AN online ‘whip-round’ has been staged by villagers grateful for the efforts of a local all-round entertainer in keeping a smile on their faces during the coronavirus lockdown.

Kevin Mangles can turn his hand to many forms of entertainment, from children’s shows, magic, ventriloquism, comedy, disc-jockeying and game show hosting.

But with live shows ruled out at audience venues due to social gathering issues amid the Covid-19 lockdown, the 53-year-old former financial adviser’s income dried up virtually overnight.

He has put his self-taught entertainment skills to good use in recent weeks, however, with an array of social media shows at different times of the week, some aimed at children and others for family audiences.

But he has also given performances outside the homes of local people for birthday celebrations and children overcoming cancer treatment.

Word has spread and he has built up a regular audience of several hundreds, mainly in his home village of Thornley, but also in neighbouring east Durham communities and further afield.

Such has been the uplifting pleasure brought by Mr Mangles during the lean days of the lockdown, local people organised a secret JustGiving ‘whip-round’ to raise some money as a “thank you”.

Neighbour Leona Maida organised the collection and surprised Mr Mangles shortly before he was due to start his Friday night ‘big family disco’, knocking on the door of his home in Hillside Crescent, leaving a cheque for £1,242, while local people looked on from the nearby green, all keeping the correct social distance apart.

Mr Mangles conceded he was completely taken aback by the surprise gesture.

“It was about quarter to seven and I had been working on this Zoom app and was a bit stressed about it, doing a sound test, when I heard a bang on the door.

“When I opened it I was blown away. It’s just an unbelievable gesture and I’m so grateful to everyone involved.

“Just to think I might be helping to make a difference means the world to me.

“To me, it’s a throwback to the sort of community spirit from the old days and it’s just nice to put a smile on people’s faces.”

Mr Mangles said he would invest the money into his act, as he’s already planning ahead for Christmas, ordering two new Santa suits.