Back in April this year, I got an email from The X Factor informing me of the big audition at Arsenal a couple of days later. I got through all 3 of the producer auditions (1 on the initial day and 2 the day after), and it wasn't until 2 months had passed that I got my cheery rejection email. I wanted to keep it a secret until it was all over, so I only told one person about it, but now that I've been booted out I may as well shed some light on the audition process.
On Sunday 13th April 2014 I woke up at 4:15, made myself some sandwiches, and crept out the door to the enchanting world of bird song that exists early in the morning. I got on a train and shared the carriage with a very sniffly man, which was kinda reassuring as I always get sniffly and sneezy after I wake up, so we were both trying to control our noses, and failing. As it was a Sunday, and the Victoria line didn't start for a while, I ended up waiting in the cold station with a bunch of people on their way home from a night out, until the gates were opened at around 7 and everyone shuffled through the station in a bleary haze. I was glad to finally be on a warm tube train, but as soon I was at Finsbury Park and had to leave for the chilly outdoors again. I walked over to Arsenal stadium and found the queue halfway up a staircase. I didn't know how long it was because I had spotted the queue from the back, and the front snaked around parts of the staircases and building. A girl with red lipstick named Amelia and her brilliant mum joined the queue shortly after I arrived, as well as boy with glasses and his dad. These people would be my company for the day. I listened to them talk and snacked on Hula Hoops. I tried to read but my hands struggled with the cold.
After a while the queue moved forward and we ended up between barriers like we were queuing for a ride at Thorpe Park. I was surprised that I didn't get bored, but it was pretty fun and interesting just being there. I don't think everyone else felt that way, but spirits were pretty high, and after a while everyone around me started chatting and joking and singing to each other, which really helped to take my mind off the waiting. Everyone around me was really cool, but the mum/daughter, son/dad group of four immediately around me were so fun to be around, I was really happy they were there.
As the morning crept on, the sun shone brighter and edged across the queue. When it got to us we were so happy. The warmth felt so good after standing in the cold for hours. It was a really nice, sunny day after that, which was a relief, although changing temperatures really affect your voice. Eventually, it came time for the X Factor people to start filming their external shots. We were informed of this by an irritating man's voice coming through a speaker and then we heard the X Factor music followed by a bunch of well known songs, which we were instructed to "go mad" for. They shot people waving their arms and "flexing the x" before getting an enthusiastic Jamaican guy to sing an impromptu song about how good The X Factor is. Then they picked out some people on the main stairway up to the stadium to shout "I've got the x factor!" After that we had a long break and we kept being reassured that Dermot O' Leary was on his way out. He didn't turn up for about 5 years and I couldn't see him from where I was standing. He did some quick links and the guy who was trying to direct and excite the crowd gave him a really awkward bum compliment. Lots of the crowd were given X Factor themed foam fingers to wave about during all these segments. After the filming was all done, crowd guy promised we'd be let into the stadium soon (which of course, we weren't, unless your definition of "soon" is more like my definition of "in the far future"). When we were allowed into the stadium we filtered in slowly and were lead inside to sit in the stalls and gaze out at the footie pitch and the bright sun overhead. I was starting to overheat, so I sat on the floor in front of my seat where I could get a bit of shade and read my book whilst Amelia and her family (2 more members had arrived and were very much enjoying themselves) chatted to one of the stewards. We had been separated from the boy and his dad late in the queue as they were being filmed for some walking queue shots (very important TV business).
After this part we were taken to a room filled with a lot of chairs and at the back we could see the black booths we would have our auditions in and we could hear people singing inside them. Our auditions were getting close! We were moved fairly quickly in this room and soon we were standing in a small queue next to the booths. A Portuguese boy and his friends spoke to me and Amelia and they wished us luck, etc. Just as we got to the head of the queue the boy from the queue's dad appeared and wished us luck. A woman directed me to the booth right in front of me and I went in to see two smiley producers. They asked me a few questions - to tell them about myself, why I was auditioning, and what the last album I bought was. I nervously told them I was an art student, that I made YouTube videos, that I used to be more snooty about pop music, and that I wasn't sure what the last album I got was, but that I had recently gotten Little Mix's Salute and loved it. Then it was time to sing. My song was John Legend's All of Me. Unfortunately my mind COMPLETELY blanked. I had to fish the lyrics out of my bag and I was sure I'd screwed it up, but producer #1 handed me a golden ticket. This was a weird moment, since I'd fully prepared myself to be sent home straight away, so I was totally shocked to have gotten a yes,
Brimming with the desire to fist pump, I ran over to the boy's dad to kind of just be excited at him. He and friends-of-Portuguese-boy congratulated me, and then I headed up the little staircase in front of me to register for the next audition. I was followed by Amelia and we sat down in chairs arranged in a square of 10 or so small rows in front of a little panel of X Factor people at computers who were handing out release forms to lucky auditionees. A young woman started talking to Amelia and I listened to her describe her audition experience from the previous year (she had made it to second audition and had then gotten a no). Row by row we moved quite swiftly forward, everyone excited and tired. I looked back hoping to see the boy who had been with us all day, but he didn't appear. He must have gotten a no (he had also been to the previous year's audition and had been turned away at the second audition - Amelia and I were first time auditionees). I got to the panel and was given my release form and a golden piece of paper with details of my second audition, which would be the next morning at 7:30. Half of me was was relieved to have it so soon so I could get it out of the way, but the other half was not looking forward to another early start. I left around 4pm.
