AUDIENCES and authors are set to be welcomed back by Wigtown Book Festival in person this year, organisers have announced.

The 2021 festival will be two days longer than in previous years, with more than 140 events for adults and young people – around half the pre-Covid number.

At the town’s heart will be a new, free, outdoor venue, The Gardens, with a large screen and informal seating which aims to be Wigtown’s answer to Wimbledon’s Murray Mound.

Selected events will also be streamed from Wigtown to audiences around the world.

The full programme will be released on August 13 when booking is due to open online.

Authors attending the Dumfries and Galloway event in person include novelists Val McDermid, Francis Spufford and Salena Godden, philosopher AC Grayling, broadcasters Rory Cellan-Jones and biographer Emma Soames.

Other additions to the programme include award-winning author Stephen Rutt and the new Anne Brown Essay Prize for Scotland. The Wigtown Poetry Prize will also return.

Artistic director Adrian Turpin said: “This year’s festival is all about the joy of being together again, although it will be bittersweet given the friends we’ve lost since the last time we gathered.

“We look forward to seeing familiar and new faces, and to showing that Scotland’s Book Town is open for business.

“As well as providing a relaxed outdoor space at this time, we hope The Gardens venue will help open up the event to the widest possible audience. The lack of walls is symbolic as well as physical.”

The festival will run from September 22 to October 4.