The Poison Berries

THEY dream of making it big in the pop music world, and four local acts took a step towards fulfilling that dream when they won through auditions to reach the London East regional final of this year s Live and Unsigned competition. There s still a long w

THEY dream of making it big in the pop music world, and four local acts took a step towards fulfilling that dream when they won through auditions to reach the London East regional final of this year’s Live and Unsigned competition.

There’s still a long way to go, but the ultimate prize is a �30,000 recording contract and a slot at the Live and Unsigned Festival at the O2, North Greenwich, in July. The audition was the first time teenage indie band The Poison Berries had performed. Matt Mason, 12, of Headley Drive, Gants Hill, Kat Charkov, 17, of Armstead Walk, Dagenham, Joe Giddings, 17, of Marshalls Drive, Romford, and Dean MacDonald, 18, of Parkside Avenue, Romford, then played their first public gig two weeks ago at Cricklefields Sports and Social Club, Ilford, before performing at The Bridgehouse II, Canning Town, on Friday.

Drummer Matt, a pupil at Oaks Park School, Oaks Park, Newbury Park, said: “We’ve only been together three months. Kat advertised for band members and we’ve been working in the studio my dad built in my back garden. “We’re really pleased to get through the audition because it was the first time we’d done a performance in front of people other than our parents. “We play all original material.” Matt, who has been in other bands before, is determined to make music his career. “I want to be in a famous band,” he says. Jack Jones, is a 27-year-old producer and artist, who describes his sound as a mixture of hip-hop, grime, R&B and himself.

The audition, in which hundreds of acts were whittled down, was particularly nerve-wracking for Jack, of St James Road, Stratford, as it was the first time he had performed in front of anyone. He said: “The very first time I have performed in front of an audience was at the audition on Saturday. But I really believe I have got what it takes to get there.” Jack, real name Jahmiel Bailey-Evans, plans to stand out from other hip-hop artists by focusing on positive things rather than his troubled past. He has been involved in music since he was 13, when he was a huge fan of Michael Jackson. But in his late teens and early 20s Jack admits to carrying knives and being involved in gang fights and drugs.

He said: “For young black boys, everyone spends so much time being someone they are not. Now they have gone left and I have gone right.”

He came up with the name Jack Jones, cockney rhyming slang for on your own, as being solitary reflects his music. “I was always on my own doing my own things. I really place myself as a producer first and foremost but an artist after.” “I want people to appreciate what I’m doing and when they listen to my music”, he added. “I want people to interact with it.” And the next stop on the road to fame will be an audition in front of a live studio audience on March 6 ahead of the grand final at the O2 on July 10 where around 20 acts will battle it out for a two-year management and recording contract. Folk singer Francesca Bassenger, 20, of Upney Lane, aspires to be Barking’s female Billy Bragg. She said: “It feels great to get through to the next round because I haven’t played to so many people before.” Rappers Greeze Official – Justin Bruney, 15, Danny Martin, 14 and Kieran Roberts, 14 – are proud to be flying the flag for Barking and Dagenham in the competition. Justin, of Barking, said: “We want to represent the area and get our music heard.” The regional final in front of will take place at 3pm on March 6 at the Towngate Theatre, Basildon. Tickets cost �7.50.

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