Flashback to 2001: When Shropshire went wild for Atomic Kitten dance

A host of hopefuls, and perhaps a shot at stardom...

Choose me! Dancers go through their moves at the audition.
Choose me! Dancers go through their moves at the audition.

This was the year that British television viewers were introduced to Popstars, a show which produced the pop group Hear'Say and spawned various highly successful pop music talent shows in its wake.

But auditions held in Telford in September 2001 were not part of any television show – they were to find youngsters to share the limelight at a Shropshire concert by chart-toppers Atomic Kitten.

More than 60 dancers from across the county strutted their stuff at an audition at the Hills Lane Social Club in Madeley.

Over 60 turned up at the Hills Lane Social Club, Madeley.

Scouts were looking for girls to join the line-up supporting the Liverpudlian trio who were performing a one-off show at Telford’s Ice Rink.

Those who caught their eye formed a dance troupe which would appear with Telford’s own girl band, Heaven Sent, who were the support act performing a 25-minute routine in front of a capacity crowd.

So many came for the audition that Mike Taylor, manager of Heaven Sent, took the decision to hold a second audition a few days later, also at the social club, in which they looked not just at dancing alone, but also conducted interviews to assess personality and other qualities.

All the dancers, who included two boys, performed a dance routine to the sound of a Heaven Sent track entitled Disco Disco.

Among those watching them were Heaven Sent band member Fi Whitelaw and choreographer Gemma Collard who led the dancers and was making the final choice with Mike.

Producer and songwriter Mike Taylor with band member Fi Whitelaw.

From the first audition they whittled numbers down to 25 contenders who were asked to come again for the final selection.

Mike said afterwards: “I am very excited because I think from what I have seen tonight we should be able to put on a fantastic show. I think the people of Telford will be very proud of the talent we have in the area. I am very happy with the standard that we are seeing.”

Among the dancers asked to return were Vicki Appleby, 15, of Park Lane, Shifnal, who admitted to being nervous as the audition began but said she had enjoyed it.

Vicky was one of eight to make the final cut, the full list being Fiona Henderson, Vicki Appleby, Molly Hooper, Chantelle McGregor, Cherelle Newson, Samantha Redmond, Becky Foster and Grace Lesley Rowe.

Choose me! Dancers go through their moves at the audition.

Later reports talk of there being seven, so perhaps by the time of the concert one of them had dropped out for some reason.

The concert by Atomic Kitten, who had had a blockbuster hit with Whole Again, was on Saturday, November 24, and was billed as one of the biggest pop events ever in Shropshire.

Tickets cost £18.50 and £17.

The crowd was warmed up by Heaven Sent, backed by those dancers who had earned their place in the limelight in those auditions, and More, another pop act whose names were Alex, Stacey, Casey and Gareth.

Our Star reviewer said that Atomic Kitten did not disappoint, although there were some disappointed fans – they had missed out in the mad rush for tickets.

As for Heaven Sent, one concert-goer was quoted as saying they were "absolutely brilliant."

It seems that Atomic Kitten, comprising Jenny Frost, Natasha Hamilton and Liz McClarnon, went on stage at 9pm and finished at 9.50pm without an encore, leading to at least one concert-goer, who otherwise said the act was excellent and was enjoyed by everyone there, to gripe that 50 minutes did not make a concert.

The members of Heaven Sent were Laura Burford, Becky Wheeler, Claire Young (there was also a Clair Luckman – possibly she's the same person) and Fi Whitelaw. Teenage Laura was signed up by the band only a few weeks before the gig, and had already tasted television stardom after taking centre stage on Spice Girl Mel B’s talent show This is My Moment.

Sadly neither they nor their hand-picked dancers got to meet Atomic Kitten, who were reportedly protected by four bouncers each on their visit to Telford.

Heaven Sent played at Shrewsbury's Party In The Park for the Queen's golden jubilee in the summer of 2002, where Leo Sayer made a surprise appearance, and they went on to feature in a BBC2 television show called The Entertainers alongside Leo.

Heaven Sent with Leo Sayer in Shrewsbury's Party In The Park.

But hopes that that would be the group's big break were knocked back because by the time the recorded show was aired Laura and Becky had left the band.

And as Heaven Sent then disappears off the radar, it seems they must have all gone their own ways.

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