Burnley's 'greatest showman' beats Covid 19 to make a much awaited return to job he loves
Born entertainer Gerard Horrocks is banishing Covid 19 blues at a Burnley care home with his weekly sing-a-long sessions that are helping to lift the spirits of both residents and staff.
His weekly 'Tunes on Tuesday' have brought smiles and laughter to the 70 residents at the home in Queens Road where he has worked as activities' co-ordinator for several years.
"It's about putting them in a good mood, lifting their spirits and making them feel better," said Gerard.
Residents are enouraged to get up and dance and sing a long as Gerard belts out a classic selection of tracks he has sung many times as a seasoned performer on the club circuit across the North West.
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Videos of the sessions posted on the home's facebook page have attracted hundreds of comments of praise, thanks and support for Gerard.
And it is particularly poignant to see Gerard back doing what he loves, for just five months ago he wondered if he would ever be able to sing again.
For in May Gerard contracted coronavirus and it put him in hospital for 25 days, 12 of those in intensive care, battling for his life.
The one thing that kept Gerard going was singing all his favourite songs in his head as he lay in the ward.
For someone who had reached the age of 60 without ever having to spend one night in hospital it was a frightening experience and Gerard described it as the closest he has ever felt to death.
Gerard said the experience of being cared for in hospital made him see the 'other side' of the care sector and really appreciate what they do and he was full of praise for the the NHS who he said undoubtedly saved his life.
When he was finally released from hospital Gerard spent 17 weeks recovering at home under the care of Lesley, his wife of 27 years, but he admits it was a slow process.
He said: "I used to practise singing in my lounge, in between coughing.
"Coronavirus floored me and it has taken a long time to get to where I am now. When I am singing here I do sometimes get out of breath when I try and dance at the same time.
"But when I first left hospital it was a major effort to get to the kitchen or bathroom and I had to rest all the time so I realise how far I have come."
Gerard and Lesley used to perform as the duo, Pure Coincidence, and often take to the floor at the home to entertain residents. Lesley volunteers at Heather Grange and the couple's dog Sadie is also a regular visitor as part of pet therapy sessions.
Gerard hosts bingo and gentle exercise sessions and the home subscribes to the activity resource, The Daily Sparkle, where residents can talk about things they used to do and what they enjoyed.
Gerard said: "It all helps to lift their spirits beyond measure
"I am doing what I love, putting a smile on people's face and that is worth a million pounds."