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Blind musician Joe on song as he plays gigs online for free in living room

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Joe Kenny with his trusty guitar

Joe Kenny with his trusty guitar

Joe Kenny with his trusty guitar

A blind musician who has been forced to stop performing around the bars of Belfast due to the Covid-19 restrictions has turned to social media to keep on entertaining from his living room.

Joe Kenny is using his online gigs to raise money for the Stroke Association and his shows are proving a big hit, although his three-year-old Oisin is threatening to upstage his dad.

"I've been amazed at the reception," Joe said.

"I had no idea so many people would be interested in music online when I started this five weeks ago."

🎙🎸🎤 Won’t you join us for the #JoeShow this Friday from 8pm? Yep we’ll be at it again, singing songs, making noise and...

Posted by Joe Kenny Music on Thursday, April 16, 2020

Billed as The Joe Show, the front-room gigs have already passed his fundraising target, and he plans to keep on performing at least until the end of April.

"It's been a tough time for musicians," he said. "I would have been doing three or four shows every week, but the gigs have disappeared completely and the loss of income has been a drastic change for us all.

"I wanted to find a way to keep on playing music.

"It's one thing my blindness hasn't stopped me from doing and if people like listening I'll keep on performing this way until we can get back out on the road."

Originally from Newry, Joe has been living and working around Belfast for the past eight years and is a regular at venues like The Points, The Northern Whig and Lavery's.

He said his blindness has never been a drawback to performing his music.

"Even if I go to a new venue, as long as the manager is there to let me know where everything is, I set up myself and get started.

"It's not so hard setting up in my living room, though, but for the first gig I waited until my son had gone to bed. The noise woke him up and he came down and got involved so I've just allowed him to be part of the show. I think people might like watching him as much as me!"

Joe also works for the Stroke Association and, at a time when funding is difficult to come by, wanted to do what he could to promote the charity.

"I know from experience what wonderful work they do in the community and wanted to do a little to try to help them out," he said.

"I just include a JustGiving link when I'm performing and it's up to people if they want to donate or not, no strings attached. I'm just happy to be able to provide a bit of entertainment, and I'm learning new songs all the time. If there's a request for something I don't know, I'll go off with my guitar, learn it and perform in the next night. I'm widening my range!

"People tend to like the traditional Irish folk songs, but I'll perform whatever people want. All requests are welcome."

Joe will be back on his living room stage on his Facebook page at Joe Kenny Music on Friday night at 8pm.

"In all this Covid-19 sadness I think it's important to try and provide a moment or two of fun and light-hearted, free entertainment amongst such awful circumstances, a little light in the darkness. Music has the power to bring people together even though we're having to be so apart right now. It's a bit of fun and we all need to spend time away from the news."

To support Joe, search for 'Joe Show' on JustGiving.com

Belfast Telegraph