Belfast Telegraph

Ardoyne music artists find harmony in first ever Voice Factor

While Glengormley singers Andrea Magee and Leah McFall are poised for super stardom, coming fast in their tracks is north Belfast singer Amy Jo Johnston, winner of the first ever Ardoyne Alliance Voice Factor.

The cross community event, which was held on Saturday night (September 28) in the Crumlin Road Gaol, is the culmination of the Ardoyne Alliance Local Area Network Programme.

During July and August local people were invited to audition for the talent competition at a number of locations in North Belfast and six acts made it through to the final.

Since then the finalists have been putting the finishing touches to their 'show case' performance. As part of this they have been working with Co-ordinators Cecilia Heron and Michael Burns, vocal coach Katie Richardson and choreographer Jazzmin McClure. They all selected and learned two individual songs as well as a group song which opened the show.

On the evening the acts performed their songs in front of a live audience and a judging panel consisting of local DJ Kevin McVeigh, local artist Aidan Logan and Cool FM DJ Mairead Campbell. While Amy Jo wasn't lucky enough to receive a recording contract she did receive a trophy, a visit to Oh Yeah recording studio to record their winning song and will also perform at the North Belfast Lantern Parade and Magical Evening on October 30 at the Waterworks Park. But equally as important she also has the privilege of being known as the first ever Ardoyne Alliance VoiceFactor winner.

Jennifer Hawthorne, Head of the Housing Executive's Social Regeneration Unit, said: "The aim of the Local Area Network Programme is to develop positive relations at a local level, regardless of religion or ethnic background. This event has certainly done that and if we discover the next Jordan O'Keefe, Andrea Magee or Andrea Begley then that is even better.

"I would like to thank everyone who auditioned for the competition – and from the calibre of finalists it shows that north Belfast really does have talent. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the groups involved for their commitment to making the Ardoyne Alliance Local Area Network such an outstanding success."

Tracey Hutchinson from the Wishing Well Group said: "This is the final event of this year's programme. Like all the other events held throughout the summer it has been very well supported by people on both sides of the interface and that certainly bodes well for the future of this area."

Alex Crossley from the north Belfast Women's Initiative and Support Project agreed: "Not only did this event achieve what we set out to do, which is to bring people from different backgrounds together, but it was very enjoyable – I never knew there was so much talent in north Belfast."

Sally Smyth from Grace Women's Development said: "Anything that brings the two communities together has to be welcomed. I would just like to congratulate all the finalists and thank everyone associated with making the event such a success, in particular John Read from the Housing Executive."

Vivienne Davidson from the Upper Ardoyne Community Partnership said: "We joined the Ardoyne Alliance Local Area Network slighter later than the other groups but have to say that the benefits of the programme are evident. Hopefully the positive relationships that have been developed will not only continue but will become stronger."

The Ardoyne/Alliance Local Area Network is made up of representatives from The Wishing Well, North Belfast Women's Initiative and Support Project, Grace Women's Development and the Upper Ardoyne Community Partnership.

The Local Area Network programme is facilitated by the Housing Executive and is part financed by the European Union's European Regional Development Fund through the PEACE III Programme. Belfast City Council's Good Relations Partnership administers the funding available to Belfast.

In addition to the acts Niamh Burns and Maria Larkin worked with artist Oisin O'Brien to create the backdrop for the show while Fionnuala Larkin and Kierna Mann assisted Matt Curry from Bluebird Media with interviewing the finalists and filming the final itself.

Proving that north Belfast has talent: finalists Chloe Harbinson, Amy Jo Johnston (winner), Rachael Gearon, Joshua McDonnell, Jamie Brown, Loren Taggart, Shannon Wilkinson and Mary Braniff

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