Song sensations...

Talented youngsters shone brightly as the search for a star reached its height.

Nine children battled it out in front of hundreds of shoppers in the Search For A Summer Star grand final.

The contest was run by the Fishergate Shopping Centre in Preston in conjunction with the Lancashire Evening Post.

Recent weeks have seen hundreds of youngsters take to the microphone to dazzle judges with their singing talents in heats following gruelling phone auditions.

The nine finalists aiming to scoop the prestigious title were Melanie Waite from Leyland, Lucy Fellows from Longton, Kingsley Judd from Penwortham, Aimee-Jai Dunlop from Walton-le-Dale, Alice Salisbury from Fulwood, Preston, Katy Johnston from Much Hoole, Katie Dowd from Southport, Daisy Wignall from Hesketh Bank and Kathy Smith from Farington Moss, Leyland.

The title eventually went to Melanie Waite, 14, who delivered two stunning renditions of Killing Me Softly by Roberta Flack and My Guy.

Melanie, who attends Balshaws High School in Leyland, also scooped the Lancashire Evening Post's Search For A Star contest held at the Charter Theatre in 2000 when she was just 10. She said: "I didn't expect to win the competition but I was hopeful!

"I am really pleased. The contest has been fantastic and there was a lot of talent displayed in the final. Everybody performed really well.

"Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross are my heroes and I just love all the soul singers from the 1960s and 1970s.

"My dad Stephen is a really big fan and his interest had rubbed off on me."

Daisy Wignall, who attends Tarleton High School, scooped second place with her performances of Thank You by Ashanti and Eva Cassidy's Hallelujah, I Love Him So.

The 15-year-old is no stranger to stardom as she will appear in the Lancashire-based BBC hit drama Born and Bred in the spring.

Her brother James Wignall, 19, has also starred as Max Humphries in Grange Hill for the last three years.

Daisy said: "I didn't expect to be second at all. There was so much competition in the final. Everybody was really good."

Lucy Fellows, 12, who attends All Hallows Catholic High School in Penwortham, wooed the crowd with her version of DJ Sammy's Heaven and Every Time by Britney Spears to finish third.

She said: "I was nervous singing my first song but with the second one, I was more confident. I think this competition has shown how many talented youngsters there are around the area."

Alice Salisbury, 10, who attends Our Lady and St Edward's Catholic Primary, impressed the audience by singing Fighter by Christina Aguilera and On My Own from the hit musical Les Miserables.

Alice, who finished fourth, said: "I would love to be a singer in the future and Christina Aguilera is my idol."

The four winners will receive Fishergate Shopping Centre vouchers ranging from 50 to 500 in the next month.

Centre manager Keith Mitchell said: "I was very impressed by the quality of performances from all of our contestants which made judging the competition extremely difficult."

Judge Gareth Harding from the Broughton Academy of Music said: "The children were exceptionally talented and choosing the winner was a tough decision.

"Such contests build up confidence in children and give them encouragement.

"I have really enjoyed being involved in it. It has been great fun."

e-mail: geraldine.baybutt@lep.co.uk