The hunt is on to uncover the hidden artistic skills of the South West and beyond, with the launch of a new online talent competition by the North Somerset mental health charity Vine Counselling Services, based in Congresbury. 

Unlock Your Talent is an online talent festival created by multi-award winning musician and songwriter Rachel Mason in collaboration with the charity. 

Launching this week, top prizes include platinum recording packages and singing, art, dance and photographic masterclasses. Internationally renowned artists including Strictly Come Dancing professional dancer Karen HauerDeke Sharon, the musical director of the Pitch Perfect movies, Ruti (winner of The Voice 2018) and Hamilton cast member Aaron Lee Lambert, to name but a few, will be joining the judging panel. 

Contestants of all ages are being invited to demonstrate their abilities across a broad spectrum of artistic platforms including dance, music, drama, art, photography, film making, graphic design, make up, poetry and short story writing. 

When Rachel learned that the charity’s finances had been seriously affected by the covid-19 pandemic, she decided she would do something to help. Calling upon her celebrity contacts through her work as one of the top vocal teachers in the UK and a judge for Sky One’s Sing: Ultimate A Cappella, she has organised the Unlock Your Talent Festival with the aim of raising funds for the charity whilst at the same time inspiring people to embrace art during these stressful times. 

“I was thinking about how I could support people during lockdown – and it suddenly occurred to me that I could create one big event that would tick lots of boxes including supporting young people and encouraging good mental health,” said Rachel. As the UK’s current Freelancer of the Year, she also wanted to help self-employed people who are suffering at the hands of covid-19. 

As a vocal teacher and mentor to young musicians, Rachel, who often works from her North Somerset studio, is also aware of how many young people are feeling bereft having put so much effort into their art, music, media and dance GCSE, A Level and degree coursework, only to be told that it will not be marked by teachers or examiners. She is hoping that the festival will encourage them to enter and show off their work to industry professionals from all over the world. Participants will be asked to make a small donation of £5, £10 or £20 for each entry via Just Giving. 

Vine Counselling Services offers donation-based professional counselling to people in the community who are struggling due to bereavement, stress, anxiety, abuse, isolation, loneliness, family problems and other issues. During the covid-19 lockdown, Vine has set up a video and telephone service to enable the charity to continue to offer support during this difficult time until face-to-face counselling can be resumed. 

Liz Linnitt, Director of Vine Counselling Services, said: “We know many people are experiencing immense pressures and different challenges during these unchartered waters of lockdown and others may need more support when we are navigating a new ‘normal’. We’re doing our very best to continue to provide our crucial services but our fundraising is being seriously impacted because we’ve had to cancel many planned events. We hope the Unlock Your Talent Festival will encourage people to explore the joy of art and at the same time, bring in some much-needed additional funds for the charity. We’re extremely grateful to Rachel for supporting us.” 

Go to www.vinecounselling.org for more information about entering plus the prizes, judges, and categories. Participants must submit their work via a video or photograph.  Closing date is 31 May 2020.