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Coronavirus: Antrim DJs stream home gig and raise £24,000 for NHS

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Mark Ritchie (pictured) and Rodney Beggs linked up for novel performance

Mark Ritchie (pictured) and Rodney Beggs linked up for novel performance

Mark Ritchie and Rodney Beggs (pictured) linked up for novel performance

Mark Ritchie and Rodney Beggs (pictured) linked up for novel performance

Mark Ritchie (pictured) and Rodney Beggs linked up for novel performance

Three Co Antrim men have raised more than £24,000 for the NHS after streaming a gig live from their homes.

DJ brothers Mark and Paul Ritchie and musician Rodney Beggs entertained thousands of fans on Saturday night from their separate homes in a bid to show their support to front line health workers during the coronavirus crisis.

"It's been absolutely overwhelming," said Mark, who came up with the fundraising idea after more than 1,000 people tuned in to watch him DJ from home last month.

"A few weeks ago I'd planned a party with some friends, but when all the social distancing stuff began we cancelled and I did a bit of a set and live-streamed it.

"About 1,000 people ended up tuning in to watch it live, which I really didn't expect.

"But when I saw how many people had shared it I thought I'd try to do something positive with it."

And with the idea in mind, Mark (42) reached out to Ballymena musician Rodney Beggs, as well as his younger brother Paul, to organise a gig.

"They were both up for it, and I set up a Go Fund Me page with a target of £10,000," said Mark, who is currently furloughed from his job as a sales rep.

News of Saturday night's gig was shared in advance on social media, with backing from famous faces including legendary football commentator Jackie Fullerton and comedian Shane Todd. "My brother started off from 6pm, then Rodney came on and I was on from 8.30pm until nearly 1am," said Mark.

"We had donations of about £5,500 before Rodney went on, and when he came off there was more than £10,000.

"By the time I was finished there was £22,000 and donations carried on coming in on Sunday.

"At any one time we had about 1,200 or 1,300 people watching and I think there were up to 27,000 views altogether. It was absolutely incredible. We didn't expect anything like that amount of support.

"I've always wanted to do something for charity, and there couldn't be a better time than now.

"The front line workers are doing a brilliant job and being at home at the minute you can feel a bit helpless.

"We'll leave the page up for a few more days, and in the meantime we'll figure out the logistics of getting the funds to the people in the NHS who need it quickly."

Singer Rodney (37), whose daughter Mary tragically died in 2016 aged just 20 months, said he was happy to support any effort to back NHS workers.

"Our daughter was born with a very serious brain condition, but the care she got throughout her life was phenomenal," said Rodney.

"So we saw back then how our nurses don't just go to their work for the pay cheque.

"They're outstanding people and I saw what they go through on the front line every day, even without all this, so anything we can do to show our support we'll do. I'm completely astounded that it went so well.

"I wasn't even sure we'd make the £10,000 target.

"I'm very proud of the local community for how they got behind us because I can go and sing a few songs, and we can all do what we do from our homes, but we needed the people to get behind it to make an impact - and we're so happy they did."

To donate visit www.gofundme.com/f/nhs-workers-support-fund

Belfast Telegraph