It's grin up North on Red Nose Day

The Northern Echo: Dancers break out into Zumba flashmob in Darlington Dancers break out into Zumba flashmob in Darlington

RED noses were out in force today as young and old alike staged a variety of inventive and hilarious fundraising stunts.

Staff at Belmont Community School, Durham, starred in a "Gangnam Style" video before charging pupils £1 each to attend a special screening. The video raised £261 of the £1,000 collected by the school in total.

Mechanic Anthony Gibson, who works at the Gregg Little Testing Centre in Newton Aycliffe raised more than £400 by dying his hair red for a week. Colleagues collected a further £1,000 by baking cakes for customers.

The 27-year-old from Darlington said: “It’s just a great cause and there’s a good camaraderie among staff at Gregg Little so I thought it’d be a good laugh.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the support and it’s fantastic that we’ve raised this amount of money, which is well over our target.”

Self-confessed claustophobic and weak swimmer Alex Cunningham successfully escaped from an underwater helicopter simulator to raise £225.

The Stockton North MP took the plunge at the centre for offshore safety and survival training at Falck Nutec Teesside, which trains thousands of oil and gas industry workers each year.

Mr Cunningham, strapped into the simulator before being completely immersed underwater, was helped to escape by offshore survival training instructors.

He said: "I got my own insight into their training as they prepared me for my dunking - something I, with my claustophobia and poor swimming ability, didn't really look forward to." In Middlesbrough, solicitor Raza Javid got a good drenching outside Curtis Law on Linthorpe Road, where passers-by queued to hurl a wet sponge at the legal eagle.

Meanwhile, firefighters in Darlington proved an eye-catching sight when they turned up at Springfield Academy, at the Education Village, in fancy dress.

Prisoners and staff at Deerbolt Young Offenders Institution at Startforth, near Barnard Castle, joined forces to raise £426 after organising an inter-wing rowing competition after the inmates, aged 18 to 21, suggested doing something for Comic Relief at a prisoner consultative meeting.

Prisoners and warders in all eight wings - each housing 60 inmates - took part, clocking up a total of nearly 500km in 11 hours on the gym rowing machine.

The winners were from F Wing and they received a plaque from governor Gabrielle Lee. It will now become an annual event but Mrs Lee said she hoped none of those on F Wing would be at the institution to defend their title next year.

"This shows how the prisoners have been making a contribution to people less fortunate than themselves and is an important part of the citizenship work we do at Deerbolt.

"More than £300 of the money raised came from the prisoners, which is an excellent amount considering they earn less than £10 a week."

The support from schools and colleges across the region was immense. Bishop Barrington School in Bishop Auckland, held an entertainment evening, featuring comedy, dancing and singing.

Staff and pupils also donated money to spend a day in fancy dress, bringing the total raised to £1,461.

Northallerton College students singer guitarist Aaron Turner, 15, was joined by percussionist Jake Piper, 15, singing acoustic versions of popular rock songs, while Rachel Jacques, 18, and Beth Keen, 16, collected donations, in the town's High Street.

Student Council members Laura Matthews, 17, and Adam Donlon, 17, spent weeks helping to plan the events which included a Red Nose quiz, specially designed charity t-shirts, guessing competitions, staff v students sports matches, bake sales and a non-uniform day.

Sleningford Artists, a group of professional and non-professional artists based in North Yorkshire, are holding their first exhibition on March 16 and 17 at the Old Deanery Hotel in Ripon with a percentage of all the sales is going to Comic Relief.

Students at Darlington School of Mathematics and Science baked and sold cakes, held quizzes and an X-Factor style talent show while staff and students at Hurworth School staged a 12-hour sponsored exercise bike cycle.

Children at St Joseph's Catholic Primary School, Stanley, raised £300 from a bake sale while a one at Abbey Junior School, Darlington, netted £247.

Students at Prior Pursglove College, Guisborough successfully raised £510.25 through a variety of events ranging from an inflatable bungee run challenge, a Just Dance-off as well as a daily cake stall and a prize raffle to win a tour of Middlesbrough FC’s stadium.

The big finale was the ‘Fake That’ tribute show with performances from Queen, Abba, Bob Marley, Bananarama, Aqua and of course Take That.

Student Liaison Officer Andrea Booth, who performed in the take on Aqua’s Barbie Girl, said “It’s been a fantastic fundraising week, to raise over £500 for Comic Relief in such difficult economic times is incredible - everyone had such a great time.”

