POPULAR reality TV singing contest Idols returns to Nelson Mandela Bay for auditions next week after the show skipped the city last season.
Three Port Elizabeth singers made the top 18 in 2012 after having auditioned elsewhere in the country. The Bay's Melissa Allison, who auditioned in Johannesburg, made it to the final but was beaten by Durbanite Khaya Mthethwa.
Now in its ninth season, the show will again give thousands of hopefuls an opportunity to showcase their talents and this time Bay entrants will not have to go further than the Boardwalk's Vodacom Amphitheatre.
The about-turn comes after Eastern Cape radio station Algoa FM convinced producers to return to the Bay, though with a twist.
Last year they gave Port Elizabeth a miss in favour of Limpopo and Soweto.
Station marketing manager Toinette Koumpan said Algoa FM had a long standing relationship with M-Net.
"M-Net has always tried to include the Eastern Cape in their programmes, but that has not always been possible.
"We approached M-Net and said that it would be great if we could be given an opportunity to host the auditions in Port Elizabeth," she said.
"They realised there is a lot of talent this side and they have previously unearthed a lot of talent from PE."
M-Net's Lani Lombard said Algoa FM, M-Net and Mzansi Magic "made a plan to find some great singers in PE" after receiving "many requests from potential Idols".
"The Idols judges – Gareth Cliff, Unathi Msengana and Randall Abrahams – won't be coming to Port Elizabeth and the auditions won't be filmed. Instead, we have devised a preliminary audition process during which three singers will be selected to go to the official Idols auditions in Johannesburg," Lombard said.
"There, the Idols judges will decide whether they are good enough to get a coveted golden ticket to the next round of Idols – the theatre phase at Sun City."
Port Elizabeth-born jazz artist Asanda Bam said the fact the competition was coming to Port Elizabeth was a "great" opportunity for Idols hopefuls.
"I think there's so much talent in PE and there are people who do not have the means to travel to other cities for the auditions."
Koumpan said the auditions would be held on Monday and Tuesday.
Monday's judges – Algoa FM music manager Keri Martens, Vudujazz member Asanda Myataza and Two Tone Music's Gareth Williams – will choose the top 100 contestants.
On Tuesday, Algoa FM presenter Viv Bozack, Idols vocal coach Malie Kelly and M-Net's Lani Lombard will narrow the number down to the top three.
"The three will audition in front of the television judges [in Johannesburg]," Koumpan said.
Bozack said he would be looking for someone who had a beautiful voice and was energetic and fresh. "I want someone who will not only be an idol, but who will also be an artist."
It was a shame that many Port Elizabeth hopefuls had missed out previously," Bozack said.
"People from this part of the world tend to do well in the competition.
"I'm very excited that Idols is coming to PE."