HE refuses to retire despite being in the grips of terminal cancer.

Wilko Johnson is even more thrilled than most to be gracing another stage as he heads to Hampshire for Wickham Festival this weekend.

The guitarist and co-founder of Dr Feelgood had called time on his showbiz career after a final farewell tour, booked as he was told, in January, he had six months before pancreatic cancer really started to take hold.

Against the odds, he’s now back on the festival circuit for another unexpected encore.

“After we did our farewell tour in April, I did retire. But after a little while I didn’t like this retirement business.

“I’d walk along the road and just be a bloke. I didn’t like it. I’m a rock musician, I don’t want to be walking down to the corner shop and getting a pint of milk.

I’m a rock star!

“It’s easy to waste another day at home, sitting around, it’s better for things to be happening.

“Festivals are kind of ideal for my situation because I can book a gig at a festival and when the time comes, if I’m not fit to do it, the show goes on without me.

“I’m feeling pretty good though. I thought I might as well, as long as I’m fit and well. I’m pretty much OK and have been given some assurances, so I should be down your way as expected.”

Speaking from his Essex home, between giggling at his grandson’s antics, the 66-year-old is in reflective mood.

“The world looks different now, I can think with more clarity. Things seem more important, even walking down the street is an adventure. You just feel really alive.

“As you might expect in my situation, I’m really milking it! This continues to be one of the most memorable years of my life, although I’m not going to remember it of course.

“I don’t get overwhelmed in sentimentality, but I just want everyone to have a great time. I’m certainly really enjoying myself – it’s such a buzz to be there on stage doing my stuff when I never thought I would be.”

Wilko’s emotional set precedes Rolf Harris, The Blockheads and The Peatbog Faeries on Sunday’s Wickham Festival finale bill.

It kicked off last night but Wickham Festival still has plenty of incredible acts on offer. Headlining tonight’s show is the band that belongs to no genre, The Waterboys. Celtic fusion band Shooglenifty are also on the bill to combine traditional tunes with contemporary dance rhythms and textures.

Multi-instrumentalist Seth Lakeman will be there with his violin and folky vocals to headline the Saturday night. Roots and folk duo Show of Hands are also set to prove why they are one of the strongest forces in acoustic music as they play the hits from their back catalogue.

Tickets and details from wickhamfestival .co.uk