can be obtained from the Oxford Playhouse, on 0870 343 1001, or online at sundaytimes oxfordliterary or