IT takes a village to raise a child, as the saying goes. But it takes a whole city to put a literary festival together.

This evening, the Salisbury Literary Festival begins with a launch party for volunteers, authors, sponsors and short story winners. On Friday morning, we’re then travelling with Salisbury’s Walking Book Group to Avebury, for a guided walk around the sites of the novels by crime writer and archaeologist Nicola Ford. We’re then back to Salisbury Library, where in conjunction with the British Library, we’re giving away free books by one of this year’s Salisbury Greats, Michael Gilbert. Then it’s over to the cathedral for this year’s headliner, Jung Chang, for her first public appearance following the publication of her latest book, the extraordinary Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister. And then for those still standing, local poetry group Poetika are running an open-mic at the Pheasant Inn until closing time.

And that’s just for starters: this is followed by a full weekend of events, beginning with a free literary walk around the Cathedral Close on Saturday morning, continuing via children’s events at the Library, adult events at the Playhouse, Guildhall, Arundells and Culture Coffee, and after our Writer’s Day at Sarum College on the Sunday, we end up at the Chapel on Sunday evening for an evening of readings by local authors in aid of Salisbury Foodbank.

To put all of that together takes a lot of time, effort and support. There’s the longstanding joke about Salisbury being Smallsbury, but there’s something about the size and close-knit nature of where we live that allows for a festival of this nature to flourish. Too small a place, and there’s not enough people to pull this sort of event off: too big, and people don’t feel part of it in quite the same way. In Goldilocks terms, the size of our city is just right.

The ‘all’ is Smallsbury is also often overlooked. It is very easy for a literary festival to feel, well, literary, and that can leave people thinking it’s not for them. But we try hard to come up with a programme that is friendly and accessible, and to keep tickets prices as low as possible: fiction for a fiver is the mantra on the Saturday, or just £3 for concessions.

That can only be done through the people putting it together working for free, through the support of local businesses who sponsor, and through the generosity of the Council and Salisbury Journal and the various venues we are privileged to use. It’s a combination of help, kindness, commitment and heart that somehow keeps the show on the road.

I was in Swindon on Monday to do an interview for BBC Wiltshire and the presenter asked me why a Salisbury literary festival. I explained that although there are other places nearby that have their own literary festivals (Marlborough, Mere, Yeovil, Sherborne), we have both the richest of literary heritages that is worthy of celebration, and a vibrant present-day writing community deserved to be showcased.

This year, the third year of the festival, it strikes me that the literary festival feels as important as ever. As the autumnal rain pours down (hopefully pausing for 72 hours), it can feel as though we’re stuck in a continual downpour of negative news: Trump, Brexit, Syria. Even sport isn’t much relief, as anyone who watched the grim racism the England football team suffered on Monday can testify.

Fiction offers readers a different experience. A chance to escape, reflect, rejuvenate – to lose yourself in another world, rather than scrolling aimlessly through social media. The power of a good book, and its effects on the reader, should never be underestimated. As parliament prepares to meet for what is being dubbed a ‘Super Saturday’ to discuss Brexit again, the literary festival offers Salisbury a much more rewarding super Saturday, all of our own. I hope you’ll join us.