Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland stars of The Voice overwhelmed by support

By Maureen Coleman

Two young singing sensations from Northern Ireland have spoken of the overwhelming response to their debut performances on BBC1’s The Voice and their delight at growing support.

‘Overwhelming’ support delights TV singing stars TV hopefuls: The Voice contenders Jessica Hammond and Ben KellyBY MAUREEN COLEMAN

newseditor@belfasttelegraph.co.uk



Jessica Hammond (17) from east Belfast and Ben Kelly (22) from Londonderry both emerged as strong contenders when the new prime-time entertainment show aired on Saturday night.

The Voice is the latest weapon in the BBC’s battle against ITV for Saturday night viewers. The talent show chooses contestants on the strength of their singing talent alone with four judges — Tom Jones, Jessie J, will.i.am and Danny O’Donoghue — having their backs to the performers when they audition, only turning around when they like what they hear and wish to declare an interest in mentoring.

If no judge turns around, the singer is eliminated and if more than one turns, the contestant must choose which judge they’d like to look after them.

Jessica and Ben were both among just three contestants who caused all four judges to spin around — allowing them to choose which mentor they wished to work with.

Both opted for Price Tag singer Jessie J, despite pleas from the other judges.

Jessica said she couldn't believe the support she'd received.

The Ashfield Girls pupil was tweeted by Eamonn Holmes, who wrote: “So proud of you. Beautiful girl with a beautiful voice from beautiful Belfast. The best of luck”, while X Factor's Frankie Cocozza tweeted: “I'm in love with Jessica Hammond already.”

”I was amazed at the support I got,” Jessica said.

“So many lovely messages from people including Frankie Cocozza and Eamonn Holmes.

“Although I am a fan of all the mentors, I chose Jessie J because I can relate to her and I think we have chemistry, musically.”

“She is a very honest mentor, what you see on screen is what she's like off.

“She's very down-to-earth, funny and inspiring and bought all of us a lovely gift of Manuka honey, to help with our singing.”

Ben added: “I went for Jessie J because I feel we have a lot in common. We both did musical theatre, started on youtube and write our own songs.

“Like me, she's very colourful too and a complete perfectionist. She is extremely honest in her critique, which I really appreciate.

“Of course, there is a possibility that I could go up against Jessica. We both play instruments, we're both from Northern Ireland, but at the end of the day, it’s a competition. We'll just have to wait and see how it plays out.”

\[c.obrien\]television \[c.obrien\]It features four major names in music — Sir Tom Jones, Jessie J, will.i.am of the Black Eye Peas and Danny O’Donaghue of The Script — who act as judges looking for future singing stars.

Contestants are chosen through a blind audition process meaning the judges have no idea what they look like until they’ve already declared an interest.

\[c.obrien\]— representing a 49% share of the viewing. \[c.obrien\], with its show averaging 8.96m against BGT's 6.56m in the 20 minutes after 8pm</>.

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