Poet Laureate Andrew Motion will return to the Ledbury Poetry Festival in 2002, organisers have announced, as the dust settles on this year's event.

Mr Motion packed out the sports hall of the John Masefield High School in 1999, just weeks after he became the Laureate, following the death of his predecessor, Ted Hughes.

He will be asked to launch the festival next year.

This year's event only finished on Sunday but the announcement of Mr Motion's appearance comes as plans get swiftly underway for 2002.

The date of the next festival is to be switched back to the "original" dates of July 4 to July 14, to keep the event entirely in one month.

Festival Manager Dr Charles Bennett said: "It should be good. We'll have Andrew Motion and, as we start on July 4, American Independence Day, we hope to have an international flavour!"

Director and festival chairman Alan Lloyd has announced that he is contemplating stepping down as chairman after five years in the position although he plans to remain a director.

Mr Lloyd said of this year's festival: "People are saying it could be the best one yet and most visitors enjoyed themselves."

Mr Lloyd blamed the "foot and mouth factor" for an apparent fall in overseas visitors despite internet advertising.

The festival committee is yet to analyse and release the ticket sales figures for this year, but a number of events sold out.

A "mini-festival" is now being planned for the autumn, in conjunction with the Friends of the Dymock Poets.

To tie in with National Poetry Day celebrations, top poets Tom Paulin, David Constan-tine and Sean Street will each give a reading in Ledbury on October 6 or 7.