An icon of village life has become one of the first people to hold a celebration at the newly reopened Princess Pavilion – and mark the occasion by meeting friends for the first time in almost 18 months.

George Kingston from Mabe has celebrated his 93rd birthday with a surprise party at the pavilion last Tuesday.

And in a sign that things are finally starting to return to normal, he was able to be joined for the special event by all his friends from the Woodlane Monday Dance Club – the first time they had seen each other since the beginning of the pandemic.

George is a prominent member of society in the village of Mabe where he lives and he belongs to many groups and committees.

Previously the longest-standing member of Mabe Parish Council over 44 years, including two years as chairman and three as vice chairman during the late 1970s, in 2014 he saw his name immortalised when a road in the then-new housing development off Treliever Road was named after him – Kingston Way Road.

George has a road named after him in 2014

George has a road named after him in 2014

George retired from the council in 2013, but in his time there he started off the Mabe Youth and Community Project in 1971 and helped instigate the construction of the community centre and playing field.

Speaking back at the time of his retirement, George, who was also the verger of St Laudus Church in Mabe, recalled how every Friday for 40 years he would collect 20p coins for the 300 Club.

His daughter Bev said George could not have been happier to see his friends again after so long.

She said: "Like everyone he has found it very hard not being able to socialise, so he was absolutely delighted to see everyone from the dance club.

"He thanked them all for coming and hoped this was a new beginning of many good times ahead.

"Everybody thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon being with each other again after such a long time and welcomed the feeling of 'getting back to normal'."