At Sedgefield Community College pupils combined their baking and entrepreneurial skills to raise over £500 for the charity. As well as paying £1 to wear their own clothes for the day, the youngsters made and sold 421 cherry cupcakes.

They also delivered hard-hitting assemblies highlighting Comic Relief’s work to combat poverty in the UK and abroad.

Teacher and charity co-ordinator Joanne Maher said she was extremely proud of the children for organising the fundraising activities.

"They have worked very hard and we hope to raise around £700. Charity work is very important to the school.

"We want to get the message across to the students that there are people out there less fortunate than themselves."

Ellie Gaines, 14, said she had enjoyed taking part in the cake sale, adding: "It is nice to help others and it is also fun to socialise with the other pupils."

Corey Wong, 11, added: "I really like Comic Relief. It is good to do things to help other people and it is great fun too."

A £1,000 was raised at Northumbria Water's Pity Me headquarters from a series of events, one of which involved staff paying to dress as pirates.

Grand Central trains on the East Coast Main Line were given their own red noses to encourage passengers to dig deep.

Staff on-board the York-based company’s trains were also wearing red noses and giving out special stickers, with the business on-track to raise a total of £1,000.

Workers at East Durham Homes raised £538 with a red-themed cooking challenge while equality and diversity manager Nigel Day dyed his moustache and beard red, raising more than £80.Meanwhile, staff at East Durham Homes raised £538 with a cooking challenge in which staff created their own "red-themed" dishes. Equality and Diversity Manager Nigel Day dyed his moustache and beard red, raising more than £80.

Michael Doyle, Head of Neighbourhood Services said: "This has been one of our most successful fundraisers yet and I’m thrilled with the generosity and teamwork all the staff have shown."

Staff at the Hawthorn Care Centre, Peterlee, shaved their heads. Michael Doyle, Head of Neighbourhood Services said: "This has been one of our most successful fundraisers yet and I’m thrilled with the generosity and teamwork all the staff have shown."

Children and staff at Tiny Turners nurseries across Darlington and Teesside donned onesies and enjoyed a fun day of activities, with Red Nose-themed games and face painting.

Staff at the Hawthorn Care Centre, in Peterlee, had their heads shaved to raise sponsorship, while male staff at Sainsbury’s at the Arnison Centre, in Durham had their legs waxed for the cause.

Darlington town centre became the setting for an impromptu Zumba class as fitness fans launched into a mass dance for Comic Relief.

Shoppers gathered in Joseph Pease Place to watch as about 30 members from Fit-Lab - who run fitness classes at the Dolphin Centre, Hummersknott Academy and the Belvedere Club, Bishop Auckland - launched into a Zumba flashmob.

Instructor James Wilkinson, who led the three-dance performance, said: "It has been great and the support from everyone in the town has been really good. We are really pleased it didn't rain either!"

A number of Darlington based businesses also got into the spirit. Mole Stuff, a vintage furniture supplier, have teamed up with hairdressers Toni and Guy and Legacy Skate-store in order to create a compelling set of prizes for a Comic Relief raffle over the coming weekend.

Stockton town centre also came to a standstill when more than 300 people took part in a flash mob Smile event, which kicked off when a busker started playing Charlie Chaplin's song, Smile, before others appeared to join in.

Among those taking part in the sing-a-long were local group Cattle and Cane, Arc's Silver Linings, Stockton Riverside College and Stockton Town Choir.

Choir member Sarah Burrow said: "It was really good - it brought the town to a standstill when we all started singing."

it was organised by Mike McGrother, from the Wildcats of Kilkenny, who was given artistic licence to come up with whatever he wanted.

"He said: "People started gathering in the town centre when they realised what was starting to happen and hundreds of people watched it in the end."

Shoppers in Durham City were also treated to a flash mob performance when staff at Freeman's Quay and Spennymoor leisure centres descended on the Market Place between noon and 12.30pm.

They performed fitness routines to tracks including 'I'm Sexy and I Know It' and 'Call On Me'.

Meanwhile, energetic volunteers took part in a two hour Zumbathon led by instructor Jan Vickers at Sainsbury's in St Helen Auckland. Staff also dressed as superheroes to collect dontions from shoppers and customers were encouraged to take part in a number of fundraisers, including a Malteser chopstick challenge. Team leader Sue Palmer also spent the day doing a sponsored silence.

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