SWINDON LITERARY FESTIVAL: AS THE tenth Swindon Festival of Literature passed the halfway mark, it threw up some surprises for the organisers.

There was a near sell-out crowd for philosopher AC Grayling on Friday night compared with just 70 for Edwina Currie at the Wyvern Theatre.

Alternative cookery expert Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall appearing at the Arts Centre on Wednesday is another surprise sell-out show.

Festival organiser Matt Holland said: "Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall was just someone I booked as a little experiment because I went to college with him.

"AC Grayling was an amazing turnout he's a philosopher speaking in an art gallery on a Friday night and there were nearly 100 people there."

Mr Holland predicted that on current estimates total festival attendance will be up to 7,000.

He said: "Somebody said to me yesterday when the festival is on Swindon really does feel like a city."

Saturday was children's day and festival organisers used the Steam museum to stage a variety of events.

Twelve children aged 10 to 15 spent the day with actor and writer Marcus Moore for the Full Steam Ahead workshop. The day culminated with an improvised performance from the children on the station platform.

The May-be Monsters workshop for five to seven-year-olds gave writers of tomorrow a chance to let their imaginations run free.

Among the activities was a chance for them to write poems about the sort of monsters they might be.

Seven-year-old Gareth Hook's piece was particularly evocative.

He wrote: "My chin is as spikey as a shark's teeth/My hair is as red as blood/My teeth are as strong as the Red Devils/My eyes are as hard as rock."

The children's day also included a workshop from cartoonist John Byrne and an interview given by best-selling teenage fiction author Jamila Gavin.

Festival highlights of the coming week include newspaper columnist Libby Purves, anti-globalisation writer George Monbiot and the already sold-out last night Poetry Slam at the Town Hall.