AN ACCORDION-PLAYING busker who has raised £33,777.87 for a children’s hospice has retired.
For five years, George Smewing, 86, of Durrington Lane, Worthing, has been a regular fixture outside Marks & Spencer in Montague Street, Worthing.
On Friday, he was joined by family, friends and volunteers from Chestnut Tree House Children’s Hospice as he played his final set on the busy shopping street.
George said: “It’s been fantastic support. They have been very kind. It’s been nice to see people and I shall miss them terribly.”
George began busking shortly after his wife, Stella, moved into a nursing home suffering with dementia.
Before she was diagnosed with the illness eight years ago, the couple used to play gigs at care homes and old people’s clubs in the area and would donate money raised to the charity.
“I didn’t start with the intention of collecting money,” said George. “I came down here because I needed something to do. It gives me a reason to get up in the morning and come out the house.”
George began playing the accordion shortly after he got married 46 years ago.
He said: “It went into the attic for many years until I moved down here 26 years ago. Then I really got in touch with it. I still don’t consider myself a good player but I can play the odd tune and people enjoy it.”
When asked what he would have said if someone had told him five years ago that he would raise so much in such a short period of time, he replied: “It just wouldn’t have entered my head at all. I would have laughed at them.”
He will continue to play gigs, donating any money raised to the hospice, but said he would miss busking.
“I shall miss it greatly, but when the body says enough, the body says enough. I’m all right for the odd day but I can’t day after day, it’s not possible. I try to tell my body I’m not getting older but it won’t believe it anymore.”
George’s stepdaughters Cynthia Maynard, 65, of Collingwood Road, Goring, and Paula White, 59, of Spey Close, Durrington, were present on the day to show their support.
They said: “We are really proud of him. He’s done really well. He treated it as a job to give him something to do. He would be here in all weather, even if it was really cold.
“He’s amazing really. For one person to raise that amount of money. We have just come down to support him today on behalf of mum really. She would be really proud as well.”
Bob Harman, 61, of Brighton Road, Worthing, moved to Worthing seven years ago and has been supporting George for four-and-a-half years.
He said: “I think he’s done fantastic. He’s a lovely guy, he’s very popular and it makes a change to find someone who can actually play music in the street. I’m an ex-musician; one of these things is damn hard to play.”
Bob’s partner Sammy Tourle, 32, said her nan, Doreen, gave George a cheque for £1,000 on Thursday. She said Doreen was a big supporter of cancer charities and wanted to give George more than a ‘little amount’.
Jayne Todd, Chestnut Tree House community fundraiser, said: “We would like to say a huge thank you to George for all he has done for Chestnut Tree House, and wish him all the best for his very well deserved retirement.”