A NORTH-EAST company which says it helps would-be performers break into the entertainment industry is being investigated by trading standards officers.

Big Break Magazine, in Darlington, offers actors, singers, dancers and models a photo session and an advert in a casting directory for £195.

It also promises to provide participants with workshop training and the chance to appear at a live event.

Those who join must sign a contract to say they will use Big Break as a management company if they find work as a result of appearing in the magazine.

On Friday, officers at Darlington Trading Standards were contacted by a teenager who said that she had been approached in the street by someone from the company.

Fair trading officer Liz Crowe said the company was now being investigated.

She said: "They are not in breach of any legislation. But my advice would be to be very careful of anyone who approaches you in the street offering you fame and fortune at a price.

"If it was a casting agency or a model agency, they won't ask for a fee."

Company managing director Fiona Blackmore told The Northern Echo that the magazine did canvass for members on the street.

She said: "We approach a mix of ages. We do not ask if they would like to join.

"We take their details and then contact them for an informal interview. We do not guarantee them work by any means."

She said the company, which was set up in October, would publish its first magazine before January, to be sent to people in the media industry.

She did not give details of who would receive it, or the live events or workshops on offer for those signing up.

She said the magazine would feature about ten adverts per page.

The Spotlight casting directory, acknowledged as the acting industry's recruitment bible, offers a half-page advert for £111.50.

Martin Brown, from the actors' union Equity, said Big Break appeared to be offering itself as an as agent to performers.

He said: "Our advice has been for many years, never, ever pay money up front to register with an agent. Only ever agree to work for an agent for commission."