Next Big Thing Q&A: Iona Thomas NBT 2011 Winner

March 16, 2012



Harpist, Guitarist, Singer and Songwriter Iona Thomas has been causing us no end of blogging trouble since winning The Next Big Thing at this year's Confex. Not least because the phrase "Harpist, Guitarsit, Singer and Songwriter" is a little clumsy.

Iona cruised her way through the heats, the semis and the final at ExCel London to win a booth at next year's confex, £1,000, a contract with London's Leading Supplier of Entertainment for Events - Sternberg Clarke and the right to go around calling herself The Next Big Thing for at least 12 months... (Or should it be Current Big Thing? Iona's call really.) 

Iona was kind enough to answer a few questions on her experience in The Next Big Thing and how she sees herself fitting into the Corporate Events Industry. 

Hi Iona, how does it feel to be crowned ‘The Next Big Thing’ in Corporate Event Entertainment?

Hello! It feels great! As anyone in the arts would know it’s quite a hard industry to get into. Winning something like this makes all the hard work worthwhile.

How was the experience of performing in the competition? Any particular fond memories from the process?

Umm... I would like to say the entire experience was a fond memory, but it was actually pretty scary! I remember waiting behind the stage for the heats at Cafe de Paris for my turn to go on, I was so nervous especially seeing all these talented people go on before me and kept wondering why I was putting myself through it... but as soon as I get on the stage the nerves seem to disappear and if you give it your all and people give you lovely comments that feeling is second to none!.

Were there any other acts you particularly enjoyed in the competition?

There were so many!! But narrowing it down, I loved basketballer Andrew Wilding he was amazing. I also really liked Naomi the fire eater from the 1st heat, I’ve seen fire eaters before but, wow, that was incredible.


Who was the hardest Judge to please? (Adam Sternberg, Liz Lockard of Haymarket, or Lynden Bulger from British Airways)

Ha, is this the kind of question where I’m not really meant to name anyone? I reckon Adam, he has a good poker face. [Having been interviewed by him for the job, I'll second that]

Were there any comments that were particularly helpful in the development of your act? And if so, how did you change your act between heats in accordance with the panel’s comments?

Well in the first heat I just sang and played Adele ‘Someone like You’. I had a lot of comments afterwards with people wanting to see me do something a bit more upbeat and exciting which I saw as a bit of a challenge. For the semi final I tried to do something really different where I used a loop pedal with my harp and then played guitar and put a beat over the top. It was a risky performance as it’s so easy to get wrong but I like to think that it worked. I don’t think the judges liked it as much as my slower songs, but I think that was probably my favourite audition. Knowing that there may be an opportunity to develop this kind of set really motivates me to make it work as something like this has never really been done before.

How would you best describe your act?

Your traditional harpist... with a twist

You performed a couple of your own songs in the competition, as did Singer-Guitarist Adam Duffield – do you think there’s a place for Original Material in Corporate Events?

Honestly... probably not. I love doing my own songs however there’s not much demand for it in the corporate sector... although if I do a set I always get urges to sneak an original in somewhere and hope people don’t notice. I look at my original work as a completely different kettle of fish to the covers that people want to hear.

How do you see your act working as part of an event?

This is another comment that was mentioned during the final... as to where I could be placed in a corporate event. I think the good thing about playing the electric harp is that you have the versatility from playing classical music, to playing something a bit more modern... and then with the guitar and loop pedal too it could be more upbeat music to dance to. As of now, I’ve been doing a lot of weddings and have had bookings to play all kinds of sets, some people booking me for the whole day with varying sets between the ceremony, reception and then evening entertainment...

So far in the competition, you’ve only played in 5 minute slots – what can people expect from longer sets at events?

As mentioned above... all kinds. In the competition, I struggled when deciding on what song to play whether to play guitar/harp do something slow/upbeat with the loop pedal/foot drum or just keep it plain... so there is a lot more variation and new things to see in the longer sets!

How are you going to use the Prize Money from The Next Big Thing?

It caught me at a good time, I recently saved up to buy a new guitar and loop pedal so now I’m excited to see what other new things are out there. I think people like to see something different and original in an act so my options are being kept open to some new exciting musical technology!

 Thanks Iona!

For more information on Iona or to book her for corporate events, get in touch