A TAXI driver from Bishop Auckland has finished his tour of County Durham care homes.

Paul Brown who runs Auckland Travel started out his journey performing in his street to raise money for Bishop Auckland charity the Angel Trust.

The Northern Echo:

He then got requests to entertain residents at a local care home, performing songs from a distance to the residents in the windows. He set a goal of entertaining as many people as possible during lockdown.

He called his tour the ‘Stand By Me' tour as that is something many people, especially elderly, cannot do physically. It was also to show that people were standing by the elderly, the carers and the key workers in spirit.

The Northern Echo:

Mr Brown has managed to tour 51 care homes since he started back in April, Mandale House in Thornaby-on-Tees being his last. At the peak of the tour the singer was doing up to three care homes a day.

Mr Brown said: “People loved it, it went down a treat. I’ve inspired myself and words can’t describe how I feel. We raised £5,000 and made 5,000 smiles – the money we raised was a bonus, for me it was about the happiness.

“I am absolutely knackered like, but without the smiles, the support it would not have been possible. I think people love the change its something for them to look forward to and its not everyday you get your neighbour singing in the street or outside a care home.

“Its mission accomplished for the Stand By Me tour.”

The Northern Echo:

His neighbour Callum Hodgson photographed the many locations along the tour.

Mr Hodgson said: “Over 50 care homes in five weeks has been such an amazing experience. We speak to carers at the homes and they tell us how much this boosts their spirits as the lockdown really isolated these people. Passers-by on the street would stop to dance and often donate money too, the reaction made it all worthwhile.

“I've taken over 10,000 photos over the last five weeks and I send them to the care homes who pass them on to family of the residents, I've been told it makes them emotional and overwhelmingly happy as they haven't seen their loved ones for months.”

The Northern Echo:

The money Mr Brown raised helped the Angel Trust buy Personal Protective Equipment for the local care home staff.

Clair Mcgregor, Chief Executive of the Angel Trust said: “We were pleasantly surprised when Paul Brown chose to nominate The Angel Trust to receive the proceeds from his Stand By Me tour. The tour has been hugely successful and the funds raised will be used to purchase much needed PPE to support local businesses and the care sector in our area.”

The Northern Echo:

With lockdown measures easing slowly Mr Brown is seeing his work at Auckland Travel pick back up but has had many requests for care home gigs at Christmas.