Riona Sorianosos has been crowned the winner of this year’s Genfactor, an annual talent competition organised by Sunderland-based housing association Gentoo.

The Genfactor celebrates its 10th anniversary and this year’s event was held on Wednesday 24 April at Rainton Meadows Arena. 12-year-old Riona beat off strong competition from 13 other acts, blowing judges away with her powerful performance of Whitney Houston’s ‘I Have Nothing’.

When asked about winning the Genfactor the St Anthony’s pupil, said: “I was so nervous waiting to hear the winner’s announcement and so shocked to hear my name, I didn’t know what to say. Genfactor has been really great, everyone has been so friendly and supportive of each other. I’ve loved making new friends.”

Judges included Lake Poets Frontman Martin Longstaff, West End star Brandon Lee Sears, Barry Hyde of The Futureheads, North East singer and 2018 X Factor contestant, Molly Scott, and performer, producer and principal of Stagecoach Washington, Melanie Hill, who kindly donated a special Stagecoach scholarship, won by finalist Sam J Scott.

The talent competition, designed to give those aged between 11 and 18 the opportunity to showcase their talents has seen more than 1,200 young people audition since its launch in 2009. By taking part in the competition they learn new skills, meet new people and gain confidence by performing in front of a live audience.

As well as the winner, 13 other singers and dancers impressed the judges with their professionalism and confidence. Third place was awarded to 17-year-old India Mason who captivated the judges with her original take on David Bowie’s ‘Life on

Mars’. Second place was awarded to 13-year-old Jessie Dale, for her beautiful rendition of ‘Always Remember Us This Way’ from A Star is Born.

Other acts included Daisy Pringle, Maisie Surtees, Tammy Louise Proctor, Callum Stockdale, Lucy Garnett, Sam J Scott, Ruby Evans, (singers), Beth Carney, Natalie Noble, Dance Jam and Sophie Doneathy Dance (Dancers).

The crowd was entertained by compere Steve Walls and previous Genfactor contestants SK Dance paid a moving tribute to 2014 finalist Arron Hough.

Michelle Meldrum, Executive Director, Gentoo said: “What an incredible night we had celebrating the 10th anniversary of Genfactor.

“I am overwhelmed by the calibre of talent that auditioned this year and am extremely proud of our 14 finalists for putting on an outstanding performance. They are testament to the home grown talent we have in our city.

“A special thank you to every person that auditioned, supported and sponsored Genfactor 2019, our 10th year celebration would not have been possible without all of your valuable support.

“Genfactor is the perfect platform to celebrate the young people in our city and we’re excited to continue this wonderful event next year.”

A number of businesses supported the event with this year’s proud main sponsor being Jewson. Other businesses sponsoring the acts included, Gentoo Homes, The Works, Sunderland Bid, ENGIE, Sunderland Council, Northern Gas Networks, Ashmore Consultancy, AON, Paul Pybuss Scaffolding, H Jarvis Limited, Sunderland Culture and A&R Groundworks Ltd. To find out more about the Genfactor visit

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