KATHERINE MacALISTER previews the 2012 Oxford Literary Festival, taking place around the city and county.

If just the thought of a literary festival has you scurrying into your homes and locking the doors until it’s all over, then stand your ground.

Because there’s more to the 2012 Oxford Literary Festival than a bunch of academics talking about things you’ve no interest in. And with more than 300 events to choose from, at venues around the county, including the Sheldonian Theatre and Blenheim Paalace, there really is something for everyone.

Like cooking? Then you can listen to Georgio Locatelli, the famous Italian chef, waxing lyrical about his book on Italian food Made In Sicily.

Or fancy some acting stars? Why not grab a peek at Pirates Of The Caribbean and The Office star Mackenzie Crook, whose children’s books are bringing him to the festival.

TV’s Alvin Hall will be the voice of reason in a world of recession and redundancies with his very matter-of-fact book on the Stock Exchange.

And even the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams is coming along to talk about, you’ve guessed it, religion.

So whether you fancy seeing your favourite author, taking your kids to something a bit different, or listening in awe to world specialists talking about everything from comedy to gardening, grab the opportunity to witness the world’s best authors all on your doorstep.

The line-up for children includes War Horse author Michael Morpurgo, Oxford’s own writer of the His Dark Materials series Philip Pullman, and author of the Roman Mysteries and Western Mysteries series Caroline Lawrence.

The festival also celebrates the 100th birthday of Peter Rabbit with Peter Rabbit’s Birthday Show.

Plus the festival welcomes lots of children’s illustrators and writers including Oxford’s Korky Paul, while Tamara Macfarlane and Gilbert Giggles present the Amazing Esme Circus.

* Speakers include TV finance guru Alvin Hall, broadcaster and journalist Joan Bakewell, Sir David Hare discussing his life in the theatre, film director Sir Alan Parker looking back on his career, and Jeremy Paxman will speak on his new book Empire * Best-known writers include Anne Tyler, Peter Carey, Vikram Seth, William Boyd, Phillip Hensher, Andrew Motion, Anthony Horowitz, Robert Harris and Kathy Lette.

www.oxfordliteraryfestival The festival runs from Saturday until April 1.

0870 3431001