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Great grandfather creates emu double act to help charity shop

Derek Asker hopes an emu puppet he saved from being thrown out will encourage more people to donate

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Derek Asker and Remu the Emu outside Phyllis Tuckwell shop in Aldershot

A great grandfather has created a double act with an Emu in his latest idea to raise money for an Aldershot charity shop.

Derek Asker, 82, who has actively supported charities in the area for more than four decades, stands outside the Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice shop in Union Street every Saturday singing his favourite songs, collecting around £100 in donations from passers-by every month.

Last week, while helping in the Sue Ryder Care charity shop in Farnborough, he rescued an emu puppet from being thrown out and hopes his new companion will encourage people to drop even more coins into his collection tub.

Because the emu resembles the puppet used by Seventies and Eighties entertainer Rod Hull for his Rod and Emu act, Derek has named his own take on it Rick and Remu because of the puppet's close shave in avoiding the recycling bag.

Derek, who has lived in Crowholt, Wrecclesham, for the past 10 years, said: "They were going to put the emu in the rag bag, but I said 'you can't do that, he's famous'. I asked if I could have him if I put a donation in the box."

And so, once Derek had replaced the emu's missing eyes, the Tuckwell Singer, as Derek has become known, became the Tuckwell Singers. Derek explained that he will continue to do the singing while Remu 'pretends', saving him from having to learn ventriloquism.

 

He said the reaction from children in particular had been 'amazing' since he updated his act.

"I used a pretty rudimentary amp at first, but I saved up to get a really decent one which I have now," he said.

"People say I should go on X Factor but it's not my scene. I like to go to open mic nights."

Derek, who has been married three times and has 10 grandchildren and three great grandchildren, began his charity work more than 40 years ago when he moved to Aldershot and joined the Salvation Army Songsters. He said he had been impressed by Farnham's Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice after a performance there and his feelings for the charity grew after several friends were cared for there.

Derek is also motivated by losing his daughter to adoption against his will in the 1990s, and 'gets the emotion out' through his singing. The loss he felt also resulted in him volunteering at Frimhurst Family House, in Camberley, a refuge where children and parents affected by poverty can spend quality time together.

Angie Wilson, manager at the Aldershot Phyllis Tuckwell shop, said: "He's a darling. I want to say a big thank you to Derek. The money he raises is a big help to the hospice."

 
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