Melissa lines up with stars

Organisers of tonight's 3 Bandstand gig at The Sage Gateshead yesterday announced a last minute addition to the already star-studded line-up.

Organisers of tonight's 3 Bandstand gig at The Sage Gateshead yesterday announced a last minute addition to the already star-studded line-up.

Sixteen-year-old Melissa Cavanagh, from Sunderland, will take her place alongside Paul Weller, Ross Noble, Jools Holland, Johnny Vegas, The Futureheads, Stewart Lee, Ava Vidal and Jill Halfpenny for the concert being held in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust.

She'll be singing Strong Enough, originally performed by teenage star Stacie Orrico - and one which Melissa feels is entirely appropriate for the evening's proceedings.

"You could say it's pretty relevant to the event and it's a beautiful song," she said yesterday during a break in show rehearsals in Newcastle.

Diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease in 2003, Melissa is well aware of the benefits of the Teenage Cancer Trust, which has a unit in Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary.

"It made such a difference when I was going through my chemo, I really benefited from it - it's a fantastic place."

Following eight months of chemotherapy, the talented youngster is now in remission, "feeling great" and ready to rock the sell-out audience in Hall One of the Gateshead venue.

"I'm extremely excited. I've sung in a few talent shows before, but nothing like this.

"I can't believe I'll be sharing the stage with all these stars. I can't wait, but I know by tomorrow night I'm going to be really nervous."

She doesn't need to be.

After hearing her rehearse with the gig's cracking (and North-East-legend-filled) house band - Billy Mitchell, Frankie Gibbon, Ray Laidlaw, Alan Clarke, John Miles Jnr and Simon Ferry - Melissa looks all set to steal the show right from under the rest of the bill.

"I don't know about that," she said, "I just can't wait to get up there and also can't wait to see all of them perform. It's going to be fantastic."

Yesterday's rehearsals also gave director Geoff Wonfor the chance to put his very special camera crew through their paces. An award-winning film-maker, Geoff is using no professional cameramen on the night - opting instead to recruit his team from the TCT unit at the RVI.

Cue the arrival of Jordan Thompson, 14; Stewart Simpson, 23; Daniel Finn, 16; Jenny Craney, 23; and John Anderson, 18. All have been patients at the unit, and - until Thursday - had no experience in the film-making field. And while freely admitting to being more than a little apprehensive before their first camera rehearsals, yesterday was a different story altogether for Geoff.

"They're immense," said the 57-year-old who has been heavily involved in putting tonight's gig together. "I've been blown away by how quickly they've picked things up and how well they're doing."

"I think I might fancy this as a career," chipped in 14-year-old Jordan, who will be taking the huge responsibility of manning the front-of-stage `dolly and tracks'.

"It's not as hard as I thought it was going to be and Geoff hasn't been bossing us around too much... I just give back as good as I get anyway." he said.

"He's got a great natural eye for framing," said Geoff, clearly feeling a great sense of pride in his new recruits. "It normally takes three years to train a cameraman. We'll have had three days - and we're going to be fine."

Stewart said: "It's probably going to be different when we're actually filming the concert tomorrow night, but I'm not too nervous yet and we've got Geoff keeping us right."

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