Belfast Telegraph

The day they were all stars in Newry

By Amy Ryan

As this year’s Citybeat Young Star Search enters its final stages, the penultimate heat proved to be one of the most exciting yet.





Held in Newry for the first time in its eight-year history, the Citybeat team weren’t sure what level of talent to expect at The Quays shopping centre.

However, they need not have worried as, from the first contestant to the last, the standard of performance was amongst the highest seen since the competition to find Northern Ireland’s next big thing began in May.

Gavin Griven (8), from Toomebridge, got proceedings under way with a rendition of the classic Somewhere Over The Rainbow.

Guest judge Conleth Kane, who recently took part in the RTE talent search Fame, called Gavin “just fantastic” and said he couldn’t believe such a big voice belonged to such a young singer.

Another favourite with the panel was 21-year-old Kerry Wilson from Enniskillen. Journalism student Kerry performed Rhianna’s hit track Disturbia complete with dance moves and not a hint of nerves. Judge and record producer Micky Modelle said Kerry was “exactly the kind of person we are looking for”.

However, when 11-year-old Shauna Lillywhite took to the stage the competition became a whole different ballgame.

Shauna, who moved from London to Newry four years ago, transformed The Quays into the West End with her performance of Good Morning Baltimore from the musical Hairspray.

She looked and sounded like a professional many years her senior and, as the crowd cheered and applauded her, the panel looked at each other in disbelief.

Shauna is no stranger to the stage, having auditioned for many competitions including last year’s Britain’s Got Talent.

Shauna said: “Simon Cowell said I was good but still a bit young for Britain’s Got Talent. I’ve carried on singing though because it really is my passion and I would love a career in the West End.

“I hope people vote for me because I think I could go far in the Young Star Search and singing is the only thing I want to do.”

The last contestant of the day brought a different vibe to the stage as the oldest competitor to date at the grand old age of 25.

Joe McNulty from Newry performed his own track called Don’t Push Me Aside and played acoustic guitar.

The panel were very impressed and said they were delighted there were such a varied range of talents represented on the stage in Newry.

With six more young (and not so young) singers through to face the public vote it won’t be long before the best of Northern Ireland’s young talent go head to head in the final in Belfast’s CastleCourt on August 21.

Citybeat’s Stuart Robinson said this year’s event had been the most successful to date.

He said: “The competition gets bigger and better every year and with 19 heats across the province we have uncovered some amazing talent this time around.

“The team are just astounded at some of the young singers in Newry and this talent hotspot will definitely be on our list for next year.”

The search continues on Saturday at Ballymena’s Tower Centre.

Belfast Telegraph

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