PEOPLE who fancy themselves as the next James Arthur or Amelia Lily are being offered the chance to prepare themselves for X-Factor fame – with a 17-week college course.

The X Factor Preparation course at Bishop Auckland College is believed to be the first in the country aimed at specifically training people for the hit reality programme.

Performing arts staff decided to offer the unusual course, which starts next week and costs £95, after inviting North-East winner Joe McElderry to perform at the Bishop Auckland Music and Arts Festival last year.

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The three-day annual event, run by the college, attracted more than 6,000 festival-goers last June.

Also performing at the event was future winner James Arthur, from Saltburn, who was yet to become a household name.

Students on the course will receive technical tuition in singing and performing and coaching on how to project themselves confidently.

The course will end in time for the start of this year's X Factor auditions. Students will also be invited to perform at this year’s festival.

Mike Jinks, head of art, music and performing arts at Bishop Auckland College, said: “I wanted to run a course which prepared people for X Factor auditions and similar competitions across the country.

“Many applicants have talent but need to work on key things such as their singing technique and confidence.

“People auditioning also need to know that the ones who succeed on X Factor don’t just walk in there blind. It’s not about just wandering in, singing a song and you’re famous.

“Most applicants have been doing the rounds for years working really hard – it’s very rare that you get a Susan Boyle character.

“The course is also about giving people real, transferable skills. The biggest thing they will get out of it is confidence, whether this is for a future singing audition or a job interview.”

The X Factor Preparation course runs at the college’s main Woodhouse Lane campus from 6pm to 9pm every Monday night for 17 weeks, starting on January 21.

Actress and performer Susan Harris, who has worked with Lenny Kravitz and appeared on Emmerdale during her 25 year career, is leading the course.

There are 40 places available and no formal entry requirements. Those completing the course will receive a NCFE Level 1 Certificate in Music.

Mr Jinks added: “There are plenty of colleges running this qualification but as far as I’m aware none of them have designed the course around the X Factor.

“It’s something I came up with last year but it was finding the right time to run it as it had to be timed to finish when the X Factor auditions start.”

For more information call 01388-443000.