LEDBURY Poetry Festival was billed to break records this year and, judging from the opening weekend and following days, it seems to be on track.

Fourteen events were sold out even before the ten day celebration got started, and hardly a seat was to be had in a near-packed Community Hall on Tuesday, for the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

Other huge names this week include Python star, Michael Palin and the Lib-Dem grandee, Shirley Williams.

The Festival's artistic director, Chloe Garner said: "It's been brilliant so far. The sun shone on our Alice in Wonderland event in the Walled Garden on Saturday and everyone, young or old, appeared to be happy."

Ms Garner said there were a good many people from London in town, and she has also met festival-goers from Cornwall, Devon, Norwich and Manchester, which shows the continuing appeal of the UK's largest Poetry Festival.

Ms Garner said: "It brings a buzzing atmosphere to Ledbury."

This year, around 5000 tickets or more are likely to go; but that does not give a true figure of visitor numbers, because many events are free.

There has been one high-profile cancellation.

Poet Don Paterson, who was set to read last Sunday, had to pull out because of ill health.

He is a winner of both a Whitbread and a TS Eliot award.

His place was taken at the eleventh hour by the Welsh poet, Meirion Jordan.

"He's a new discovery," said Ms Garner.

Big names up this weekend include the punk poet John Cooper Clarke and comedian, Phil Jupitus.