Last chance to vote in online Harrogate talent show as final nears

An online charity talent show which has spread hope and joy across the district during lockdown is set to come to an end this weekend.

By Brogan Maguire
Thursday, 25th February 2021, 1:30 pm

Video: Take a look inside Harrogate's Covid vaccination centre where up to 1,800 jabs are given a dayThe final of ‘Harrogate and District Got Talent’ is due to take place on Sunday, when a number of well-known judges will decide who should be crowned the winner.

Contestants from across the Harrogate district and beyond have been submitting videos of themselves performing to the Facebook group, created by local film producer and binman Velton Lishke, since January.

Each week, the videos with the most likes are chosen to go through to the next round - with the successful contestants required to submit a new video and the final five acts making it through to the judging stage.

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The final of Harrogate and District Got Talent takes place this weekend.

The competition, which also ran last year, has a £5 entry fee, with all proceeds donated to Harrogate Hospital and Community Charity.

So far, the talent show has raised £1,440, smashing it’s £1,00 target.

Velton told the Harrogate Advertiser: “I started this last year as a way to raise spirits and some much-needed funds when the pandemic first began and it was really successful.

“Since then I’ve had lots of requests to keep it going and I’ve been a bit torn because between my job as a bin man and as a film producer I don’t have much free time, but I decided it was important to give people something to smile about and keep raising money.

“I’ve had so many people get in touch and say how much it meant to them that I couldn’t ignore it.”

The contestants are competing for a £450 cash prize, provided by a number of sponsors, as well as trophies for first, second and third place.

A number of raffle prizes have also been donated, including a £40 voucher for Cardamom Black, a Jasper Conrad clutch bag and afternoon tea for one at Rudding Park, gifted by Cyber Graphics in Harrogate.

Velton says the community support has been overwhelming and he has even had to turn some sponsors away due to unprecendented demand.

“People have been snapping my hands off trying to get involved,” he said. “So many have come forward, even if I’ve told them the exposure or promotion I can give them will be limited.

“I think people just want to be a part of something, especially right now, and it shows just what our community can do when they come together.”

Sammy Lambert Business Development, Charity and Volunteer Manager at Harrogate Hospital Community Charity, says the team is honoured to have been chosen as the fundraising partner.

She said: “We are so incredibly grateful to Velton and to all those involved in the Harrogate & District Got Talent competitions for their immense fundraising efforts.

“This awesome competition really showcases how amazing our local community spirit is and most of all how talented. The Harrogate Hospital & Community Charity (HHCC) and Volunteer Team and I have loved watching all of the entrants in this second competition and the previous one held in 2020 for HHCC.

“It is such a lovely way for the community to come together and support their local NHS. Thank you for making life changing differences to staff, patients and their families who work and access services across Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust. I am sure you are all as excited as me to find out who the winner will be of this epic competition.“

Velton believes the ability to record videos at home, without a live audience, before posting them to the group has helped a lot of people who may not usually have the confidence to take part.

“It almost feels like the competition is secondary and first and foremost it’s just about supporting people and spreading a bit of happiness during a really difficult time for a lot of people.

“Contestants have sent me messages and posted in the group saying thanks for the opportunity and how much it means to them and it has been amazing to see people grow week on week - one girl started without putting her face in the video, and now she’s there performing like a professional.

“It has just been so heartwarming to see and I’m really proud of what they have achieved.”

One Harrogate contestant, Freddie Cleary, 19, who has autism, has entered the competition with videos of him singing and playing guitar.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic began, he regularly performed gigs around the district and has raised lots of money for lots of local charities.

He said: “Performing has definitely made me more confident as I used to be really shy.

“Being able to perform in front of people changed that, so it has been great to be able to keep playing, even though I can’t do gigs right now.”

Although Freddie has submitted covers as his entries for Harrogate and District Got Talent, he is currently working on his own songs, which he has been writing and recording.

“Being in the talent competition and getting lots of support has given me much more confidence to keep trying with my own songwriting, something I used to find quite hard,” he added.

Freddie says it has been rewarding to be able to make people smile during the lockdown and he is pleased his performances have been able to entertain people at such a difficult time.

He said: “Music helps because I find it hard to express my feelings sometimes. I really like performing and it makes me really happy to know I am helping people during lockdown.”

Performances across the competition have ranged from singing and dancing to magic tricks and comedy routines, with something for everyone.

The final five will be whittled down to those with the most public votes on their videos on Saturday, and the final three, including the winner, will be chosen by the judges on Sunday.

Velton added: “I hope the contestants see how well-liked they are, how much support they have received, and they don’t stop just because the competition has stopped.

“This is not the end, it’s the beginning - I hope they use this as a foundation to do more amazing things.”

To get involved, search Harrogate and District Got Talent on Facebook.