Bands battle it out at Norwich concert

Six very different bands battled it out last night at Norwich Arts Centre to be crowned The Next Big Thing.

The unsigned acts competition has provided big breaks for The Kabeedies and Ed Sheeran during its seven-year history, and 250 people went along to see what was on offer in 2010.

The diverse finalists included female electro-pop group Of Diamonds, acoustic duo Strawberry Forks and rap act C.O.L.L.

Joining them on the bill were garage rockers Lady Panther, Girl in a Thunderbolt, aka Maria Uzor, and indie-pop three-piece Hello Bear.

This year the popular event was run by Future Radio, the city's community station, based in West Earlham, and backed by the Evening News.

The turn-out on the evening nearly filled the intimate venue on St Benedicts Street, with an audience of around 250 providing a warm atmosphere in which the bands strived to show the judges their best material.

Each was given just 20 minutes to perform, but on the night the judges decided that Hello Bear was the overall winner and named them The Next Big Thing.

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They were awarded professional studio time to record an album at the former Darkness star Dan Hawkins' Leeders Farm, musical equipment including two guitars, professional photographs of the band and �1,000 in cash to spend as they please.

They will also be given the opportunity to play at leading venues across the city and provide support for touring bands when they come to Norwich.

Terry Lee from Future Radio, who compered the competition, said that the bands taking part had come from a wide range of genres and that the quality of performances was stronger than ever before.

'They were a lot more diverse, and the final is by far and away more diverse than last year,' he said.

'We've got hip-hop, electro-pop, we've got garage.

'There's pretty much something for everyone this year, which in previous years might not have been the case.'

All the groups involved had made it to the final of the event from the more than 90 acts that had entered earlier in the year.

Bands signed up on Future Radio's website and created online profiles featuring their music and pictures.

These were quickly whittled down to just 12 by a judging panel including music journalist Wendy Roby, Emma Roberts from Outline magazine, Ben Hall from Future Radio and Sophie Little from BBC Norfolk Introducing, who went through two rounds of live competitions.

The acts appeared at two semi-finals held at the B2 venue at the Brickmakers pub in Sprowston on October 24 and 31, with the best three from each making it to last night's final.

Originally it was to be staged at the Open centre on Bank Plain, but was changed a few days before the event to the Norwich Arts Centre.

Have you found success after entering a talent competition? Call reporter Matthew Sparkes on 01603 772439 or email