Edinburgh’s Got Talent: We uncover the hidden talents of everyday people

Arlene Stuart
Arlene Stuart
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Arlene Stuart looks forward to meeting the various entertainers who will be showcasing their abilities at the Festival Theatre in EGT, with chance to win £1000 top prize

‘I could do the limbo whilst balancing a beer on my head.” You sense Arlene Stuart is not being entirely serious when asked what she would do to wow the Edinburgh’s Got Talent judges.

“I don’t honestly know if I have a talent,” says the Forth One presenter.

“Well, my singing certainly isn’t up to scratch – I can’t stand to hear myself sing – and ventriloquism isn’t something I’ve ever attempted. I’m not very good at comedy, either. I am quite flexible, though – but I can’t do Tuesdays,” she giggles.

Luckily – or unfortunately, depending on your point view – we are unlikely to see Arlene as a stand-up comic or a beer-balancing limbo dancer in this year’s competition.

As ever, she will be compering the final, which takes place at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre on October 26.

Stuart has been involved with EGT since its inception back in 2009. It is a front-of-house role for Stuart who, as a radio presenter, we’re far more used to hearing than seeing her bright and cheery face.

Having started out as a newsreader and TV presenter on Grampian television in the late 80s, the 44-year-old has spent much of her broadcasting career out of sight.

“I worked at Grampian Television in Aberdeen, as a part-time receptionist and part-time clerk in the admin department,” she says.

“I went for every job that came up and eventually, once I had worn them down, they gave me a job as a continuity announcer.”

Stuart left Grampian in the mid-90s in order to become a presenter on Scottish Television’s children’s magazine show Wemyss Bay 902101. But that was before joining BBC Scotland as an announcer and transmission director. She also presented occasional programmes for the Corporation, including her own lifestyle show, Feeling Good, and was a regular presenter for BBC Scotland.

However, following on from a stint at Forth 2 presenting a weekday lunchtime show and a phone-in on Sunday mornings, Stuart landed a job co-presenting the weekday breakfast show Boogie in the Morning on Forth One alongside commercial and corporate voiceover work.

“Having worked in television, it’s a real pleasure to work in radio,” she says.

“I do like the fact, though, that people don’t necessarily know what I look like. When they do see me they’re quite surprised. They look at me and generally go ‘oh, I expected you to be younger’.”

Radio aside, Stuart takes on many roles outwith the station and hosts a number of events. She’s also something of a mother figure in the studio as well as on the stage, often providing moral support to EGT 
participants.

“I’m currently working on an ice-breaker for a ball, and there’s an event called Hit Or Miss, which is about people who think they know a lot about music, I’m involved with, too. I can be as immature as the next person, though,” she laughs, “and yet I have two kids at home to look after and one child in the studio called Boogie.”

However, says Stuart, “I come across all kinds of people – A-list celebrities who are very relaxed and know how to handle themselves. Those who take part in something like Edinburgh’s Got Talent need to know how to respond to questions, and new kids on the block probably haven’t learnt the art of projecting themselves. I like to help them with that.”

Should you manage to make the cut for EGT, in order to get through to the final, you’ll have to battle it out with one another to impress our panel of judges that includes producer Deborah Welsh, head judge and Evening News entertainment editor Liam Rudden, Boogie, and Forth One events manager Richie Jeffrey. For Stuart, it’s a chance to see locals shine.

“It’s lovely to be involved in Edinburgh’s Got Talent. Working in radio, you tend to focus on celebrities and pop stars. This is a wonderful experience and opportunity, though, to project yourself to a large audience, a chance to show off your hard work.

“It’s about uncovering the hidden talents of people who normally only show it during their spare time. I often hear people who get to the final of EGT or the Forth One Awards say that they never thought their talent would get them this far. Now they have an opportunity to take a chance, to do something wonderfully different and perhaps get the chance to perform to hundreds of people.”

With a cash prize of £1000 to tempt anyone thinking of entering the competition, the winner will go on to perform at the Usher Hall for the Forth One Awards. Now in its ninth year, the awards celebrates the hard work of people from across Edinburgh, the Lothians and Fife. It’s another opportunity, too, Stuart maintains, to rub shoulders with the big names, and learn a little as well.

“It’s a massive event. In the past, we’ve had people like Stereophonics and James Blunt perform so it’s good for young talent to perform alongside some of the big names. For me, it’s interesting to see how people involved develop over the years. It puts them in a unique 
position to learn from it.

“For instance, Gary Barlow is superb with the media, whereas someone like Aiden Grimshaw, who although a lovely guy, and talented, isn’t.”

It’s not just a case of media training, either, Stuart believes.

“You can receive all the media training you like, but unless you have confidence and the ability to respond to questions and handle a big crowd, it won’t work.”

The EGT format is a simple and effective one. However, if she had the chance to expand the show, Stuart would like to add a couple of small ideas.

“The format works really well the way it is. It’s a live show and people want to see things as they happen.

“It would be nice, however, if acts could combine, which would add a nice touch of variety. It’s difficult to co-ordinate, but perhaps a video camera could be installed so that all the backstage footage could be captured. Why not?”

Why not indeed.

Which is precisely what anyone with a hidden talent should be asking themselves.

So, quick – start filming yourself performing with your unique talent and you could end the year with a grand in your back pocket and having shared the stage with some of the biggest names in pop at the Usher Hall. You have until midnight on Sunday.

After that? Who knows – it might be you who ends up appearing on the telly being idolised by next year’s 
entrants.