A LITERATURE festival will be staged for free online, from Thursday.

Sunderland Libraries Services will hold the 2020 Literature Festival online between October 1 and 10.

Organisers believe that now, more than ever, books can play an important role in reducing isolation, provide a sense of connection or escape and help us make sense of the world.

They promises a diverse, interesting, uplifting and inspiring digital programme, with content for all ages. The festival will be supported this year by Sunderland University, Sunderland Shorts Film Festival, Lonely Tower Film & Media and Living History North East.

The free series of event launches on Thursday, October 1, which is also National Poetry Day.

Councillor Linda Williams, portfolio holder for Vibrant City at Sunderland City Council, said: "We are all very happy that the 2020 Literature Festival is able to go ahead. Although it may be online and not in person, Sunderland Libraries Services will be providing as good a programme as ever.

"Reading is one of the most important skills a person can learn, and it has become even more important during this pandemic.

"From helping some feel less isolated, to ensuring children continue to grow their reading skills while schools are closed, reading is a universal pleasure that everyone can enjoy. I encourage everyone to get involved and help celebrate the literature that comes from our vibrant city."

The festival promises a wide range of inspirational authors and exciting events for all ages, featuring some favourite local authors and the chance to discover new writers and illustrators, film clips, workshops, taster sessions and storytelling.

Highlights will include a poetry challenge with children’s poet Conrad Burdekin and a drawing tutorial with children's illustrator Liz Million.

Sunderland Shorts Film Festival will feature favourite entries to the last five festivals spanning all genres, as well as skill development workshops and networking opportunities.

At 6.30pm each evening there will be short local history clips from Lonely Tower; Theatre Space North East was commissioned to record one of this year's plays in the park Midsummer Night’s Dream and there will be author sessions with Robert Scragg, Anne Twine, Cressida McLaughlin, Glenda Young, Nancy Revell and Marie Garner.

Visit sunderland.gov.uk/literature-festival for more information.