Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland duo wow judges in audition for TV talent show

By Maureen Coleman

Two young singers from Northern Ireland are set to battle it out for places in the live finals of the BBC's new £22m talent contest, The Voice.

Londonderry student Ben Kelly and 18-year-old Belfast schoolgirl Jessica Hammond are both hoping they've got what it takes to be the UK's next great voice.

In tonight's launch show, viewers will see the pair perform in the first stage of the contest, a blind audition, where a panel of superstars — Sir Tom Jones, Jessie J, and Danny O'Donoghue — listen to them, with their backs turned.

If the coaches like what they hear, they hit a button, which then turns their chair to face the artist, who secures a place on that coach's team. But in a twist, if more than one chair turns round, it's then up to the artist to choose which star they want to work with.

From around 100 hopefuls, 40 then make it through to the next round. Tonight, both Ben and Jessica will be seen wowing all four of the mentors.

Ben (22), who is now based in London, said he was amazed when all four of the coaches turned round for him.

“I sang Rocket Man by Elton John and I have to say, performing to their backs was a very weird and daunting experience,” he said. “So when all four mentors hit their buttons I was totally overwhelmed.”

Ashfield Girls' pupil Jessica was up next to sing ‘Price Tag’. The former winner of Citybeat ‘Young Star Search' and finalist in the Disney Channel UK's My Camp Rock competition said: “I couldn't believe it when all four turned round for me. Then leapt onto the stage and offered to be my roadie. It was unbelievable.”


  • Ben Kelly was born in Derry but now lives in London. A classically trained pianist, he has performed in choirs and musicals in his native city and his ambition is to be a successful male recording artist, following in the footsteps of Elton John and Robbie Williams. A former English student at UCL, the 22-year-old wrote his first song at 14. He has attracted almost one million viewers to his YouTube page.
  • Jessica Hammond is a former winner of the Belfast Citybeat competition Young Star Search. She started singing when just six. She also plays guitar, saxophone and drums. She’s in her final year at Ashfield Girls' School in east Belfast, where she’s studying Media, Drama and Music A-levels.

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