PHILIP Pullman, Bill Bryson and Lauren Laverne are among the headline names at the North-East’s biggest book festival this October.

The line-up for the Durham Book Festival, announced today (Wednesday, August 12) also includes ‘Queen of Shops’ Mary Portas, former Business Secretary Vince Cable, poet Sean O’Brien, feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez and North-East novelist Pat Barker.

The festival, run by Durham County Council, produced by New Writing North and supported by Durham University and Arts Council England, runs from October 6 to 17 at venues across County Durham, including a schools day at Durham Johnston on Tuesday, October 6 featuring picture book authors Simon Bartram and Pip Jones and the Costa award-winning Kate Saunders.

Bill Bryson, formerly Durham University Chancellor, will speak about his new book The Road to Little Dribbling, a follow up to the hugely popular Notes from a Small Island.

Philip Pulman will discuss his phenomenally successful His Dark Materials trilogy and 3,000 free copies of Northern Lights will be given away to schools, libraries, leisure centres, hospitals, community centres and Durham University.

Now out of Parliament, Vince Cable will discuss his career and new book After The Storm; broadcaster and journalist Lauren Laverne will explore the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition Style is Eternal at The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle; and Mary Portas will discuss her memoir Shop Girl.

The winner of the Gordon Burn Prize will be announced at Durham Town Hall on Friday, October 9. The shortlist is: Dan Davies for In Plain Sight: The Life and Lies of Jimmy Savile; Honor Gavin for Midland; Romesh Guneskera for Noon Tide Toll; Richard King for Original Rockers; and Peter Pomerantsev for Nothing if True and Everything is Possible.

The festival has commissioned a new song cycle by Sean O’Brien and Agustin Fernandez and this will get its premiere at the Gala Theatre on Thursday, October 15, performed by the Royal Northern Sinfonia and Voices of Hope.

Claire Malcolm, chief executive of New Writing North and Durham Book Festival, said: “We are delighted to announce this year’s Durham Book Festival programme, which may just be our strongest yet.

“From prominent writers and thinkers to exciting new artists, we think there is a great balance of inspiring and entertaining events to suit all ages.

“There are many writers that I am personally excited about seeing in Durham and I’m sure that our audiences will be too. In fact, it’s quite a relief that we no longer have to keep the programme under wraps.”

Full details will be available at from 10am today (Wednesday), when bookings will open.