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JIM PARKER: Singing from the same hymn sheet

By Herald Express  |  Posted: December 12, 2013



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YOU could see Dave Thomas had a bit of the entertainer in him. The Paignton councillor and deputy mayor is usually tasked with multi-million pounded regeneration projects and spatial planning issues.

But he looked at home on the stage when I first saw him 'performing' as the MC at the Torbay in Bloom awards night at the Riviera International Conference Centre last year.

There were a couple of magical moments, such as the award winner who was apparently overlooked and was left looking rather forlorn at the side of the stage, but overall host Dave did a brilliant job.

The same could be said when this year's awards were staged just a few weeks ago and he led from the front.

It transpires entertaining is in his blood.

Dave, who hails from the north of England, started to learn to play the organ when he was 14.

He explained: "At that time there were social clubs and entertainment at those places every weekend."

By the age of 17 he was performing a couple nights of the week before becoming a professional musician and entertainer two years later.

He revealed: "I spent 10 years as a professional entertainer travelling around the world entertaining."

He was musical director at Blackpool's South Pier putting together all the music for the shows.

He even performed on the world famous Wurlitzer organ in the Tower Ballroom at Blackpool.

He provided music for the orchestra and worked with some pretty well-known names of that era.

Susan Maughan, famous for her Bobby's Girl hit in 1962, was one.

So, too, was the late Ronnie Hilton who had nine top 30 hits between 1954 and 1957.

Both these stars were well before my time, as you will appreciate.

Dave didn't have a clue who Ronnie Hilton was until the singer fetched out his music notes and Dave realised he was a chart topper.

"He was the Robbie Williams of the day," said Dave.

He and his wife Jackie — a singer by the way — moved to the Bay in 1989.

They owned a hotel and he and Jackie entertained guests.

He says: "I still keep my hand in once a month performing at hotels."

More recently, though, taking advantage of the TV Strictly craze, he has turned his talents to music for sequence dancing at clubs in Exeter, Taunton and Tiverton.

So where is this all leading, you may ask?

Well, Mr T was hoping to entertain the Christmas shopping crowds of Torquay — with more than a little help from fellow councillors.

He has written to all members to see if they will join him on stage for a couple of council Christmas choir shows.

It is all to do with a 'Christmas Unwrapped' event which has been happening outside the Town Hall.

It started on December 7 and runs until Christmas Eve.

Dave learned there was a gap in the planned entertainment yesterday (Wednesday). So he volunteered to fill the void.

He has written to all councillors saying: "I have decided to step up to the mark and I have registered myself to 'entertain' for two hours — 11am to noon and 2pm to 3pm.

"Others I am sure will not call it entertainment, but that is another story.

"I will be providing my keyboards and will be playing festive music and some carols.

"I would very much like to put together a 'Councillors' Choir'.

"This will be for all councillors. If you can't sing, please come. If you can sing, then we definitely want you there.

"I am not trying to embarrass anyone. The microphones will be used by only those people who are confident.

"The main thing is we show our community we want to be involved.

"I intend for us to do a small session at about 11.30am with a reprise in the afternoon session."

Dave says he had some responses.

He said: "I think all councillors think it is a good idea, but as to how many will be able to come I am not sure.

"It is short notice. I do understand that, but I think the turnout will be quite reasonable.

"I have had responses from a number of councillors.

"Those who work have said they would have wished to have been able to come. Those who are not working have pledged to support me.

"That's fantastic. I think that cross party the spirit of Christmas is coming together."

And one of the main outcomes from the Councillors' Choir'?

As Dave says: "A few people have already said that will be the first time councillors cross party will be singing from the same hymn sheet."

Pity the mayor is away. I can just see him in a little duet with Torbay MP Adrian Sanders.

After all they are getting along like a house on fire at the moment.

Only in Torbay.

HUMBLEST apologies for having to dash away quickly from the Torquay Chamber of Trade Christmas lunch last week.

It was deadline day and had nothing to do with my former head master Roy Pike's speech. Honest, sir!

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