A formidable line-up of argumentative men and women are priming themselves for verbal combat to take place at Masterton's Copthorne Resort on May 27, but it's all in the name of good fun.

The six will be arguing the the pros and cons of "Rural life whips city life any time" to launch the eighth biennial Yarns in Barns, Wairarapa's festival of reading.

The fun debate will involve an impressive array of personalities well known in Wairarapa and much further afield, who are yet to show their hand and reveal which three will pit their wits against the remaining three.

Ian Fraser will be no stranger to anyone who has watched current affairs television and he will be joined on the floor by fellow broadcaster Ian Johnstone, who will be best remembered as the presenter of Close Up and Crimewatch.

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Also in the mix will be Wairarapa's own Tina Nixon, a journalist with a background in business and public relations now working with Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre, leading sports reporter Mark Reason, poet Harry Ricketts, and columnist and author Nicky Pellegrino.

Yarns in Barns festival co-ordinator Steve Trotman said in previous years the debate had closed the festival but this time a decision was made to swap that around and to launch the 10-day celebration of the joy of reading and literacy with it.

The festival, which is non-profit-making, dates back to 2003.

It now includes events from Martinborough to Mt Bruce.

This year the 14 events have attracted 30 participants, many of whom are authors or poets.

Tickets can be purchased from Hedley's Bookshop in Queen St, Masterton or online at www.hedleysbooks.co.nz