Monsters, murder, medicine and maths all feature in this year's York Literature Festival, which begins on March 15. And central to it all will be the greatest monster of them all. STEPHEN LEWIS reports

THIS year marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of one of the most influential novels of all time - Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Shelley was still a teenager when she began writing her novel in Switzerland in 1816. But the book she produced tackled the new science of the day, and the ethical and moral implications of the power it gave us to play God and exploit the world around us, in a way no novel before it had. It sparked countless imitations and a whole new genre of literature, science fiction.

Two hundred years later, Shelley's book will be one of the centrepieces of this year's York Literature Festival, which starts on March 15.

There will be several events themed loosely around Frankenstein, says festival director Rob O'Connor - including a series of monster-themed storytimes and rhymetimes for children at York Explore (from Tuesday March 20-Friday March 23); a discussion of the legacy of Shelley's book by Professor Angela Wright, author of Mary Shelley; and a session with children's author Guy Bass, whose bestselling book series Stitch Head follows the adventures of a mad scientist's forgotten creation (the clue is in that title...)

For children who fancy themselves as the next Mary Shelley, meanwhile, the winners of a writing competition (short stories, poems and 'Flash Fiction' on the theme of Monsters) will be announced in an event at The Mount School on Friday March 23 from 6pm.

All this is just for starters, however. The overall theme of this year's festival is history - or, as Rob O'Connor puts it, 'celebrating the varied history of the beautiful city of York'.

A packed programme of events at venues across the city centre has been put together for the two week festival, featuring big names such as TV historian Lucy Worsley, former Times editor Sir Simon Jenkins, and Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the UK's first Muslim cabinet minister. And as usual, the festival will be packed with local events too - events presented for local people by local people and writers.

It all kicks off on March 15 with the official launch of the new York Centre for Writing at York St John University. Based around the university's established writing programmes, the new centre aims to encourage of creative writing in the city.

The festival launch, at York St John University's Temple Hall at 8pm on Thursday March 15 (tickets £8) will see several of the university's creative writing staff giving a series of readings. York's own Fiona Mozley - the student and part-time shop assistant at the Little Apple Bookshop whose debut novel Elmet was shortlisted for the Booker Prize - will then be interviewed by festival director Rob O'Connor.

Other highlights of the 12-day long festival will include:

- Dr Janina Ramirez, author and BBC documentary presenter on the medieval mystic Julian of Norwich (St Peter's School, Friday March 16, 7pm, £10)

- Sir Simon Jenkins, author and former editor of The Times talking about his latest book Britain’s 100 Best Railway Stations (St Peter's School, Saturday March 17, 7pm, £10)

- Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the UK’s first Muslim Cabinet Minister and author of The Enemy Within: A Tale of Muslim Britain, who will be speaking about her account of growing up in Britain as a child of immigrants (St Peter's School, Sunday March 18, 3pm, £10)

- Dale Pinnock, aka “The Medicinal Chef”, presenter of ITV’s ‘Eat, Shop Save’, who will host a Festival exclusive on eating well and helping ourselves to feel better through the food we eat (The Mount School, Tuesday March 20, 7pm, £12)

- Dr Lucy Worsley, the writer, broadcaster and historian, who will talk about her new book Jane Austen At Home: A Biography (York Theatre Royal, Wednesday March 21, 7.30pm, tickets £25)

- TV legend and 1980s icon Johnny Ball speaking about the fascinating story of mathematics through the ages (St Peter's School, Thursday March 22, 7pm, £10)

- Press columnist Tim Murgatroyd (author of Taming Poison Dragons) and fellow York writers Sarah Maine and Pamela Hartshorne discussing their work and the art of writing historical fiction (York Explore Library, Saturday March 24, 3pm, £6)

- Medical historian Dr Lindsey Fitzharris discussing her book The Butchering Art, which examines the brutal (and brutally fascinating) history of British medicine (St Peter's School, Saturday March 24, 7pm, £7.50)

The Festival will also feature detective writers, Second World War novelists, children’s authors, artists, poets and much more - including readings from Robert Powell’s new collection “Riverain” aboard a riverboat on the River Ouse. It will finish on Monday March 26 with a 7pm event at Waterstones examining the growing trend of Northern Noir crime fiction with authors A.A Dhand and Robert Scragg (£6).

For full details of this year's York Literature Festival, visit

York Theatre Royal is the main box office for the festival, and most (though not all) tickets can be obtained from the theatre on 01904 623568 or at

Some events charge, but many others are free.