South Shields entertainer who lost mother and aunt to Covid-19 trains to become funeral celebrant so he can help others cope with grief
An entertainer whose life was turned upside down by lockdown has now qualified as a funeral celebrant where his experiences are helping.
Blake Robson from Tyne Dock, South Shields, lost both his mother Helen Robson and auntie, Sheils Hardington, to Covid-19 in 2020.
But during the first lockdown he still took to the streets to cheer up residents across the area by singing outside their homes.
Blake is well known from his days working as a bingo caller at the former Mecca bingo hall in Dean Road, and is also a community DJ.
The 55-year-old has now completed an online course to become a humanist celebrant for funerals and other events including weddings.
“It’s amazing what I’ve learned; like how to read body language and get information out of people. It’s your job to find out and write about the person. It’s been a phenomenal journey,” he said.
Blake feels that his tough recent personal experiences are invaluable to the role.
When Helen died in September last year, rules at the time meant that only 15 mourners could attend her funeral.
Blake has already performed duties at one funeral after being asked to do so by the widow of a South Tyneside man who lost his battle with covid.
Blake said: “His wife decided to have a memorial service for him and make it like a party, which was what he would have wanted.
“Word is gradually getting round and people have said I would be perfect for it. You need to shine and have something different that the others don’t have.
“I wanted to pass on my compassion at funerals. I hope people will understand it’s not for me; it’s a service I want to give back. It’s a privilege to be invited.
“It’s been a great course. I wish my mother was alive to see one of her children studying like this. She would have had a giggle, to be fair."
Blake has also begun a ‘Christmas Cuddles’ campaign. Through social media he has persuaded an army of talented knitters to create neck warmers – smaller than scarves – which will be distributed around care homes around the area so that residents will know that they have not been forgotten.
He has not forgotten the “amazing job” his mother’s care home performed.