Guides with star quality

IAN CLARKE Simon Cowell and Sharon Osbourne might have been absent. But talented performers, excitement, tension and all the other features of The X Factor were alive and kicking yesterday as Guides held their own version of the hit TV series.

IAN CLARKE

Simon Cowell and Sharon Osbourne might have been absent.

But talented performers, excitement, tension and all the other features of The X Factor were alive and kicking yesterday as Guides held their own version of the hit TV series.

Dereham Memorial Hall was the setting for the county final of the first national Guiding Star competition, which aims to find the organisation's most talented singers.

A total of 10 acts from across Norfolk - a mix of solos and groups - in the 10-16 age group category delighted the audience with their vocal skills and performing abilities.

And last night, 12-year-old Asia Lambert, from North Elmham, near Dereham, was crowned the county's pop princess. She now goes forward to the Anglia regional final in Bedfordshire in May.

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The Dereham Northgate High School pupil, who belongs to the 1st Elmham Guides, gave a rendition of Christina Aguilera's Beautiful that matched the title, and she described herself as very excited to have won."I think the song expresses how people can feel, and I really like it," said Asia.

Winners of the regional heats go on to the grand final in Sheffield in June.

Norfolk Guiding Star co-ordinator Susan Morgan has already secured her own place in the 16-25 age group category regional final with her rendition of Whistle Down the

Wind, which she performed yesterday.

The overall national winners in both age groups will perform in a

line-up of famous pop stars at the Big Gig 2007, a huge concert organised by Girlguiding UK for more than 23,000 girls and women aged between

10 and 25. In previous years performers at the gig have included Shayne Ward, Girls Aloud, Lemar and Geri Halliwell.

Miss Morgan said the contest helped the girls in a range of ways. She explained: "It helps them gain professionalism on stage and gives them the chance to perform and have fun."

The event was hosted by BBC Look East presenter and Norfolk Girlguiding president Carol

Bundock. She said: "They have all done terrifically, and they have been really brave to get up on the stage and perform live in front of an audience.

"They are so confident, and it is a lovely thing for them to do and they are all winners today."

Carol also highlighted how the movement had modernised and, by staging events like Guiding Star,

still appealed to girls in the 21st century.

The others taking part yesterday were: Extremely, Irresistably, Hot, made up of Hayley Hume, Erin Dorling and Isabelle Gilbee (2nd Diss Guides), who sang Lady Marmalade; Emily Moore (1st Salhouse, I'm With You); Natasha Pyne (1st Salhouse, The First Cut is the Deepest); Rachel Burridge (1st Terrington St Clement, Wake Up); 2Ks, Katrina Taylor and Katie Marriott (2nd Mulbarton, Shy Boy), Mercedes Faiers (1st Roughton Mill, Unfaithful); Molly Allen (1st Elmham, My Heart Will Go On); Kezia Kemp (1st Elmham, These Are The Days); Diss co, made up of Emily Pursehouse, Imogen Shipperlee, Bryony Holdsworth and Lily Nunn (2nd Diss, Down Town).

Judges yesterday were drama graduate Susan Rose, professionally- trained musician Jenny Pathmarajah and Dean Eglington and Colin Swaep, who have more than 20 years' experience in army bands.

Before the contest, the girls took part in workshops on vocal training, performance skills, professionalism and technical skills led by musicians and performers.