Leading article: An autumn feast

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There was a Woodstock before Woodstock, and there is a Woodstock after Woodstock, and this is where the Independent Literary Festival opens this evening, with the renowned scientist and atheist, Richard Dawkins, discussing his take on Darwin's theory of evolution in the splendid surroundings of Blenheim Palace. During the past 20 years, festivals of all kinds have become jewels studding some of the most picturesque corners of the UK, tapping into a growing public appetite for a closer acquaintance with the arts, especially with books and those who write them.

The Woodstock Literary Festival, now in its third year, is the brightest star in a new constellation of boutique festivals that pride themselves on individuality and intimacy. There are more than 60 events, and the line-up includes Colin Dexter, Michael Frayn, Lady Antonia Fraser, Philip Pullman and a host of other writers, including Howard Jacobson, shortlisted for this year's Booker Prize, Daisy Goodwin launching her first novel and Allison Pearson talking about her second. Where better to spend an extended autumn weekend than amid these riches in this picture-perfect Oxfordshire town? For tickets, call 01865 305305, or go to www.woodstockliteraryfestival.com. Everyone is welcome.

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