Touching tribute wins talent prize for Lancaster school pupil

Charity Stars runner-up Rachel Coombs from Hest Bank.
Charity Stars runner-up Rachel Coombs from Hest Bank.
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A schoolgirl from Hest Bank won a prize at a talent show thanks to a poignant song she wrote in memory of her grandfather.

Rachel Coombs took second place in the annual Charity Stars event raising money for St John’s Hospice where her grandad was cared for.

The 17-year-old singer and keyboard player, who goes to Lancaster Girls Grammar School, impressed a panel of judges including X Factor star Paul Akister with her song ‘Driftwood’.

She was only seven when her grandad Robert Hardman, who lived in Hest Bank, passed away.

Rachel said: “I wrote the song for the hospice to reflect the care offered by the centre and the sense of hope and loss which reflects the fantastic work they do.”

Each contestant in the event, held at Lancaster Grand Theatre on Saturday night, represented a chosen charity.

Charity Stars ( from left to right) judge and X Factor finalist Paul Akister, judge Darren Milby from The Bay, judge Sue Heron from Furness Building Society, competition winner Chris Barker, host Danny Matthews from The Bay, competition runners up Rachel Coombs and Rebecca Williams, judge Greg Lambert from The Visitor, and judge and singer Amy-Jo Clough.

Charity Stars ( from left to right) judge and X Factor finalist Paul Akister, judge Darren Milby from The Bay, judge Sue Heron from Furness Building Society, competition winner Chris Barker, host Danny Matthews from The Bay, competition runners up Rachel Coombs and Rebecca Williams, judge Greg Lambert from The Visitor, and judge and singer Amy-Jo Clough.

Singer Chris Barker won top prize after a spine-tingling rendition of ‘The Impossible Dream’.

Lancaster soul man Paul Akister, who earned acclaim for his powerful vocals on The X Factor in 2013 and 2014, told his fellow judges he thought Chris had a fantastic voice.

Chris scooped top prize of £1,000 for CAST Theatre Company, Barrow, which works to encourage disabled young people to become involved in theatre productions. In finishing second, Rachel won £750 for St John’s Hospice.

Rebecca Williams from Walney, representing Barrow Vision Support Centre and Ostley House, came third.

Photo: David Hurst - Finalist in the Charity Stars Competition held at The Grand Theatre, Lancaster, Brandon Hunter

Photo: David Hurst - Finalist in the Charity Stars Competition held at The Grand Theatre, Lancaster, Brandon Hunter

The finalists included two wild cards, Kate McCallum and Sally Featon used sign language to perform for 1 Voice Communicating Together in Morecambe, which provides services for people who cannot communicate by speaking.

The second wild card winner was nine-year-old Olivia Hunter from Lancaster, performing for Macmillan Cancer Support. Her powerful rendition of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ earned favourable comparisons from the judges to a young Susan Boyle. Other finalists included Becky Halpin, 19, from Morecambe representing Unique Kidz, Gabrielle Dams, also 19 and from Morecambe on behalf of Martin House Children’s Hospice, Rebecca Anne Wadeson, 14, appearing for Urban Angels Slyne-with-Hest and their Rebuild Mexico project, and 14-year-old dancer Brandon Hunter from Heysham representing the children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent. The show was hosted by Danny Matthews from The Bay and other judges were Sue Heron from organisers Furness Building Society, Darren Milby from The Bay, singer Amy Jo Clough and Greg Lambert from The Visitor.

Photo: David Hurst - Finalist in the Charity Stars Competition held at The Grand Theatre, Lancaster, Gabrielle Dams

Photo: David Hurst - Finalist in the Charity Stars Competition held at The Grand Theatre, Lancaster, Gabrielle Dams