Hoping for high ol’ times on the high seas

Artists audition at Viva for a chance to perform on cruise ships.
Artists audition at Viva for a chance to perform on cruise ships.
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It’s the job every artist wants...

Sailing around the world on a luxury cruise ship and performing to happy holidaymakers every night is the stuff dreams are made of for acts hoping to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Jane McDonald and hit the big time.

Forget the huge pull of X Factor auditions or a chance to impress Simon Cowell on Britain’s Got Talent, a 15 minute slot in front of agents from Scandinavia’s main cruise companies in a Blackpool showbar was the ‘one chance’ moment for acts from around the globe.

Acrobats from Kiev, artists from Portugal and a pianist from Scunthorpe were just some of those eager to travel to Blackpool and vie for a three month slot on a ship from either Color Line, Silje Line or Tallink Line, cruising the Baltic Sea.

Ashley James, 27, ‘a melodic, soulful pianist and acoustic guitarist’, according to a bio handed to agents, travelled from Scunthorpe hoping for his first cruise ship contract and his luck to change.

“I’ve never worked on a cruise ship before,” he said.

“I was supposed to go from Portsmouth and around Europe but had to cancel because of illness.

“It will be a great experience to work on a cruise ship and add another string to my bow.

“I do a lot of weddings and christenings and perform at bars and clubs but thought I would give this a try.

“This appeals to me because it’s good money but I want to be as versatile as possible and try my hand at something a little bit different.”

Sam Harrison, 23, from Lincoln, plays guitar, piano, ukulele and the accordion and introduced a taste of Lancashire into his audition set with a performance of George Formby’s When I’m Cleaning Windows.

He said: “Being on a cruise ship is exciting and more stable than other gigs.

“Working on one would offer me long term benefits such as better pay and an opportunity to travel the world.

“I’m passionate about the Northern Lights and working on a Scandinavian liner is an amazing opportunity to see them.”

Steve Redman, managing director of IDEA Entertainment, organised the two days of auditions at VIVA Blackpool on Church Street.

The company was set up in 1973 and originally based outside of Oslo, Norway’s capital city, until it was bought by Mr Redman 17 years ago.

He brought the company back to the Fylde coast to inject some Blackpool magic into his venture.

“I’m originally from Blackpool and spent a lot of time travelling back from Norway, so we based ourselves here and went from strength to strength,” he said.

“We do some auditions in London but with Blackpool being my home town I wanted to come back here and inject some of the old school entertainment into Blackpool, which I’m very passionate about.

“If you look at the people who have come to our auditions over the last couple of days, they come from far and wide and we are keeping our fingers crossed we can bring some of the acts back to Blackpool to perform in bars.”

Jane McDonald is just one of many stars to make it big as an actress, singer, and presenter after starting her career on a cruise ship.

Mr Redman says there are a wealth of opportunities for those lucky enough to earn a place treading the boards on one of the liners which visit Finland, Estonia, Sweden and Latvia.

He added: “There are a number of things they can get out of the cruise industry.

“It’s a job throughout the year which is a big benefit because a lot of acts in the UK perform in the summer.”

Retired ballerina turned entertainment manager, Annika Maddison, was casting her experienced eye over those taking to the stage.

She knows what a predominantly Scandinavian cruise ship audience wants and admits not everyone turning up to the auditions is the best fit for on-ship entertainment.

Annika said: “The levels are so different you have to keep in mind what you are looking for.

“Sometimes the act is great but you have nothing to offer them and can’t use them.

“Ships won’t change.

“They will always have a piano bar and show bar, you can’t make any different venues.

“The acts have to fit in and if they do you have got to use them wherever you can.

“It’s appealing to artists because they have work every night for three months.

“They don’t just have one night at work because on a ship they perform every night and for 12 weeks.”