ACTING legend Sir Simon Russell Beale is joining Marlborough LitFest as its first patron.

And he has taken a further step into Wiltshire life by moving to the town.

“I think it's a superb festival,” said Sir Simon. “And I am really interested to see if we can start bringing different kinds of writers, like screen and stage writers.”

“I’ve watched from the outside as Marlborough LitFest has grown over the past 11 years into the vibrant event it is today. I’m very pleased to be involved with this gem of a local festival in the heart of Wiltshire, which attracts internationally-renowned authors.”

LitFest chairman Genevieve Clarke said: “This is the first time we’ve approached anyone to be our patron so it’s an exciting development. And of course we’re thrilled that Simon has said yes with such enthusiasm.”

Sir Simon told the Gazette it was on a visit to Marlborough’s White Horse Bookshop on the town’s High Street as a teenager when he first got to know the town.

“My parents were in the army, so we moved all around the world, but they ended up living in Avebury, so Marlborough is as close as I have got to a home town really,” he said.

“And I love Marlborough, so I moved down from London a month ago.”

Sir Simon has a brother working as a consultant at Great Western Hospital.

“I have to work out what it means to travel from here, as I need to go up to London, but I don’t drive, so I rely on local transport.

“I’ve become addicted to buses and am campaigning for more of them in rural areas,” he said.

There is a new cinema planned for Marlborough, due to open at the end of the year, and Sir Simon has his sights set on bringing his colleagues from the world of TV and film to the town.

Sir Simon has been hailed as one one of the greatest stage actors of his generation and collecting his knighthood from the Queen said: “It has been an incredibly humbling thing.”

The 58-year-old, attended the Buckingham Palace award ceremony with his father Peter and brothers Andrew and Matt, spared a thought for his late mother Julia.

After collecting his honour for his services to drama, he said: “I can safely say she would have been pretty happy.

Sir Simon is one of the most popular and critically-acclaimed talents in British theatre.

He spent his early years abroad as his father was Surgeon General to the British Army, his mother is also a doctor.

Aged eight, the family relocated to England and he became a pupil at St Paul’s Cathedral School.

He then attended Clifton College in Bristol on a choral scholarship before studying English at the University of Cambridge

He was first noticed in comic roles at the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he forged collaborations with Sam Mendes, who he has continued to work with. Since 1995 he has been a regular player at