Marlborough LitFest returned for its 12th festival bringing huge crowds to see some of the country's top authors talk about their books.

It featured a packed programme of nearly 30 events for all ages, including fiction, non-fiction and poetry events, workshops, debut novelists, award-winning established names, and children’s authors.

The line-up included Elif Shafak, Colm Tóibín, Sathnam Sanghera, Jonathon Porritt and Gill Hornby, ending in an online festival finale from LitFest patron, Sir Simon Russell Beale.

Festival chair Genevieve Clarke said: “So many people commented that it was fabulous to be back.

“But we couldn’t have done it without wonderful local support – from sponsors, nearly 100 volunteers including our committee and, of course, our audience. It was also very exciting to take so many of our authors to a wider audience online and we’ve had some very positive feedback about this. Roll on next year!”

For the first time, this year’s event featured online events, to allow audiences who couldn’t get to Marlborough in person to enjoy author talks from their own homes.

And the High Street was packed with people cheering on the official launch of LitFest 2021 with nearly 60 Year 4 primary school children from Marlborough St Mary’s School performing two songs on the steps of the Town Hall.

LitFest’s annual poetry slot was taken at Memorial Hall in Marlborough College by award-winning poet and playwright, Inua Ellams who transfixed the audience with his reactive and spontaneous poetry performance.

The 10th annual LitFest Golding Speaker on Friday evening was the Turkish-British novelist, academic and women’s rights activist, Elif Shafak, who gave an eloquent and passionate online talk on her writing ‘Literature needs freedom to flourish’.

Saturday’s festival line-up saw local author Gill Hornby, detailing the lives of Jane and Cassandra Austen from her latest novel, Miss Austen, fiction from authors Sarah Winman and the Hiscox Debut Authors slot with newcomers Hafsa Zayyan and Natasha Brown as well as an online talk with the legendary Irish writer, Colm Tóibín.

These were interspersed with non-fiction talks on the geopolitics of Russia from Guardian journalist Luke Harding and a discussion on the climate change emergency between renowned veteran campaigner Jonathon Porritt and young novelist Jessie Greengrass.

Espionage fans were treated to a masterclass in writing the perfect thriller by Mick Herrron, whose protagonist, Jackson Lamb, will be played by Gary Oldman in a forthcoming six-part Apple TV show.

And for the first time LitFest featured a graphic novel with writer and illustrator Matthew Dooley talking about his award-winning Flake.

Children’s authors Emma Carroll and Eileen Browne kept older and younger children entertained using song and dance and dressing up to inspire the little ones.

Ian Ridley brought recollections of grief (and cricket) through his memoir; Lucy Jago fully immersed her audience into a 17th-century true-life scandal with her latest novel; and this year’s Big Town Read author, Rosamund Lupton, fielded intense questioning from the Town Hall audience, mostly made up of book groups.

Returning to Marlborough after being a Big Town Read author in 2014, author, journalist and broadcaster, Sathnam Sanghera, spoke to a sold out audience at the Town Hall on Sunday afternoon about his new book, Empireland.

After an in-depth interview with award-winning novelist Jon McGregor, the festival was brought to a close with a series of pre-recorded readings by LitFest Patron, Sir Simon Russell Beale.

LitFest would like to thank its new lead festival sponsor, Sarah Raven, livestream sponsor Hiscox Insurance, and event sponsors William Golding Limited, Marlborough College, St Francis School, and new event sponsor, Adam Matthew, as well as Hamilton Trust, Katharine House Gallery, The Arts Society Kennet & Swindon, Haine and Smith, The White Horse Bookshop and Wiltshire Life for their continued support to the festival.