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28 October 2014
Inside Out: Surprising Stories, Familiar Places

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   Inside Out - West: Monday October 30, 2006
Web guide
Robert Bowden
Next big thing - could Robert Bowden be the next pop idol?

From Petrol to Pop Idol

A few months ago Robert Bowden was working in a petrol station near his home in Wiltshire.

But now the 18-year-old is being tipped for stardom by some of the most influential people in the UK music industry.

He was spotted singing at a talent competition, which was raising money for his local church, by the woman who discovered Joss Stone.

After a whirlwind week of auditions Sony BMG, one of the world's biggest music companies, has asked Robert to record some tracks with a top producer.

If the session goes well, then a deal could follow.

Top music industry tips

Here's some of our top tips for aspiring pop and rock stars:

Do - Form a band and write some songs. Start gigging and get your name in lights. Rehearse till your live set is sparkling - work on your stagecraft and presentation.

Do - put yourself in the picture. Use websites like myspace and other online promotional tools to get your name out there.

Do watch out for sharks and rip-off merchants. Check the credentials of whoever you're working with.

Do make friends and influence people e.g. music journalists, management companies and A & R scouts.

Don't rush things - take it step by step. Have a goal and work towards it. Don't start gigging until you're really tight and well rehearsed.

Don't go in with false expectations - be realistic.

Read more top tips on making it in the music industry...

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Stephen Cleeve c/o Neil Jenman
A sound investment? Inside Out goes undercover.

Land investment

It sounds like the perfect deal - buy a piece of the English countryside, apply for planning permission and sell it on to developers for a huge profit.

But scores of investors across the country have been tricked into handing over thousands of pounds for land that has no chance of ever being built on.

An investigation by Inside Out has exposed one "landbanking" company that has convinced investors to pay above the odds for sites that have little or no development potential.

Commercial Land, formerly European Land Sales Partnership (ELS), specialises in buying agricultural land and dividing it into tiny plots, which it then sells to investors at £5,000 for every 0.02 acre.

It tells investors they could get a five-fold return on their money if planning permission is granted.

What it does not say is that the development potential of the sites it is touting is non-existent.

Sound investment?

Three employees tried to convince BBC journalists posing as potential investors to hand over £10,000 for a small piece of land near Yeovil that planners are adamant can never be built upon.

Commercial Land - which has never won planning consent for any of its holdings - is currently marketing a four-acre site near the hamlet of King's Stag.

During a meeting at the company's London headquarters, a salesman claimed the local council had written to them saying the land in King's Stag was "suitable for housing and also for commercial use".

Plot buyer
One of the plot buyers, Satish Mehta, but is it a good deal?

Another salesman, who said between £30,000 and £50,000 could be made from a £10,000 investment, claimed the quiet rural hamlet would soon be part of the suburban sprawl.

He added, "go back there in five, six years down the line and it will be very built up".

The company's own in-house planning specialist went on to claim it would not be long before planning permission - for either residential or commercial use - was secured.

He said, "It's just a matter of time to see when we get planning permission in 2008 so it's not too far away.

"They [the council] are always saying this is what we need at the moment."

In fact, North Dorset District Council has told the BBC there is no chance of development, not least of all because the area actually has an oversupply of homes.

Nick Fagan, the council's Development Control Manager, said of the chances of the site winning planning permission:
"Zero, nothing - there's no chance at all of ever getting planning permission here.

"We did send them a letter. It said there's no chance of developing this land, basically ever.

"I feel this company is trying to sell land to people on a fraudulent basis. They are cowboys and they should be closed down."

Big money

If the company successfully sells all 112 plots at King's Stag, it will make about £750,000.

Its main partner, Stephen Cleeve, paid just £30,000 for the site in September 2005.

Mr Cleeve, who is banned from being a company director for eight years after a previous investment scam, has already been the subject of a public warning issued by the Australian authorities over his tactics in selling UK land overseas.

In this country, the Serious Fraud Office - despite deciding not to prosecute Mr Cleeve - has said there is evidence that investors have been misled by ELS in the past.

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Mastermind

Mastermind chair
In the hot seat - the iconic Mastermind chair

You're time starts now...

Josie d'Arby heads to Somerset for some last minute revision before a grilling in the famous Mastermind black chair.

Josie's specialist subject is Reiki - and there's no better place to swot up than the UK's spiritual healing capital, Glastonbury.

She also gets some tips from a former Mastermind champion before facing a barrage of tricky questions.

Find out how you would get on in the black chair… take the Mastermind test.

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