FARNWORTH comedian Dave Spikey heralded a new chapter in the life of Harper Green School – by opening its first arts and literature festival.

The event, which was designed to help get children into reading, included workshops from top children’s authors Anne Fine and Gareth P Jones, as well as an opening speech from the Phoenix Nights star.

The festival on Saturday, which had an Alice in Wonderland theme, also included a flashmob dance, a character trail for the children to investigate different characters in books and snippets of Shakespeare plays performed by drama students, in a bid to get children thinking creatively.

Funnyman Dave, who was born in Farnworth and worked at the nearby Royal Bolton Hospital for 32 years before hitting the big time, said he was hooked on reading from an early age.

The 62-year-old said: “With having so many connections to Farnworth it was a pleasure to open the festival, especially with anything that encourages young people to read.

“It was different for me when I was young. My parents always encouraged me to read and write.

“My Dad used to write short stories and poems – it enriches our lives and increases our confidence.

“Kids have so many distractions these days, but books help to stimulate the mind and our imaginations.”

Three lucky youngsters who took part in a World Cup ‘selfie’ competition, which challenged stud-ents to take a picture of themselves reading a football-themed book, took a kindle home with them, in the hope it will push on their reading.

In addition, the first 150 pupils through the door on the day bagged themselves a free book by the two celebrity authors.

Mr Andrew Foster, Harper Green headteacher, added: “We want to encourage as many children to read as possible, because it is the key to so much.

“It is the challenge of education, because children have so many other stimuli these days we have to try and give them a bit of a push towards it.”