Two singers have beaten hundreds of auditionees to make it through to the regional finals of a national open mic contest.

Simone Sheppard of Hitchin and Ellie Makewell of Stevenage both got the thumbs up from judges at the first round of the Open Mic UK contest to go on to join acts from across the south-east at Bedford Corn Exchange next month.

Soloists, groups, rappers and singer-songwriters will perform two cover songs in front of an audience of hundreds as well as a professional judging panel in a battle to make it to the finals at The 02 in London.

Mum-of-two Simone, used to sing with Hitchin’s Holy Saviour gospel choir, and said she wanted to get back into performing “to do something for me”.

“I can’t wait. I’m going to do an Ed Sheeran song, Lego House and mix it with the Arctic Monkeys’ Old Yellow Bricks – it doesn’t sound like it works, but it really does,” the 29-year-old said, adding: “My daughter (10-year-old Zhane) thinks it’s the best thing ever.”

Fourteen-year-old Ellie, who sang in The Sound of Music at the Gordon Craig Theatre in August and has landed the plum role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz at the venue in March, will perform in the 16 and under category, accompanying herself on piano.

She said she was also thinking of doing an Ed Sheeran number, but was not yet decided on the other one. “I’m thinking of doing something upbeat and then something slow, to contrast the two.”

The Nobel School pupil added she would love to have a career in the performing arts. “I love modern stuff, but I also love to do musical theatre. I would love to do anything performing in the future. It makes me really happy.”

The competition has led to stardom for some. Previous winner Birdy signed to Warner, who released her eponymously named, critically acclaimed album last year. She also performed at the Paralympic Games opening ceremony.

Events co-ordinator Chris Grayston said the judges are looking to find an act that has something unique to offer - “Another Birdy that can go all the way, with the ability to deliver a strong live performance but also potential to become a professional recording artist. There is much talent out there, I’m sure we’ll find that star again.”

Tickets for the regional finals on October 21 can be bought at