So much support for victim of Barnstaple explosion

Barnstaple explosion victim Mike Collins says an emotional thanks for the fund raising gigs held by North Devon musicians

BARNSTAPLE explosion victim Mike Collins and his family say they have been overwhelmed by the massive show of public support at a series of fund raising music nights.

The well known saxophone player, often known as “Boxer,” was left with severe burns following the gas blast in Trinity Street last month in which he and another man were seriously injured.

Local musicians led by Jim Jones set about transforming the area’s open mic nights into benefit gigs to raise money for the popular Barnstaple busker, who lost everything in the blaze including his beloved saxophone.

Donations are still coming in but at least �1,700 has already been collected, much to the heartfelt thanks of Mike’s family and the musician himself, still on the long road to recovery at the specialist burns unit in Swansea’s Moriston Hospital.


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Musicians taking part included Brendan Taylor, Amy Newton, Dave Little and Peter Bruntnell. Jim Jones, who has known Mike since he was 15 years-old, said the response had been “incredible.”

“It was quite humbling to be part of something that everyone was so passionate about,” he said.

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As well as helping Mike to in part rebuild his life, the events were also held to raise awareness of mental health issues and help break the stigma of something which can affect one in four people.

Mike’s sister Carol Robertson and brother John, together with Carol’s husband David, have attended several of the “Open Mike” events and each time have been stunned by the support shown by so many people.

“Words cannot describe it, we were amazed and overwhelmed by the response,” Carol told the Gazette.

“I could not believe it and my faith in human nature has certainly been restored. From myself and my family we just want to say a massive thank you to everybody, from the musicians to the landlords and everyone who turned up.”

Carol said for Mike, who suffers from bi-polar disorder, playing his saxophone was everything to him.

The explosion at the sheltered accommodation in Trinity Street run by mental health charity Rethink left him with severe burns to his hands and arms.

He has undergone skin grafts on his fingers but has pleased medical staff with his recovery and was able to be moved from the intensive care unit to a normal ward on Sunday.

“His saxophone gave him such pleasure, he played it all the time and without it he is lost,” said Carol.

“When he asked about it on Sunday we had to tell him the truth and he cried because he could not believe he had nothing left at all.”

When the family explained what had been happening, more tears flowed, this time at the generosity of all those supporting him back in North Devon.

“He was overwhelmed and cried because he couldn’t believe so many people wanted to help him so much,” she said.

Some of his friends had made Mike a video message and he recorded one in turn, which was played on Sunday at the charity open mic night at The White Lion in Braunton.

“He said he wanted to thank everybody for their love and support, God bless them and he loved them all,” Carol added.

There is certainly enough money to purchase a saxophone and although Mike’s road to recovery could be a long one, medical staff have been impressed by his progress and said his desire to play again will help spur on his recuperation. It is hoped that by the end of this week he can be transferred to a hospital in Bristol or Plymouth.

There is one final Open Mike gig this Friday evening at the Wrey Arms in Barnstaple, hosted by Trudi and Jax.

People can also make donations to support Mike online by visiting www.openmikenights.co.uk.

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