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Sunday, 3 February, 2002, 21:15 GMT
Queuing with Hear'Say's hopefuls
Natalie Day
Natalie Day: Keen for her hat to attract attention
The auditions for the pop band Hear'Say attracted about 3,000 hopefuls desperate to see their name in lights.

BBC News Online's Helen Bushby met some of them as they went through the first stage of the selection process.

It came as no surprise to discover that the Hear'Say auditions were something of a cattle market.

The streets near London's Brixton Rehearsal Studios were awash with eager youngsters glistening with hair gel, heavy make-up and sparkly outfits.

This was no mean feat given that many of them had been up since dawn to travel to the capital, or had slept overnight in cars near the venue.

Tara O'Neill
Tara O'Neill: Not worried that she resembled Kym Marsh
Burly security men kept everyone in line, and ushered them over to what looked like a pen lined with railings, where the first selection took place.

It was based on looks only, although it did not stop several people bursting into song.

Nicky Spence, 18, who had travelled down from Dumfries in Scotland, sang at the top of his lungs, shouting "fat people rule" at the end of his rendition.

This was perhaps a reference to Pop Idol's Rik Waller, who got through to the finals despite some of the judges' reservations about his size.

Although it was daunting for many of them, the hopefuls were determined not to show their nerves.

Nicole Conway
Nicole Conway, 19, travelled from Middlesex
Tara O'Neill, 19, from Chingford in Essex, was not dissimilar in looks to recently departed member Kym Marsh.

But she said she "wasn't bothered" by press rumours that Marsh and Myleene Klass had fallen out over outfits and sharing the vocals.

"I'm just impressed with the group," she said. "I didn't see the TV show that brought them together, but I really like their music."

Ben Sharman, 20, from Leicester, was not giving anything away, saying he had "no idea" what he would sing if he got through the first stage.

He had been up since 0500 GMT, but despite the lack of beauty sleep he said he had no problem with being judged initially on his looks.

Ben Sharman
Ben Sharman had been up since 0500 GMT
"It's fair enough - it's part of the pop world so I don't mind at all," he said.

But Laura Wilkinson, 18, from the West Midlands admitted she was a bit disconcerted that she would not get to sing first.

She also said she had "no idea" what her audition number would be, although this was possibly because she did not want anyone else to know.

As soon as it was 0900 GMT, the selections began.

Myleene Klass appeared at a window holding a video camera which she pointed at the thousands gathered below.

The group also went through gruelling auditions
A roar went up from the crowds when she was spotted, and she wished everyone luck.

"You lot are only picking the pretty people," someone shouted, to which she replied: "Well how did I get in then?"

The security men hustled everyone together, shouting: "Bunch up guys, quickly as you can."

Golden tickets were handed out to about four or five from each group of about 50, and the rest were sent on their way.

Or so the organisers thought - in fact, many of them walked around to the front of the building and rejoined the queue, until LWT's controller Bob Massey eventually caught on.

Hear'Say auditions
Hopefuls were rushed through the selection pen
He told me that they had started putting markers at the end of the queue to stop the rejects returning.

It was like watching a high-speed beauty contest without the swimming costumes.

As the unlucky ones trudged back to the tube station, many were distinctly put out by the whole process.

The main gripes were from the women, who said how "unfair" it had been - several said their outfits had been covered by coats.

"Myleene doesn't want any pretty rivals," said one, while another added that it had been a "waste of time" as "they picked more boys than girls".

Myleene Klass
Myleene Klass was a distant figure in an upstairs window
The complaints continued on the tube train, with the disappointed rejects commiserating as they travelled home again.

"I was absolutely stunned at the harshness of that - I couldn't believe it," said one.

It sounds like he has just had his first taste of showbusiness.

The BBC's David Sillito
"Nothing is going to stop the wannabes"
See also:

03 Feb 02 | Music
In pictures: Hear'Say auditions
28 Jan 02 | Music
Hear'Say reveal audition date
18 Jan 02 | Music
Crisis talks for Hear'Say
14 Jan 02 | Music
Hear'Say in talks over Kym
30 Nov 01 | Reviews
Hear'Say race against time
28 Dec 01 | Music
Bookies tip Hear'Say split
26 Dec 01 | Music
End of the road for Steps
24 Dec 01 | Music
Chart stars and flops of 2001
05 Feb 01 | Entertainment
To Popstardom and beyond
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