Hats off to the celebrities who have donated their daring, ostentatious and flamboyant headgear to a charity auction.

Sir Elton John, Joanna Lumley, Sir Stirling Moss and Dame Judi Dench are just some of the star names who donated their hats to be sold off this weekend.

About 500 hats have been rustled up for a extravaganza at the second Needlework Festival at Lewes Town Hall.

More than 20 celebrity hats are being auctioned today, including Sir Elton's trademark box hat and cap he wore during his 1982 tour.

Antiques Roadshow and Bargain Hunt presenter Tim Wonnacott will conduct this afternoon's auction.

Also under the hammer will be the safari cap Joanna Lumley wore while filming BBC documentary Giraffes On The Move, Sir Stirling's cap from the Ennstall classic car rally in Austria and Dame Ellen MacArthur's sailing cap.

Bamber Gascoigne has sent the silk top hat he wore to present University Challenge and Dame Judi donated the hat she wore in Amy's View in New York, for which she won a Tony Award.

All proceeds will go to St John Ambulance. The last festival, held two years ago, raised £18,000.

Festival committee member Jincks King-Holford came up with the theme Hats Galore after deciding she had too many of them in her attic.

She said: "I knew a lot of my friends would be the same so I started ringing round last August.

"I got in touch with some celebrities, milliners and High street shops and all were happy to help.

"It snowballed from there and now I've got 500 of them. I need a removal van to move them around. Everyone has been incredibly generous."

As well as the celebrity hats there will be hundreds more for sale at knock-down prices, some from London's top milliners.

Jools Elphick, supplier of Fortnum and Mason, will display her colourful head-dresses. Some of her designs have featured in Star Wars, while music stars Cher and Jim Kerr are among her client list.

A hat doctor will be on hand to give advice about refurbishing hats, and characters from the Mad Hatter's Tea Party will entertain people throughout the day.

Chairman of Sussex St John Council and the Needlework Festival committee, Phyllida de Salis, said: "We wanted to create a fun and interesting way of fund-raising for St John Ambulance.

"We are amazed by the gathering of experts under one roof, some of international acclaim.

"This festival is for anyone who enjoys needlework and likes to get a bargain too."

The festival takes place at Lewes Town Hall today from 10am to 5pm, although the auction could last until the evening, and tomorrow from 10am to 4pm. Admission is £5, £3 concessions and children under ten get free entry.