“After 11 weeks, three audition stages, two bootcamps, one quarter final, one semi-final, and one grand finale, The Longridge X Factor has come to a close, the winner being Fionnuala McBride,” writes Sam Booth, one of the organisers.
“The semi-finals left us with five incredibly talented individuals fighting for the grand prize of £1000 and the opportunity to professionally record a song to go on music platforms such as Apple Music and Spotify. James, Cat, Fionnuala, Sean and Geno were all equally deserving of this prize and it was far too close to call…,” continues Sam.
“It was 17-year-old Sean Grealis who kicked off Sunday’s event. The audience were familiar with Sean’s dulcet tones, as Sean skated through the competition with ease. Sean’s natural talent proceeds him and his song choices are clearly well thought out as Sean has nailed every song of the competition; and this was no exception. Sean sang “Dance with my Father” by Luther Vandross, rendering the audience at a loss for words. Guest judge: Alan Odix told Sean his hairs were ‘standing on end’ with his emotional performance.
“Geno Eccles, the man with the voice of Tom Jones and about 10 times the charisma sang next. Geno has become a crowd favourite and many came just to hear his performance. Geno often leaves the audience shocked he’s not a professional singer due to his immense talent. Geno sang ‘Human’ by Rag ’n’ Bone Man, a powerful song that truly captivated the whole bar and judging panel. This was apparent as all of Billy’s pulsated with the duo-syllabic beat of ‘Ge-No, Ge-No…’. Geno had certainly earned adoration and rightfully so. Judge Alan Gillhespy told Geno he was ‘pitching a trouser tent just for [Geno]’, a compliment of the highest order’.
“The second of the young talent from this X Factor performed next. Fionnuala is well known for her perky stage presence and modern take on songs she performs, and she did not disappoint as usual. Fionnuala sang ‘Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen. Fionnuala handled this classic with expert precision. Her honeyed voice evidently enchanted the judges as judge Peat told her ‘you are the voice of the competition’, Judge Alan Odix could only say ‘Fionnuala, Fionnuala, Hallelujah for you!!’.
Cat Perin-Grifiths, the resident musician of the competition relinquished her usual ensemble of her unique voice coupled with a piano or guitar and opted simply for a backing track. Cat had wisely taken the judges’ feedback in the semi-finals to ‘concentrate on just her voice’, and she did exactly that. Cat sang ‘Suddenly I see’ by KT Tunstall and her lively performance was admired by both judges and audience alike. Judge Pete Bennett began by telling Cat he hasn’t been ‘loving [her] recent performances…However, [he] loves her now. Cat certainly made herself a hard act to follow.
“James Wiltshire, another fan favourite dominated the room with his heartfelt performance of ‘Lay me down’ by Sam Smith. Every week James’ emotional performances have commanded a hush over the audience and this week was no exception as it seems James’ smooth, power ballad voice could lull even the rowdiest of crowds into submission. The juxtaposition of the silence during his performance and cacophony of applause and cheers afterwards, speaks wonders for James’ talent. ‘Truly harrowing and simply fantastic’ said the judges. James’ performance concluded the first round of contestants singing.
“During the auditions, there were some acts that while they might not have had the strongest singing talent, but still made the crowd go wild. Three acts returned to reprise their position on the stage and entertain the patrons of Billy’s bar with their ‘talent’.
“Matt Priest, a former contestant unfortunately having got knocked out in bootcamp stage returned clad in sunglasses and trilby to perform ‘Tubthumping’ by Chumbawumba. The audience were like putty in Matt’s hands as he sang the chorus passionately into the crowd, they sang it back with the same level of enthusiasm. It could be argued when Matt was singing alone, without the audience’s backing vocals, his singing ability was questionable at best. However, despite this, Matt had the audience and judges alike in a fit of laughter.
“Holly Lupton, a quarter-finalist, performed ‘Lady Marmalade’ by Christina Aguilara. Holly’s singing talent was certainly superior to her fellow contestants in the best entertainment category, as she very narrowly missed out on going through to the semi-finals. Although Holly’s propensity to engage the audience in her lively performance gave good reason for her presence in this category of the competition.
“The highlight of the best entertainment category (and potentially the evening) was certainly Amanda Turner and Sam Robinson’s performance of ‘Gold Digger’ by Kanye West. Starting out strong, Amanda and Sam rapped eloquently and precisely to the song, however quickly descended as the minutes went by. However, Sam was not phased as he knew he still had yet to use his fan favourite move: removing his t-shirt. Sam whipped his shirt off and flung it onto some unsuspecting audience member. Upon receiving a roar of applause and laughter, Sam took his opportunity to leap into the crowd to be carried along by a sea of hands holding him high above head height. It was in this moment of pure hilarity and euphoria that Sam secured the best entertainment prize for himself and Amanda.
“All the contestants performed again, giving potentially the best performances of their life, fighting to be a winner. The judges retreated upstairs to deliberate who to send to the sing off at a chance of becoming the champion. The judges told the audience that it was the hardest decision to date, but had decided to put James and Fionnuala through to the final.
“James and Fionnuala both gave incredible performances and maintained an incredible level of composure and commitment to the competition. The judges held their tongues concerning their thoughts, to keep them secret, only building suspense and anxiety in the room.
“The judges once more retreated to discuss their final decision. After long deliberation when they returned it was as if no time had passed due to the incredible tension in the room. Wayne Hayhurst, owner of Billy’s assumed his position on the stage to announce the results, the £1000 cash prize held firmly in his hand. ‘The judges have decided that the winner of X Factor 2017 is…’, the silence was deafening in the room and one can only imagine, lasted a lifetime for James and Fionnuala. After a moment, to build suspense, Wayne told the bar that Fionnuala had been declared the winner. Silence became a chorus of applause, cheers and whoops, stern, twisted faces of concern became incandescent with joy. James and Fionnuala shared an embrace to quell any hard feelings.
“Fionnuala will soon be returning to record two songs with Judge Alan Gillhespy at his studio and these will be made available on all music streaming services. That drew The Longridge X Factor 2017 to a close, however, I’m sure it will make a return next year. A thank you to everyone whom has come out to support it.”
* The contest has also raised hundreds of pounds for the Longridge cancer campaign, Miles for Mitchie.