ILKLEY’S favourite son, Alan Titchmarsh, returns to his roots next week to launch the most popular literary festival in the North.

Mr Titchmarsh, who was raised in the town, is due to open the Ilkley Literature Festival at the King’s Hall on Monday.

The Gardener’s World presenter, also an author and novelist, will discuss the latest volume of his memoirs, Knave of Spades, which traces his journey south to college, Kew Gardens and his job on BBC’s Nationwide as the gardening presenter.

Mary-Anne Robinson, of Ilkley, who was among the first to buy tickets for the event said: “I’m really pleased that Alan is opening it. He is very popular and it will be interesting to hear what he has to say about Ilkley.”

The launch event will take place a week prior to the festival to fit in with Mr Titchmarsh’s busy filming schedule.

Thousands of pounds worth of tickets have already been sold for this year’s literary celebration as die-hard festival fans vied for tickets to meet the nation’s best-known authors.

To date a total of 16,591 tickets have been sold but organisers say there are still many tickets left for exciting events.

Festival co-ordinator Rachel Feldberg said: “We have some 8,000 tickets left to sell, some of which are for some well-known authors indeed.

“It’s not true to say that all the big names have sold out and many people this year are simply phoning the box office and asking what’s on on a particular date, which I think is a really refreshing way to book tickets.

“People are often surprised at what we have to offer and it is really worth taking a good look at our programme to check out what is happening.”

By the second week of sales for the literature festival, organisers had already outsold last year’s entire event.

The huge demand for tickets has been met despite difficulties with the festival website, which had to be taken down for technical reasons over the weekend.

Tickets are still available for big-name authors including Oscar-winning screen writer Simon Beaufoy (of Slumdog Millionaire and Full Monty fame), poet Roger McGough, crime writer Val McDermid, actress Diana Quick (of Brideshead revisited) Yorkshire writer Jack Sheffield, award-winning children’s author David Almond and children’s writer Philip Ardagh.

Also available are tickets to see Girls Night In with authors Marika Cobbold, Adele Parks and Fiona Walker, author and journalist Amanda Craig, political thriller writer Henry Porter, a poetry reading with Moniza Alvi, and an evening of ‘great loves’ with author Jill Dawson.

l For more information on the festival telephone the box office on 01943 816714.