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Rio On The Hunt For Talent

Published on May 18th 2005.

What do footballers do when the season is over? Apart from hanging around the likes of Panacea, the standard summer for a footballer is to go on holiday, do up the house(s) and have a two month long barbecue. Not so Rio Ferdinand, who is set to be a busy chappy after the Cup Final. Aside from contemplating a Man United future under Malcolm Glazer, he will be tackling his first passion head on with his record label White Chalk.

We met Rio down at Key 103 at the end of a full day’s battering from the press about the label, set up after a lifelong love affair with music, and the Talent Quest competition that is coming to a head to find a potential successful urban act in Manchester after whittling down 500 entries from an array of young talent aged between 10 and 25.

Apart from developing a love of football, Rio’s 'bit on the side' is a lust for music. He was brought up surrounded by it, with his family heavily involved in all aspects of it. “My uncle was heavily into house music and my auntie was signed to Pete Waterman. I’ve always had good people around me and strong support when it comes to my interest in music,” says Rio. A little known fact is that he was even offered a five year scholarship at the Central School of Ballet after showing potential as a promising young dancer.

Rio set up the White Chalk label with his partner and lifelong friend Courtney Richardson, who has also worked with top female UK and international artistes – Javine and Estelle. Production Director Audrey Behaire has been involved in music for 23 years and was once signed to Pete Waterman PWL Music.

His family were doing something similar with 'Vocal Zones', a talent search in London, when Rio realised his passion for music could be transferred into something similar, and the chance to do something pro-active with it in Manchester was particularly inviting.

White Chalk’s label is already up and running after signing up Kyla, an R&B performer, and potential star of the future. But the label’s not just about signing up talent when they spot it, Rio’s more interested in giving the talent access to an audience by setting up competitions and events such as this one.

The Talent Quest competition kicked off in December, where Rio tempted hordes of people into the auditions on a Sunday, at the Dance House Theatre. On a day similar to those of the Pop Idol auditions or Hollyoaks trials, people were queuing up around the block for a chance of stardom.

These first heats took place in December, 500 initial acts were whittled down to 60. Three heats of 20 then took place at the Contact Theatre where some already established acts including Raw T and Shola Ama provided some of the entertainment and added a hint of what might be for the aspiring youngsters.

The finalists - 18 of them - will be judged on the 3rd June by a panel including Rio himself with pal Courtney, Mike Toolan, Johnny Jay, Trevor Dwyer-Lynch and Lynsey Horn.

One thing Rio is keen to promote via the competition is diversity. He said: “I don’t want to pigeonhole so there is a good mixture of acts in the final. It's Urban talent that has won through, not an individual type of music. The talent and dedication have been unbelievable, some of the acts even have built in studios in their homes.”

So what’s in store for the potential winner? A host of prizes and sponsorship opportunities, plus the chance to record a song on the White Chalk label together with the option of a potential album.

The White Chalk competition is also not the only way that Rio is searching for raw talent. “I’m pretty approachable at the end of the day,” he says “Just last week I had a girl come up to me to discuss how she could get herself listened to. The next day she sent her demo tape in and we’re listening to it now.”

Rio’s Talent Quest final takes place on June 3rd at the Opera House in Manchester. With appearances from the likes of Estelle, Lethal B and Kyla, you can book your tickets by calling 0870 401 9000 or check out the website - www.whitechalkmusic.com

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