A STAND-UP veteran and TV fixture will headline this year’s Thornbury Arts Festival, kicking off the annual event with a bang.

Arthur Smith will conjure up his grumpiest self to make spectators cry with laughter on the festival’s opening night at the Armstrong Hall on Friday, April 19.

The compere beyond compare who is as comfortable on a TV set as he is behind a microphone and on stage, is most famous for his reporting stints on the BBC's The One Show and his run as one the Grumpy Old Men.

Thornbury Arts Festival director Liz Wilkins said: "He was one of the many stand-up performers on the vibrant alternative scene and now some 20 years on he still performs in much the same manner. Perhaps ironically, he now describes himself as a "semi-professional" comedian."

Mr Smith's unusual East End background and slightly round-about foray into professional life has left him with no end of jokes and anecdotes to tell.

Before becoming a stalwart of Edinburgh Festival, Mr Smith worked in London as a road sweeper, market researcher, teacher, playwright. He also tried his hand at advertising of a kind by promoting chicken burgers in supermarkets dressed as a fox.

The National Youth Orchestra will follow on Saturday, April 20 with a programme of unique melodies and Swing classics (7.30pm).

"Their music repertoire is huge, covering music written especially for them, often by British composers, as well as standard tunes we all know from the swinging great American songbook to more contemporary big band jazz," Mrs Wilkins added.

Britain’s most famous mountaineer Stephen Venables will take over the Armstrong Hall and regale his audience with tales of his climb up Mount Everest on Monday, April 22 (7.30pm).

The explorer and his team made global headlines and alpine history by being the first to scale the world’s highest mountain up the gigantic Kangshung Face 25 years ago. To find out more about the festival visit www.thornburyartsfestival.com