Spelbound Travel Diary - On Solid Spel-Ground

March 15, 2011


Madrid-Barajas Airport is as good a place as any to land with a troupe of teens and 20-somethings who’ve made it their life’s work to perform seemingly impossible balancing acts. I could try to stretch, no, wrench out a metaphor about the curves and waves of the award winning airport’s ceiling and how it’s a lot like the graceful arcs of the tumbling gymnasts as they somersault through the air – but that’s doing Spelbound a disservice. An airport is built to be functional - and after a while, no matter how many awards a particular airport has won, it just becomes a place where you wait for baggage and buy duty free. Spelbound on the other hand remain a curiosity almost a year after winning the nation’s highest profile talent show.

Much as I’d tried to keep them a surprise for the people at Santander, I was thwarted by a few avid Britain’s Got Talent fans in the Airport. The Spelbound gang weren’t even wearing their matching yellow hoodies or carrying any branded luggage but the sight of a group of young athletic looking kids being prodded through arrivals by a devilishly handsome man (*cough*) was enough to arouse suspicions. Some members of the troupe are recognised more than others - normally the boys/men; Alex Uttley did most of the speaking on the show and consequently gets spotted more than some of the others. Ed Upcott and Jon Stranks were immediately recognisable to me despite the fact I never watched the show when it aired. I was also surprised to find out the two weren’t brothers, so surprised I feel like their telling me otherwise might have been a joke at my expense.

Though they’ve all travelled and competed abroad separately, this was the first time that the full Spelbound line up had been booked overseas. Spelbound, you see, are made up of a number of award winning smaller units that come together to form the Cowell Dazzling troupe that won BGT. They break down as follows;

Mens 4 - Adam Buckingham, Doug Fordyce, Alex Uttley, Jon Stranks
Mixed Pair - Nick Illingworth Alice Upcott
Women's Trio - Hollianne Wood, Lauren Kemp, Leighanne Cowler
Men's Pair - Ed Upcott, Adam McAssey
Additional Members - Casey Morrison, Lilianna Walduck

Also along for the ride were coach Neil Griffiths, manager Dan Waite and acting as a guardian for the younger members was fully qualified coach Caroline Cogbill. Meeting us in Madrid was DMC Citi Travel’s representative Emilio; former Rolling Stone Journalist and Spanish radio DJ who was more than comfortable bombing around with British entertainers having spent time in the 90s with the Manic Street Preachers and Ocean Colour Scene among others. With all the waiting around for costume changes and stretching, I had a lot of time to get to know Emilio and find out whether Richey Edwards was hiding in Madrid; he isn’t.

After dinner, the members of Spelbound took off to visit a nearby mall. I decided to try my luck navigating Madrid’s public transport system via a series of awkward gestures and panicked pointing at a crumpled map (a map, that gave me the exact location of every McDonalds in the city but didn’t tell me where the underground stations were.) I managed to sneak in a whistle-stop tour of a small section of the Museo Del Prado before it closed and returned to the hotel; determined to replace the picture of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers that hangs in the Sternberg Clarke men’s room with something that involves a baby being sprayed in the face with breast milk.

Next up, it's rehearsal time for Spelbound and some pro tips for anyone who's ever wanted to swing a colleague between their legs whilst standing on someone's neck.