5th October 2007 at 01:00
Cheltenham literary festival

Where does Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren go when she's not lounging around her penthouse apartment polishing her mountain of awards?

The answer, of course, is the Cheltenham Literary Festival, where the Queen of Britflicks will be joined by Stephen Hawking, David Starkey, Keith Allen and others for one of the longest-running artistic get-togethers in the land.

The festival was dreamt up in 1949 by a group of free-thinking locals who decided the beautiful architecture and unspoilt countryside of the Cotswolds was just too much, and needed a bunch of scarf-laden old maids in 4x4s to tear up and demand organic coffee.

And lo, they came. Every year, for 10 days, hundreds of events discussing everything from Greek literature to graffiti take place, with this year's highlights including a moan-off between Armando Iannucci and Charlie Brooker, and talks by Michael Palin and Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

There is also the "Big Read" when we're all supposed to simultaneously tuck into Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera, lest we feel for one moment we are not being treated like cave-dwelling numpties who need to be force-fed world literature through a brightly-coloured straw.

But griping aside, with tickets from pound;6 and a plethora of authors on offer, you're likely to find something to tickle your fancy.

Events start this weekend, visit www.cheltenhamfestivals.com

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