Teenage band proves Wearside has talent by winning annual contest

The event is designed to give young people aged between 11 and 18 the opportunity to showcase their talents.
The event is designed to give young people aged between 11 and 18 the opportunity to showcase their talents.
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Youngsters proved Wearside has talent after a teenage band won an annual competition.

Indie-pop four-piece band Saturn Highway were crowned winners of this year's Genfactor, which is organised by Sunderland-based housing association Gentoo.

The competition was held at Rainton Meadows Arena, in Houghton, with the group wowing judges with their rendition of Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’ in front of a 1,000-strong crowd.

The talent competition, which is in its eighth year, is designed to give young people aged between 11 and 18 the opportunity to showcase their talents.

By taking part, they are given the chance to learn new skills, meet new people and gain confidence by performing in front of a live audience.

Saturn Highway are made up of lead singer Olivia Glover, guitarists Brandon Ho and Dylan Abbott, and drummer Frazer Graham.

They met while performing at Genfactor 2015 and decided to come together to create an indie-pop band.

The band said: "We’re so happy! We didn’t expect to win as the level of talent was so high.

“We’ve loved every minute of it and can’t wait to use our vouchers to book recording studio sessions.

"We are also looking forward to supporting Gentoo at events in the future.”

As well as the winner, 15 other dancers and singers impressed the judges.

Joint second place was awarded to Tom Smith for his striking cover of Oasis’ ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ and Leoni Taylor for her powerful performance of Beyonce’s 'Listen'.

Third place went to Tahnee Kelly, who opened the night with a brilliant version of Whitney Houston’s 'I Will Always Love You’.

Judges included West End star Brandon Lee Sears, chief executive officer of Gentoo Group John Craggs, Sunderland-born singer Olivia Lawson - who appeared on ITV's The Voice - Lake Poets frontman Martin Longstaff and managing director at Sun FM, Julian Carter.

The audience was treated to a special performance from last year’s winner Mia Carney and were entertained by comperes Steve Walls and Simon and Danni, from Sun FM.

Mr Craggs said: “We have seen just how many talented young people we have in our city, and Genfactor is the perfect opportunity to celebrate and recognise that talent together.

“We’re delighted by the success of Genfactor and we’re grateful to everyone who has helped make this such a memorable evening.

“It has been fantastic to watch all of this year’s finalists grow in confidence and I hope they use Genfactor as a springboard to continue pursuing their passions. Congratulations to all on such a great achievement.”

Rebecca Ball, bid director of Sunderland 2021, said: “It was a brilliant evening.

"The talent this year has been of an incredibly high standard and all the finalists should be proud of what they achieved.

“It was great to see so many people and businesses in the audience supporting local people.

"With all these talented and ambitious young people in Sunderland, we can only succeed in our bid for City of Culture 2021.”

The event was supported by Gentoo Homes, Sunderland City Council, Sun FM, Sunderland Echo, Northumbrian Water, The Works, NRG, Grundfos, Aon, Bridges, Handlesbanken, Ashmore, NSPCC Sunderland Business Board and Rough Diamond.

Gentoo was also supported by media partners the Sunderland Echo and Sun FM throughout the build-up and the evening of the event.

More than £320 was collected through donations on the night, the funds will be split evenly across Gentoo’s three corporate charities: Walking with the Wounded, Grace House and MacMillan.

For more information about Gentoo, visit gentoogroup.com or follow @gentoogroup on Twitter.