Lewes is hoping to boost its profile as an arts hotspot of the South after securing a line-up of stars to perform at the town's festival.

Several major projects, including plans to build a new public gallery and promote the district as a filming location, have been launched to build on the success of the Rodin exhibition.

Organisers of Lewes Festival 2000 say the event will place the town firmly on the map as a growing centre for the arts. Performers will include broadcaster and jazz singer George Melly.

The Lloyds TSB Tallis Scholars are lined up to stage a concert, the Ensemble Bash Quartet will play percussion from around the world and there will be a Cuban dance evening with music from Fruta Bomba. Children will have a unique opportunity to learn from the professionals during an operatic workshop at Glyndebourne.

Festival chairman Mark Barrett said: "This is an exciting line-up for the millennium year and we are really thrilled to offer such an array of talent. We would like the town to become a major centre for the arts. It's been gathering momentum for the last few years and in particular since the Rodin exhibition, which was extraordinarily successful. The festival is going to add to the pace."

The programme of events for the festival, which takes place between April 21 and May 1, is out at the end of next month.

A string of major arts projects steaming ahead in Lewes include plans to create one of Sussex's biggest public art galleries beneath the town hall. Hundreds of valuable paintings have already been bequeathed.

In July there will be a new festival to celebrate the life of 18th Century revolutionary Tom Paine, who lived in the town. Actor Jack Shepherd, who plays TV detective Wycliffe, will produce a play as part of the event.

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.