Barnstaple explosion survivor to thank supporters

Joseph Bulmer

A Barnstaple musician caught in a devastating gas explosion that nearly took his life will be appearing at a special Open Mic Night on Monday to thank all those who have supported him through his ordeal.

Saxophonist Michael Collins will be at the Wrey Arms in Sticklepath to make his first public appearance since the Trinity Street explosion that all but destroyed the house where he lived, severely injuring him and another man.

He was taken to the specialist burns unit in Swansea’s Moriston Hospital and impressed medical staff with the speed of his recovery.

But he lost everything in the fire – including his beloved saxophone – and the region’s musicians and venues responded, organising a series of open mic nights and raising more than �2,000 for a new instrument.

Mike’s Open Mic Night starts at 8pm and has been organised by local singer songwriter and lifelong friend Paul Gates, who will be performing alongside numerous members of the North Devon music community. Any musicians who wish to attend are welcome.

Appeal organiser and singer songwriter Jim Jones will also be there, together with Ilfracombe saxophonist Andy Mac, pianist Ed Smith, singer songwriter Simon Grant, Ben Sutton, Josh Fiddes and Martin Greenly will be amongst those performing on the night.

Mike, a well known busker and often known as “Boxer,” was left with severe burns to his hands and arms following the blast at the sheltered accommodation run by mental health charity Rethink. He suffers from bi-polar disorder.

“Mike has been a great friend of mine for the last 20 years,” explained organiser Paul, who once had a record deal with Simon Cowell.

“He said he could never get around to thanking everybody enough, so we wanted to organise this event to give him a platform to do just that for all those who helped and supported him.”

In fact, rumour has it that if he feels well enough Mike might just take to the stage to play himself.

Mike’s sister Carol Robertson said two weeks ago he had been able to move into a new flat and was even starting to play again, despite the pain his injuries have given him.

“He wants to go along on Monday and thank everybody for all they have done,” she said.

“He’s really pleased with his new flat – it was one he was supposed to have and was actually due to move in there the weekend after the explosion. North Devon Homes have kept it for him, which was a good thing because without that we don’t know what he would have done.”

And it seems Mike already has a saxophone - two in fact: When he was in hospital, two people he had sold or given instruments to years ago heard about his plight and promptly returned them to him.

Mike was transferred from Swansea to North Devon District Hospital and left there on January 10. Carol said the hospitals, especially Moriston, had been great but added: “I was a little disappointed with the aftercare here in North Devon. He has to have his dressings changed every two days and has to make his own way to the medical centre in Newport.

“He also has to wear special gloves for 12-18 months to reduce scarring, which are to be collected from Derriford and the hospital told him he had to make his own way down there.

“But he is adamant he will play sax again, which I think is what has helped him to recover the way he has.”

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