MORE than 1,000 pupils and students are to take to the stage in a Popstars-style competition.

Singers, dancers and musicians from more than 25 schools in County Durham, Tyneside and Wearside will perform at auditions in talentSTAR.

The competition runs until June, and the audience at each school audition - featuring performers aged 11 to 18 from that school - will vote who goes into the next round.

Semi-finals will be held at the Lamplight Arts Centre, in Stanley, and the competition will climax at the Gala Theatre, Durham, at the end of June.

One act will win a website, recording sessions at Oblivion Studios in Stockton, and a photo session at David Lawson's Crown Photography, in Sunderland.

The competition is run by Genius Entertainment, of Stanley, and has backing from the Princes Trust, Northern Arts and the Derwentside Industrial Development Agency.

Adam Chetter, of Genius Entertainment, described the competition as Popstars at a grassroots level.

He said: "Putting on shows on this scale is both exciting and a daunting prospect. It's a new concept that will give opportunities to scores of performers who want to further their careers.

"It's the perfect way of giving young acts performance experience."

Mr Chetter added: "We did two events similar to this last year but they were not on this scale."

Each show will feature a performance by an act such as Mark Allen, who has supported Gareth Gates, Blue and Atomic Kitten, and the girl duo Felany, who have supported A1, Liberty-X and Hear'Say.

The first audition was held last night at the Hermitage School, in Chester-le-Street.