Pictures from day 1:
|a shot of the lines around me and the 2 screens up top (these displayed tweets tagged #XFauditons)|
|Amelia's amazing mum bottom right|
|the clean up begins as we finally start going into the stadium|
|found a secluded bathroom to take a selfie in before I went home (important)|
|admiring the sun on my way out|
The early start didn't seem too bad in comparison with the 4:15 start of the previous day, so I was pretty energised and ready to go. I could hear my mum coughing, which worried me a bit because I hadn't told her I was auditioning and didn't want her to know yet, but obviously leaving the house at 5:40 is somewhat suspicious. She must have fallen asleep by the time I left though, because I went without a hitch.
I ended up getting to Arsenal about the same time as I had on Sunday - 7:30. I found the queue - much smaller this time, I was behind around 100 people (vague estimate). I saw Amelia join the queue not much later. It was as cold as the previous morning, but I was comforted by the fact that we wouldn't be waiting outside for so long. This day was a lot more comfortable for us. After an hour or so we were allowed inside. We were given stickers with our numbers on just like the ones you see on TV (this felt kinda cool) and we went up into a holding room with lots of chairs strewn in rough circles for us. Shortly, a woman with a clipboard came over to interrupt my sandwich consumption and herd us toward our allocated audition rooms (mine was Room A). We were shown through a corridor and placed in small queues outside our rooms. We could hear contestants inside singing their hearts out. A lovely girl in a red dress chatted to me and a loud and funny girl in a pink peplum top made us laugh, which we all needed as nerves were bouncing off the walls. People would come out of the room with a red ticket and a grin, or else they would come out saying something positive through gritted teeth. It seems a bit weird, maybe, to be upset, but I think anyone who's gone through the rigour of the process up to that point can't avoid feeling a bit hurt at least just given the amount of energy expended for it.
After watching several people go in and come out of the room, it was my turn. There were three (I think) producers this time, and a little black x on the floor. I put my tote bag to one side and stood on the x. They asked me a few questions, similar to those from the first audition, and I answered with more clarity, which I felt good about. I felt less nervous than I had at the first audition. I sang All of Me again, except I forgot the fourth line, stopped for a moment to chastise myself, and then carried on, skipping to the next line. They gave me the red ticket and one of the producers said "learn your lyrics!" I felt grateful for that emphasis and glad that, whilst I had forgotten one line, it was a big improvement on the first audition. I left the room and kind of sped past everyone in a daze whilst they were all excited about my outcome.
This meant another audition, which I knew was a same-day thing. I wasn't sure where to go next, so I wandered around the holding room clutching my red ticket until I found the woman who had lead us down the corridor earlier on. She told me to go the opposite way down the same corridor to reach the next place. When I got there, there was a small panel with 3 X Factor people and their computers. I had to register with them, show them my ID, and let them photocopy my passport. I also had my photo taken. Then I walked through to sit down in the smaller, brighter, and airport-like holding room with the 20 or so people who had passed the second round. I didn't see Amelia, so I figured she must've gotten a no at her second audition. Slowly some more people arrived, but not many. We were going to be the very first that day to have the third audition. The sun shone through the room beautifully and I spent the next expanse of time going through my lyrics again and again, trying to fuse them into my mind as much as possible for the next, and last, audition. Eventually a man came and read out some names and took people somewhere else. When he returned a second time, my name was called. Our little group was taken up some stairs onto a balcony corridor overlooking the room we had just been sitting in. We sat on chairs across from audition rooms and waited as X Factor people ran back and forth in front of us. It was a bit hotter up here so I started to sweat. I continued reciting the lyrics and listened to the conversation of the people sat next to me. One by one the folks to my right took their auditions. When the woman who was last to go before me went in, I prepared to go in. I ran over my lyrics again, hoping they were really solid in my mind by now. Then an X Factor person came along and asked our group's minder (who we had chatted to about his job and uni and things - he was very soft spoken and nice) to take some people for the audition room she was in charge of, because that room had run out of auditionees. So just as I was preparing myself, I was moved along the corridor to a new room. This threw me a little, but I tried to keep preparing and composing myself. And then it was time. At this point I'd heard we would not hear the results of this audition for 6-8 weeks. I went in to see three producers and another person behind a camera. There was a microphone pointed at me, and another little x on the floor. I put my bag to the side and answered the same sort of questions again. I thought this seemed like good practice for job interviews and I knew I was improving with each one. I told them an anecdote about watching Jarvis Cocker on TOTP when I was little and wanting to grow up to be him. Then I sang John Legend again. And I forgot the fourth line again, but only for a second. I laughed and continued, and then the song was over and I said goodbye and that was it. I was happy it was over. I talked to the other contestants who had just auditioned as we waited for a runner to show us out. Lots of others had forgotten their lyrics too, and the girl who had auditioned right after me in the same room had also sang "All of Me". We were taken down in a lift and left the stadium. I was a bit annoyed about my mistake, but I felt like the experience of 3 successive auditions had been really useful. I knew my performance had improved with each one.
|my sticker for day 2 (auditions 2 and 3)|
I waited 2 months from my auditions to get turned away from the show, and it was a sad moment when I was finally rejected, but never before has a rejection actually made me so determined to improve and work hard. The audition experience itself was a whole lot more fun than I thought it would be. I met so many lovely and talented people, and found the workings of it all really interesting. Obviously this process is not for everyone, but even through the nerves and the rejection I found it so encouraging. I'm proud of myself for auditioning because it's proved to me how capable I am despite all nerves and awkwardness and mistakes and anxiety and EVERYTHING and it's solidified even further how much I love singing and performing!