The Glee Club Challenge 2011
Don’t Stop Believin’, that was the message from TV stars and judges Graham Norton and Tamzin Outhwaite to all the young performers who competed in The Jack Petchey Glee Club Challenge Grand Final at the Savoy Theatre held on Sunday 20th November.
One hundred and ninety young performers, aged between 11 and 25, got their first taste of treading the boards of a West End stage while the judges enjoyed seeing raw young talent. Graham Norton said “I found them amazing, self possessed and confident in a way that I could never have been at their age. Some of the presentations were so moving they made us cry.
The winning group crowned Glee Club Challenge champions were Fusion FBS, from Friern Barnet School, one of the smallest groups in the competition with just nine performers aged 12 – 15 including three boys. They beat tough competition from nine other Glee Club groups from London and Essex.
The Glee Club Challenge, launched earlier this year, is a flagship programme of the Jack Petchey Foundation inspired by the hugely successful and award winning ‘Glee’ TV series. Groups of youngsters of 8 to 30 performers, aged between 11 and 25, applied for the challenge.
Thirty groups from those who submitted their audition tapes were selected and attended boot camp sessions before battling it out in three regional heats against the best from South London, North London and Essex. Three winners from each regional final competed in the Grand Final.
Fusion FBS started in 2009 and is mentored by Henry Perkins who joined the school as a music teacher only last year. He said “Not in a million years did I think we could win. The standard in the regional finals was high but to come here and compete with top groups, some as many as 30 people, is so amazing. They have really bonded as a group and it’s given them the chance to be recognised as not just a school club.”
The judges also included a mixture of experienced theatre professionals and performers. The groups were competing for a share of £5,000 to pay for equipment and tuition.
Tamzin Outhwaite told the performers they were all winners. She said “This brings back lots of memories. I see myself in all these groups, their passion and so creative – it moved me to tears. It has been an inspiring evening and I spent most of it crying. But the talent was fantastic so I didn’t feel I was missing out on X Factor tonight.”
Runners up were a gospel choir, turned performers, from the Ilford Ursuline all girls school, a group of 12 aged between 12 and 16. Third was Cadence, from Plaistow, another small group of just eight aged 16-19 and all members of the The Swift Youth Club. The group was put together in May this year to enter the competition. The Denouments, a group of 8 girls who formed especially for the challenge received the Judges Special Award
Founder Jack Petchey CBE said “I never believed the affect we could have on young people when we started the Foundation 11 years ago. We have a range of different programmes that help them to feel good about themselves. These youngsters will go home tonight feeling very, very proud.”
Graham Norton summed it up by saying “I have been thrilled to be part of this evening and it was torture to have to pick one winner.”
More pictures from the Grand Final can be found on The Glee Club Challenge Facebook page.
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