Preview of first days of this year’s festival

Will HuttonThe FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival opens this weekend. A host of big names and the opening of a stunning new Bodleian Libraries exhibition on the festival campus combine to make this year’s event one of the most exciting for years.

Saturday’s Sheldonian line-up features How to Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell, well-known economics commentator Will Hutton, pictured right, on the ‘mercenary society’, and television comedian and award-winning author Tony Hawks on his latest book, Once Upon a Time in the West . . . . Country.

MC BeatonThe first day of the festival coincides with the opening of the Bodleian Libraries Weston Building and its major new exhibition, Marks of Genius, featuring many of the Bodleian Libraries treasures, including editions of the Magna Carta and Tolkien’s original watercolour for the cover of The Hobbit.

The Weston Building is a major new venue for the festival. Among those appearing in its lecture theatre are crime writer M C Beaton, pictured above left, and Ireland’s ambassador to the UK, Daniel Mulhall, on W B Yeats. The Weston Building also houses a new cafĂ© open to festival-goers.

Join Harry Potter for a wizard show

We celebrate the magic of Harry Potter in the Sheldonian Theatre on Sunday, while children’s author Liz Pichon turns the theatre into the world of Tom Gates. Sunday also sees one of this year’s most anticipated events when the US Sci-Fi writer Diana Gabaldon makes her first appearance in what will be a packed Sheldonian.

Celia ImrieThe great Indian writer Amitav Ghosh gives the Chancellor’s Lecture on Monday, and actress Celia Imrie, pictured right, star of the current hit film The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, appears on Tuesday.

Remember: The site of the Westgate Car Park is being redeveloped. Alternative parking is in place on the opposite side of Oxpens next to the ice rink. Visit the website for details on location and access.

Events can be booked online any time through the festival website or Monday-Friday 10am-6pm at Blackwell’s bookshop (0870 343 1001). The festival box office in the marquee is open throughout the festival.