THIS week in 2005, a Swindon Advertiser reporter sent back a series of heart-rending dispatches from north-western Pakistan, where a devastating earthquake had struck earlier in the month.

We sent Kevin Shoesmith to accompany Swindon shopkeeper Azim Khan, 65, who had lost 20 members of his family in the disaster.

Mr Khan resolved to do all he could to raise awareness and help people in desperate need, and his trip included a visit to his family’s community, Battal.

Our reporter wrote: “Standing amid the ruins of his home town, Azim Khan struggles to hold back the tears.

“Earlier, the 65-year-old had told me that he had prepared himself for the worst. But the sheer scale of destruction is beyond his worst nightmare. Indeed, Azim struggles to even recognise Battal - the place where he grew up. Landmarks are reduced to rubble and children - their eyes reddened and swollen by tears - wander the narrow streets, hoping to beg food or a tent.

“Battal is the closest you could get to hell.”

Mr Khan had already spearheaded a fundraising drive back in Swindon which had yielded £10,000, and was able to hand out nearly 200 tents and other aid. The Adver launched an appeal to gather another 200 for dispatch to the disaster zone.

Mr Khan retired in 2008 - and vowed to spend his extra free time doing more work for good causes.

The news from Pakistan was in harrowing contrast to some lighthearted Swindon stories which appeared earlier in the week.

Home-grown pop star turned actor Billie Piper’s profile was higher than it had been since her chart heyday in the late 1990s, thanks to her role as Rose Tyler in Doctor Who, which had been revived to immense acclaim earlier that year.

She picked up a National Television award for her work on the programme, and we said: “The 23-year-old actress dazzled at the ceremony in the Albert Hall as the sci-fi show swept the board at Britain’s TV Oscars - marking a remarkable comeback after a 16-year break.”

The former Bradon Forest School pupil beat fellow performers including Caroline Quentin and Eastenders’ Jessie Wallace and June Brown to the top honour in the Best Actress category.

Another awards ceremony that week was hosted in Swindon by the Swindon and District Women’s Bowls Association, which managed to pull off something of a publicity coup by attracting Julian Clary and his Strictly Come Dancing partner, Erin Boag, as guests of honour.

The two happily performed a swift salsa for the assembled members and guests, and Julian presented awards. The visit was arranged by the star’s mum, Brenda, who was president of the association.

Julian said: “I’m always game for dancing so I didn’t need any persuading. I’d been practising, too, and it was fun.

“Salsa dancing is always a good choice. It’s one of those dances where you can just have loads of fun and it doesn’t matter so much if you make any mistakes - people won’t notice.”

Proud mum Brenda said: “I’m delighted that he could come and perform. We are lucky that he was free and able to devote his time to us.

“Erin also came all the way from the BBC studios in London, which was very sweet of her.”

The third in a triumvirate of celebrities to appear in our pages that week 13 years ago had no known childhood connection with Swindon but was scheduled to play a concert at the Arts Centre in Devizes Road - and was nearly banned from doing so.

The man in question was Dean Friedman, the American singer-songwriter chiefly remembered for easy listening hits such as Lydia, Lucky Stars and McDonalds Girl, together with the striking bubble perm and moustache he sported during his 1970s heyday - and perhaps the song he inspired by cult Merseyside band Half Man Half Biscuit.

What could such an apparently inoffensive man possibly have done to earn himself a threatened ban of a kind not issued in Swindon since the first snarls of the punk era?

We answered that question in the first paragraph of our story: “Pop performer Dean Friedman’s plans to give away cannabis seeds at his gig at the Arts Centre have been banned by Swindon Council.

“The pot smoker’s 25th anniversary tour is sponsored by a cannabis seed company and he promised to give seeds away to people who bought his CD at the concert next Tuesday.

“But when the council, which runs the Arts Centre, heard of the singer’s plan he was told the gig would have to be cancelled if he insisted on distributing free seeds.”

The council confirmed that it had threatened to pull the plug on the concert, and that it had previously been unaware of the singer’s intentions.

Perhaps surprisingly, had he gone ahead and handed out seeds, he would not have been breaking the law.