“WHEN I’m home I’m not Johnny Vegas, I’m Mike Pennington from Thatto Heath, just helping out like anyone else.”

Those are the words of comedian Johnny Vegas after he revealed how volunteering in his hometown during the coronavirus pandemic has helped him with the grief of losing his parents.

Since the beginning of lockdown back in March, the community has witnessed Thatto Heath’s own Johnny, whose real name is Michael Pennington, out and about delivering food to those in need, assisting charities and showing his support for our town.

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The proud Sintelliner has always been full of praise for his home, but he says lending a hand during people’s time of need has helped to “heal” him.

Speaking to the Star, the 49-year-old dad-of-two, said: “Right at the beginning of lockdown I was determined I wouldn’t do lockdown in London, as I’m there for my lad really who is in school there.

“So we both decided to pop in the car and come up here and honestly it was the best decision.

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Johnny's parents Pat and Lol Pennington

“I love coming home to see family and friends but I’ve also wanted to keep busy to stop me going over tough things in my life, particularly losing my mum just before Christmas and my dad a couple of years before that.

“I always get asked to help and I never have time and I hate that, so now in the real crisis we are all facing I was made up to get involved with the Steve Prescott Foundation and feel reconnected to my hometown.

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“Nowhere else could I help out and people say, ‘I remember your mum from bingo’, or ‘I used to work with your dad’, it wasn’t about that at first but I love that, it’s really helped me grieve because I was angry before and now I like hearing about them and doing my bit to help.

“It’s great because when I’m home I’m not Johnny Vegas, I’m Mike Pennington from Thatto Heath, just helping out like anyone else and that’s why I love St Helens.

“Just being here to do my bit helped heal me in a difficult time, because it’s home. It’s always going to be my home and this has proved to me more than ever that this is where I need to be.”

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He commended the community of St Helens for coming together like nowhere else during this pandemic.

He said: “You know what, us here get put down on sometimes, we’ve lost some of our big industries like other towns in the North post Thatcher and it’s not easy, but we are strong here and this has shown that because where else did one community come together like this?

“We can show what we are capable of in a crisis, then why not do it all the time? Be proud of ourselves and not just for Saints, but as a town as well.

“Businesses didn’t mope about they set about helping others, and I feel honoured to have been able to help, because that’s all I did, I was like everyone else doing my bit.

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“I’ve actually really missed it since we stopped deliveries, I loved doing my bit, plus my lad liked me being out of the house for a bit...he is 16 so I don’t blame him.

“It’s been a chance for me to get back to what I love too, do up the house with my lad which is great, and I went fishing with him up Thatto Heath dam like I used to with my dad and he caught a decent bream, that was special that, I got back to here and remembered the good times and I really needed that.

“I love London, I’ve never struggled to make friends but this is my spiritual home, it’s the people, the town, rugby obviously but it’s more than that, I just love it here.

“I hate it when people think I went to London because I ‘made it’, that’s not it at all, I’ve been very fortunate in my career and I need to work in London true, but I’m there for my lad and once he’s not down there for school hopefully we’ll both get back up here.”

Johnny also commented on how he is enjoying being on GoggleBox with best pal and PA Bev Dixon.

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He added: “It’s good fun but a bit weird to be honest having a film crew in your lounge videoing you at a distance watching the tele, but then again it’s no stranger than being back in work and Bev is in her element, everyone has been lovely to her and she loves this kind of TV anyway so she’s loving it.

“Tell you what though I was miffed when that first episode said we were in Liverpool, who doesn’t know I’m from St Helens? I’m proud to be from here and we got on to them straight away.

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“They explained they generalise it for safety, but I said, ‘Listen people know my local, don’t be worried about saying I’m from St Helens everyone knows I’m from there I’ve never hidden it’.

“So the next week they changed it which was good, got to keep the civic pride haven’t we?”

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