A miracle musician is ready to get his stage career back on track – after hitting a high note at a festival inspired by his triumph over adversity.
Talented drummer Paul Belk was given just a 2% chance of survival after slipping into a coma when his drink was spiked during his round-the-world travels in Thailand back in 2005.
The 31-year-old still needs to use a wheelchair, but has battled his way back to independence over the last decade.
He has now seen his life-long love of music reignited by his performance at Chase Park Festival in Whickham at the weekend.
Mr Belk, from Harton, South Shields, set up the festival back in 2011, and it has become the most inclusive musical event in the country, with disabled people and their carers not only gaining free entry, but being well catered for with sign language translators, disabled Portaloos and full changing table/hoist facilities.
This year he swapped backstage for the spotlight after his girlfriend Rachel Hambling played a vital role in getting together a gifted group of musicians to play alongside him.
I really enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to playing again.Paul Belk
The fledgling band, Freeman, featured Paul on drums, Ty Roach-Thompson on lead guitar and vocals, bassist Josh Fascia and rhythm and lead guitarist Callum Cawkwell.
They proved a big hit with the throngs of festival-goers.
A bumper crowd of 5,000 flocked to the festival, which was headlined by Reverend And The Makers, Barry Hyde of The Futureheads and Gomez frontman Ben Ottewell.
Mr Belk, who was a firm fixture on the local music scene before his health setback, can’t wait to get in front of a live crowd again.
He said: “It was a glorious day and the festival was really positive.
“We had about 5,000 people for the performances later in the night.
“Every year it is getting bigger and better.
“I was surprised at how relaxed I was before going on stage.
“I really enjoyed it and I am looking forward to playing again.
“We are in the process of organising some gigs and building our name up.”