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The Corporation

Posted: 26/03/21

Ashley’s note-perfect performance seals talent show win

An aspiring recording artist at West Nottinghamshire College is celebrating after triumphing in a local talent competition.

Ashley performing on stage at the College’s Create venue, proudly sporting his brand-new acoustic guitar.

Ashley Westlake was crowned winner of the Ashfield and Eastwood’s Got Talent competition after wowing judges with his rendition of Ed Sheeran’s number-one hit Perfect, gaining a ‘perfect’ score of 30 out of 30.

The 16-year-old singer and self-taught guitarist scooped the grand prize of £500 – which he immediately spent on a brand-new Faith Venus ‘Naked Series’ Electro Cut acoustic guitar – and the promise of his first paid gig at Annesley restaurant Porterhouse by Barlows when it re-opens once Covid restrictions are lifted.

He was up against seven other finalists in the competition, which was organised by Ashfield MP Lee Anderson to lift the spirits of the local community during the latest lockdown. It attracted entries from singers, dancers, musicians and poets aged nine to 57. 

Ashley booked his place in the final by scoring 27 out of 30 for his performance of In My Life by The Beatles in the qualifying round. The top five acts qualified for the showpiece, joined by three wildcard acts chosen by the audience.

The grand finale was held on Zoom and was streamed on Facebook and YouTube to an audience of more than 10,000 people. Judging the acts were Mr Anderson, Sam Howlett, of Kirkby-in-Ashfield; Rebecca Price, of Eastwood; and chef Dave Marshall, from the Porterhouse by Barlows restaurant.

Ashley said: “I was amazed when my name was called out as the winner! I've taken part in so many competitions and usually I'm the runner-up, which is still nice, but to actually win was great.

“Knowing my hard work is paying off has made me want to progress further. I still have lots of work to do to get to where I want to be but it's given me that extra dedication.”

After quickly adjusting to the competition’s online format, Ashley got a major buzz from performing live to a virtual audience.

“Although it's never the same performing online – I love the feeling of being out there on stage –we have to make the best of what we have during these difficult times, and still continue with life the best we can.

“I was over-the-moon to perform so well and come out on top. I was jumping up and down with excitement, feeling really proud of myself.

“The opportunity to sing in Dave’s restaurant is incredible. I've taken part in various gigs and shows before but to be offered my first paid gig is amazing! I couldn't be happier.”

Mr Anderson said: “When I first organised the talent show I never expected to unearth such talent. It was lovely to see all age groups take part and watch the show. 

“As soon as Covid restrictions are eased, we are going to showcase the acts at The Diamond in Sutton. I also can’t wait to see Ashley perform at the Porterhouse.” 

Ashley, who lists Olly Murs, Ed Sheeran and The Beatles as his favourite artists, has been singing and playing music since he was a child.

“At around the age of five my mum bought me a guitar and ever since I've always had the passion,” he explained.

“I literally taught myself by watching video tutorials and the older I got, I could just listen to a song and know instantly which chords to start strumming. There's never a day or hour I don't have my guitar in my hands!

“I've also loved to sing from a young age and started vocal lessons with Empire Music School two years ago. I was so nervous and had only ever sang in my bedroom but my vocal coach, Kathie Ann Smart, was amazing and so patient.

“Not only does she help me with my singing, she opened up a huge range of opportunities for me, from gigs, to competing in big competitions such as Mansfield Junior Show Time, TeenStar and Open Mic UK, which all helped give me confidence to get out on stage.”

The talented teenager studies the Level 3 Subsidiary Diploma in Music at the college’s state-of-the-art Create building. He plans to return to college in September to gain his Level 3 Extended Diploma in Music, before progressing to higher education.

His dream is to forge a career in the music business.

Ashley said: “I love my college course; it’s the perfect course for me to further my future and career. The performance side is amazing and it's also giving me so much more knowledge about the technical aspects – and my tutors are ace.

“I want to be a recognised musician or artist, having sell-out tours and doing what I love best – living the passion I have for music.”