The Ilkley Literature Festival, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, opens today, bringing a host of top writers, broadcasters and leading poets to the town over 17 days.

In this landmark year the festival is bigger than ever and is expected to bring an economic boost of about £250,000 to Ilkley.

Rachel Feldberg, festival director, said: “In the past ten years alone the audience has grown from 3,000 to 26,000 which is a fantastic achievement and testament to the calibre of writers we’ve attracted to Ilkley.

“If you look back at the inaugural festival in 1973, there were only 50 events; now we have more than 225 events featuring more than 250 authors, speakers and performers in the town, including the Children and Young People’s Festival and dozens of Festival Fringe events.

“It’s hard to put a figure on the full economic impact but we estimate that approximately £250,000 is put back into the local economy from the festival, and we know that many of the 26,000 audience members spend time and money in local cafes, pubs and shops.

“This year’s festival pays tribute to the 40 years of hard work, commitment and enthusiasm by all the previous festival teams and the local people of Ilkley.”

The 2013 landmark festival is packed full of children’s events, kicking off tomorrow with a Children’s Book Trail. Put together with the help of local blog, The Pickled Egg and many of the town’s independent shops, the fun-filled trail aims to introduce kids to a variety of literary classics.

Created for young people under 12, children can collect their instructions, map and an entry form at festival venues, the Grove Bookshop and Ilkley Visitor Information Centre. There are 14 shops taking part and children can make their way around Ilkley and use clues and trail window stickers to guess which books are behind the story-inspired shop fronts. Children must then return the completed form by 5pm on Sunday, October 20 to be entered into a prize draw.

Additional children’s events include a Children’s Tea Party on Sunday when stand-up comedian and poet James Campbell will host an afternoon at the King’s Hall for which children are invited to dress-up as their favourite book character and enjoy cakesand stories.

Northern Ballet will also host a ‘Three Little Pigs’ workshop at All Saints School on Sunday which will explore the characters from the children’s ballet and demonstrate some of the dance moves from the show.

There are also a limited number of tickets still available for a host of headline events.

To download the fill programme or buy tickets, visit ilkleyliterature

Ilkley Literature Festival highlights

October 4, Kings Hall, Ilkley, 7.15–8.50pm: Jonathan Dimbleby, who will present BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions live from the Kings Hall, following a talk on his latest novel, ‘Destiny in the Desert’

October 5, Kings Hall, Ilkley, 2–3pm ‘The Search for Richard III’, with Richard III Society member Philippa Langle, and historian Michael Jones.

October 8, Kings Hall, Ilkley 7.30–8.30pm: Poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy is in performance with acclaimed Edinburgh-based musician, composer and actor, John Sampson. She gives the world premiere of a new poem specially commissioned by Ilkley Literature Festival to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

October 12, Ilkley Playhouse, Ilkley, 7.45–8.45pm: Ilkley-based ‘Gentleman’ Jeremy Dyson tells spooky true life ghost stories from around the British Isles; Kings Hall, Ilkley, 2–3pm: Musician Graham Nash, of supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young fame, will recount some of the best anecdotes from his memoir Wild Tales: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Life.