A heavy horse expert who works as Henry VIII in the evenings is to appear as a judge in a new television singing competition.
Nigel Murfitt, who has been involved in showing and judging Shires, Percherons and Suffolk horses all his life, will be one of 100 judges in All Together Now, the first episode of which airs on BBC1 next weekend (27 January).
Former Spice Girl Geri Horner will head the panel of judges, who have to stand up and join in with contestants if they like what they hear, with scores dependent on how many judges join in.
And Mr Murfitt said his experience in judging horses stood him in good stead for the series, filming of which has now finished.
“In the equine world, I’m always happy when I judge to give feedback, on what I think they could benefit from, and I’m not afraid to tell people if I think something’s wrong,” he told H&H.
“As long as you’re open and honest, people are generally happy to get the feedback. But judging anything, whether it’s a horse or someone singing, you have to be careful because that’s their baby, their passion.
“You’ve got to give feedback so people can progress but be constructive and not crush their dreams.”
Mr Murfitt was brought up on the Cole Ambrose estate, Cambridgeshire, one of the foundation studs of the Shire Horse Society, where his father worked.
“I’ve been involved with horses ever since,” he said. “I started judging with Suffolks, about 30 years ago, because I showed Shires and Percherons and they were on different days so I could do both.”
He judged to county show level, in-hand and driven, and has recently started judging ridden heavy horse classes, which he said helps him keep a connection to the equestrian world as “I live in London now and my balcony’s too small for a horse”.
“But I’ve always been a singer too and seven years ago, took the plunge to go into it as a professional career,” he added.
“So now I’m really an entertainer. I play Henry VIII six nights a week at a medieval banquet-themed restaurant near the Tower of London; I think the BBC looked at that as it’s something not a lot of people do.”
Mr Murfitt originally auditioned to be a competitor on All Together Now, but his judging experience meant he was invited to join the panel instead.
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“It’s been a very exciting project; the most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “I’d certainly go back and do another series if they asked me.
“I’d say there’s a 50/50 division in what I do but if it came to it, the horses would take preference.”
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