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MPs voice concern over children’s talent search

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A children’s talent competition promising thousands of pounds worth of prizes to participants has been accused of leaving its winners empty-handed.

An early day motion put forward by Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden expresses “deep concern” that organisation Festival for Stars Talent Search UK is encouraging children and families to take part in the 2013 competition when issues arising from last year’s events remain unresolved.

The motion, in which Marsden urges Trading Standards and other regulatory agencies to investigate the “serious allegations”, has so far attracted 15 signatures from MPs.

Prizes that were promised to children include tickets to theme parks, the chance to perform at Disneyland Paris, plus a £25,000 value prize going to the overall winner of the competition to “invest” in their future.

Parents who entered their children into the competition say around 40 prizes were offered to runners-up and winners at the singing and dancing finals, which took place at the end of last year.

Annie Tyas, whose son was named a runner-up in the dance final and is yet to receive his promised theme park tickets, said: “To tell all those children that they’ve won something and give them a date when to expect it and then to give them nothing, not even a sorry – you can’t do that. My son is 16 years old but some of the kids stood on that stage were aged five.

“It’s really hard as a parent to scrape money together for the dancing classes and rehearsals as it is, but then to see the children upset after they think they’ve won something and then you explain they haven’t is really hard.”

She said the cost for her three children entering the competition, transport and accommodation at the finals was in the region of £500, with costumes and dance rehearsal classes on top.

Marsden told The Stage that, given the “continuing queries and concerns” expressed by organisations involved with this year’s event, there is need for “full and frank disclosure” from Festival for Stars Talent Search UK director Nicholas Pamment regarding the criticism levelled at him.

Pamment denies his company is responsible for providing prizes to last year’s competition participants because he claims he only took over the 2012 competition from the previous organisation to oversee the last three events of the year.

He claims former competition organiser UK Festival 4 Stars is liable for funding all prizes – except the £25,000 value prize, which is his company’s responsibility as it was a “sponsorship commitment”. But he said for “morally” driven reasons he is attempting to provide some of the outstanding prizes to the children.

His solicitor said: “Mr Pamment denies he entered into any obligation that he or Festival for Stars Talent Search UK would fund prizes. Any statements he made about prizes during the events were in the context of the sub-contractual relationship [with UK Festival 4 Stars].

“The prizes were to be provided by UK Festival 4 Stars. Without the involvement of Festival for Stars Talent Search UK, there would have been no finals.”

The director of UK Festival 4 Stars, listed on Companies House as Jean Hargreaves, could not be reached for comment.

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