A BANJO-playing busker donated a day's takings to replace a vandalised tree near his favourite spot in Darlington town centre.

Ian Sharp, 63, spotted the snapped tree, outside Binns, the same day he was given the tragic news that he had lost an old friend to cancer.

As a gesture of remembrance he took his latest takings to the council offices, in the biscuit tin he keeps them in, to donate them towards replacing the tree.

He said: "My favourite busking spot is on High Row, usually near Santander.

"On Friday I lost a dear friend of mine. I was really sad. Then I saw on Facebook that the tree had been damaged and that made me sad too.

"I thought it would be nice to use the money to replace the tree and give something back to all the people who have donated to me for my busking over the years.

"It was also a gesture to remember my friend Ivan."

Mr Sharp, a music teacher from Darlington, said he had been playing the banjo for 40 years and he usually busks in the town centre on Tuesdays.

His friend Ivan Kelsall, 74, from Manchester, also played the banjo and recently he gifted his instrument to Mr Sharp.

He said: "We used to go to festivals years ago and we lost touch for a while but got back in contact about 15 years ago.

"Last March he dropped the bombshell that he had terminal cancer. His wife phoned me on Friday and told me the news.

"I had seen him about two months ago and he gave me his banjo.

"Now every time I see the tree it will remind me of Ivan. I called his wife Shirley and told her about it and she was really pleased."

New trees were planted earlier this month as part of Darlington Borough Council's ongoing bid to improve the town centre, with 30 planted, including some in large metallic planters in the Market Square.

Councillor Heather Scott, leader of Darlington Borough Council, said: “I was very pleased when I heard about this wonderful gesture.

"It really was very thoughtful of Ian and I hope the tree will stand as a memorial to his friend. It is such a shame the tree was vandalised in the first place.

"I would urge anyone intent on causing such damage in the future to think again.”