Denmead man who survived multiple heart attacks 'thrilled' to win national competition

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A DENMEAD grandfather who survived multiple heart attacks is ‘thrilled’ to have won a national competition for his singing and guitar playing.

Retired lecturer Colin Billyard has been named as the top experienced amateur in the King Lear Prizes for his rendition of American jazz classic, Moonlight in Vermont.

The arts competition was established during the first lockdown to encourage people aged over 65 to be creative – giving Colin the chance to rediscover his passion for music.

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Colin Billyard from Denmead with his grandson CharlieColin Billyard from Denmead with his grandson Charlie
Colin Billyard from Denmead with his grandson Charlie

He dusted off his guitar from the spare room and filmed his performance, which was judged as a winning entry by Julian Lloyd Webber.

The 74-year-old said: ‘The last year or so has been a dreadful time for so many and I’m very grateful the King Lear Prizes has given me the opportunity to get through lockdown by giving me something to focus on. Moonlight in Vermont is a beautiful song, though I think my wife would rather take another government Covid briefing over hearing me playing it again.

‘I was absolutely thrilled to be the winner. To make the shortlist of six was fantastic but to be chosen from thousands of entries is an honour indeed.’

For Colin, the recognition was especially important following years of health issues.

Music was my life, before I became ill,’ he said.

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‘I’ve had a turbulent time after suffering several heart attacks over the last seven years. Each hospital visit and the subsequent operations knocked my confidence physically and mentally, and I found it difficult to play the guitar again - a hobby I’ve had since I was nine years old.’

Now Colin uses music as a way to connect with his grandson Charlie, who loves to dance along to his guitar playing.

He added: ‘In the midst of my own health difficulties, four years ago my daughter gave birth to a disabled son, Charlie, so my wife and I spent a lot of time driving to and from Southampton General Hospital where they were being cared for.

‘Our lives have been rather dominated by hospitals and complex health needs, which left little time for my previous passions.’

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The competition takes its name from the Shakespeare play, which was written during outbreaks of the plague in London between 1605 and 1606.

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