Abi puts hopefuls through the hoops

Performer Abi Collins
Performer Abi Collins
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She’s hoping to be the hostess with the mostest at this year’s Showzam! Carnival Ball, but Abi Collins has a more important job as part of the week-long festival.

Cabaret performer Abi has pulled together the line-up for the glittering opener to the celebration of all things circus in the ‘gig of a lifetime’.

Matt Walsh from Blackpool is roped into Abi Collins' performance at the 2015 Showzam! Ball in the Tower Ballroom, Blackpool

Matt Walsh from Blackpool is roped into Abi Collins' performance at the 2015 Showzam! Ball in the Tower Ballroom, Blackpool

But her big hope for the week is being able to help launch a new cabaret star’s career, through Blackpool’s Got Strictly X Factor Talent contest, where she will spend three days mentoring participants during workshops, before two nights of judged performances.

Places are still available for the competition, with workshops on Monday to Wednesday, February 15 to 17, and performances in front of a judging panel on Thursday and Friday, February 18 and 19 at Bootleg Social.

Abi combines comic characters with skills such as ballet, hula hoop and singing for her own shows, and with fellow mentor – ‘juggling joker’ and circus school head lecturer Rod Laver – she hopes to uncover new talent.

“I would be so proud and honoured if I thought I had helped launch someone’s career from Blackpool,” Abi said. “From those who’ve already applied, I think we’re going to have a great mix of people, locally and from further afield – there’s even been someone from Belgium get in touch.

“Rod and I have 40, 50 years’ experience between us, and people can learn from each other too.

“Whatever you want to try, poetry, dance, singing, comedy, everybody is welcome, and if people have acts they are already working on, or if they come to us with nothing, we will do our best to give them the basics of an act they can go out with at the showcase.”

And while the contest has picked its name from some of the country’s best known TV shows, Abi’s keen to stress participants won’t be subjected to any humiliating ordeals during the week.

“The idea with the name was a bit tongue in cheek,” she said. “I am not a fan of talent shows. I don’t think they nurture people, they’re just looking for stories.

“So there won’t be any roasting of the acts in Blackpool’s Got Strictly X Factor Talent, it’s a supportive environment, although there is the reality of being a performer and getting out there, taking knocks and being open to criticism.”

Abi, who appeared at last year’s Carnival Ball and entertained families during Showzam! Central at the Winter Gardens, can’t wait to be back in the Tower Ballroom having been asked to compere the night, as well as putting together the bill.

“It’s the gig of a lifetime for me,” she said. “To be able to play my silly character Peggy Sued, and to programme the night with a rollercoaster of entertainment featuring everything that I love.

“I hope to give people the night of their life, to have them laugh, whoop, cheer and get tingles in their spines from the acts.”

Visit www.showzam.co.uk for the full festival programme or to buy tickets.