Devizes Festival has been dealt a blow as chairman Ian Hopkins was taken ill just a few weeks before the event opens.

Coun Hopkins was diagnosed with a tumour on his pituitary gland and had to undergo major surgery to remove it. He is recovering at home and hopes to be well enough to attend some of the festival events.

His workload has had to be shared out among the festival committee.

Committee member Jane Scorer said: “Thankfully, most of his work in organising the music events was done but he is a great loss to us.

“He is still our chairman and when he is well enough he will take up his burden again. We are working flat out to get everything sorted out before the festival gets under way.

“Most of the events are selling well and we are looking forward to another great two-and-a-half weeks.”

The Café Scientifique debate on climate change and the Atlantic jet stream at 1Spice on June 17 has sold out but there are still tickets left for all other events.

The festival begins today with stand-up comic Jenny Eclair taking to the stage at the Corn Exchange.

Other celebrities attending include TV historian David Starkey, who is at the Corn Exchange on June 21, SAS writer Andy McNab at the Corn Exchange on Saturday, reformed drug smuggler Howard Marks on June 19 and actress and writer Arabella Weir at the town hall on June 15.

Ian Dury’s former backing group, The Blockheads, are at the Corn Exchange on Friday while the first orchestra to visit the festival for many years, The Orchestra of the Swan, is at the Corn Exchange on June 17.

Full details of events are in the free brochure available from outlets all over town and the box office at Devizes Books is open, telephone (01380) 725944.