ROGER REMEMBERS –
In years gone by I was approached from time to time to take part on a judging panel for a talent competition or something of that sort. Maybe it was because I did a bit of writing on entertainment matters, or possibly they were short of somebody to ask. (Perhaps the word had got round about how good I was at judging the Easter Bonnet competition at South Kirkby’s Mill Lane W.M.C.) These were proper competitions, not like the things on television with somebody waiting in the wings to make money out of the winner, or viewers encouraged to be more interested in the judges than the contestants. Dial House in Sheffield ran several Star of Stars contests, with heats and a grand final, and I felt privileged to be asked to help. But it was at one of those that there was an incident which made me question whether it was all worth it. We voted a tenor from Sheffield as number one. In the break which followed we on the panel were verbally abused by an intimidating group of supporters of another entrant: he did well but wasn’t the best. At the end of the night this chap, obviously embarrassed, came up and apologised profusely to us all for the behaviour of his fans. It did put me off though, was it worth the aggro, and for about ten years I turned everyone down.
Then an agent friend (yes –I did have one) tempted me back for the final of the William Stones Talent Competition, which was studded with clubland’s top artistes. In those days many Brewery Companies were supportive of club activities.
Early in the 1990s a Yorkshire Talent Trail organised by an agency took place at the Robin Hood Hotel in which I was involved as a judge, ending up at the Final. It was a posh event with the Mayor and Mayoress of Wakefield present and no fewer than 14 judges. A lively chap called Rob Armitage won, though it seemed to me that a 13 year old from South Kirkby called Sasha showed the most promise for the future. Sasha Lawrence turned out pretty well, you will agree ! I was told that the fellow who organised the event promptly disappeared, leaving others to pick up the pieces.
The following year Sasha Lawrence took part in one of Mark Ritchie’s Northern Talent Trail, held at Samson’s in Stanley, along with 7 others. An enjoyable, well run event, spoiled only by the father of one of a band’s members who came and addressed the panel, telling us that we knew nothing about it and wouldn’t recognise talent if it was staring us in the face. A bit strong really, considering that one of the judges was Peter Hepple, Editor of “The Stage” newspaper and generally acknowledged to know more about light entertainment than anyone else in Britain.
Another excellent venue for these events was Keresforth Hall in Barnsley, still very much missed today. This hosted several of the Bass Northern Carling Premier “Search for a Star” Contests (what a mouthful). Charlie Williams supported these, and the second one I did had Charlie’s wife Janice among the judges. At interval time it was the custom for the judges to take a break in the lounge, and sitting there was Charlie. Then someone looked round and asked “Where’s Janice?”, and a very unpleasant remark came from some person. “Oh she’ll be out there with the turns looking for backhanders.” There was a stunned silence. You could cut the atmosphere with a knife. Everyone turned to look at Charlie. How would he react, what would he say? A broad smile spread across his face, “Aye well, she might be. We are a bit behind wi’t rent.” Situation de-fused.