A NORTH-EAST wartime singer has challenged herself to perform at 100 care homes in a bid to spread joy during the coronavirus pandemic.

Deborah Taylor-Smith, known as Wor Vera, performs wartime classics, such as Eric Johnson's Cliffs of Dover, across the country on the likes of VE Day, Armed Forces Day and Remembrance Day while also performing in care homes.

After losing thousands of pounds due to cancellations as a result of Covid-19, the 37-year-old applied for Universal Credit, then decided to do shows anyway - for free.

The Northern Echo:

With the 'Wor Vera Lockdown Tour', Ms Taylor-Smith, whose mum was a singer but now works in care homes, hopes to give 100 care homes in the North-East a show. Already half way to her goal, she has 101 shows booked in.

"Care homes are my favourite performances," she said.

"A lot of these people are dementia patients so they’re just sat there, stiff, but when I start singing it brings back memories and they start clapping and signing.

"They may have had a family member in the war or lived through it themselves. I try so hard to keep it together, I don’t know how I do it. It makes them so happy."

Although the singer didn't start performing "until later", she has always sung - shyly hidden around the corner of a room or in the corridor.

She added: "My nana loved me singing so much, but I used to be shy. She died before she got to see the Wor Vera show but when I go to care homes I think, this could be my nana.

"I didn’t start up until later, signing. I wish I had done it sooner. If you have a talent or can sing, go and do it - and lift people’s spirits. Even if it is just one person."

The Northern Echo:

So far, Wor Vera has been seen in care homes in Stanley, Bishop Auckland, Darlington and Chester-le-Street, as well as many others.

The lockdown tour began on April 12 in Hebburn, and expects to end on May 30, with the 100th performance at Lindisfarne Court in Darlington.

However, there is an additional show for residents at Beachcomber Residential Care Home in Seaham - but the Geordie singer, who sometimes has four shows in a day, is happy with exceeding her goal as "it's like the dalmatians and I'm a fan of Disney".

The Northern Echo:

"Getting to the 100 goal is going to be emotional. I cried when I did 25," she said.

"To think I have entertained and made 100 care homes and all of their residents smile is absolutely amazing, as well as reaching the goal itself."

As well as starting the 'Wor Vera Geordie Sweetheart' show on Radio Shields, a community radio, to give people she can't reach something to listen to, Ms Taylor-Smith has teamed up with Darlington man Mikey Weston, a furloughed football coach who is donating essentials to care homes across the region.

Mr Weston will join Wor Vera on the second half of her tour, bringing care packages with him, full of essentials like hand sanitiser and other items requested by the homes.

The 38-year-old was paying for products himself, but the pair estimate the new care packages cost around £35 each so have now launched a fundraising page.

Search 'Help Wor Vera and Mikey raise carehome care boxes' on Go Fund Me to donate or click here.