Hidden Talent


How far can natural talent really go and what if it could change your life? Hidden Talent is a new six-part series which discovers people with extraordinary hidden talents they never even dreamed they had. Hundreds of randomly selected people are put through a series of tests to identify those with hidden abilities, and nine participants discover if they can go from being a total novice to a top class performer in record time.

Overseen by scientists and academics, over 900 people from all around the country undergo testing, and a number are found to have special physical, mental, sensory or creative talents - of which they were totally unaware. The Hidden Talent experts then take them on, training and developing them to face extraordinary challenges and push their newly discovered Hidden Talent to its limit, a process which could even change the rest of their lives.

Presenter Richard Bacon follows each of their progress - uncovering the amazing science which enables these individuals to achieve what others can only dream of. These talents range from latent linguistic skills that allow an individual to become fluent in a foreign language in just a few months, to the mammalian diving reflex enabling some people to hold their breath for up to four minutes and dive to a depth of 60 metres without scuba gear, or even an extraordinary sense of direction that makes someone a Human Sat-Nav, capable of finding their way through an uncharted wilderness.

The tests carried out on potential contributors are designed to assess aptitude rather than skills or knowledge, so viewers can also take part through specially designed interactive tests on the Channel 4 website (URL to follow). Mirroring those in the series, these absorbing and fun challenges are devised in consultation with the series' experts and give viewers the opportunity to uncover their own Hidden Talent - ranging from memory games and humming tasks to being a human metronome.

Developed and produced by Silver River, in association with American Express, this series explores how remarkable we are as human beings and reveals just what we could really capable of, using our Hidden Talent.

Prod Co: Silver River
Exec Prod: Helen Hawken
Series Prod: Spencer Kelly
Comm Ed: Jill Fullerton-Smith

Episode 6/6, Tuesday 29th May, 9pm, Channel 4

The series finale catches up with some of the amazing individuals who found their hidden talents to discover out how the experience has changed their lives, including unseen footage of their extraordinary journeys.

Nineteen-year-old James Whinnery showed he had a remarkable hidden talent for learning languages - a total surprise for someone who didn't even have a GCSE in French, had dropped out of his A-levels and was living in a homeless hostel after falling out with his mother.

James' challenge was to learn one of the most complex languages in the world, Arabic, in just 19 weeks. Against the odds, James flourished at his final challenge and was interviewed live Jordanian television for 20 minutes, speaking fluent Arabic. Six months later Hidden Talent visits James in Birmingham to find out how his linguistic ability ‘saved his life' and and learn about his new language studies. James' mother also gives a moving interview about how her son has changed.

Roxanne Messenger revealed she had the unknown biological make-up to become a competition level free-diver, despite having recently weighed 17 stone and had never having considered herself sporty. The 28-year-old's final challenge was to compete in an international free-diving competition in Egypt after just four months training. In just a few weeks, Roxanne could hold her breath for over four minutes and dive to a depth of thirty metres - the height of a 10 storey building. But as the competition grew nearer, the pressure became too great. Now six months on the team meet up with her as she attempts to dive for the first time since her ill-fated trip to Egypt. Will she re-discover the joy of free-diving? She also speaks about her new career change and how her hidden talent has changed her physically and mentally.

Forty-five-year-old nurse Maggie Reenan proved she had the natural ability to be a climber. Her final challenge was to scale a perilous, 60 metre sea-stack called The Old Man of Stoer after only 18 days training. This is an opportunity to see what Maggie's been doing since and follow her as she takes her children rock climbing to see if her natural talent runs in the family. Maggie's new-found passion has had such an impact on her that she shares her plans to move to the country to pursue climbing further.

The film also reveals how being a 'human sat-nav' has inspired science teacher Adele Reah to teach her pupils to ditch the sat nav and use their brains instead.

Episode 5/6, Tuesday 22nd May, 9pm, Channel 4

The fifth episode of Hidden Talent sets out to discover two individuals with extraordinary mental abilities they never knew they had. The first is someone with an exceptional talent for multi-tasking; someone whose brain can literally do two or more very demanding tasks simultaneously. Scientists call these ‘super-taskers'.

To find a super-tasker, candidates sit two tests. Both tests involve answering maths questions while remembering words and carrying out other tasks on computer screens. Overseeing them is neuropsychologist Dr Jo Iddon. The tests get harder and harder and the candidates' multi-tasking abilities are pushed to their limits. Out of all the candidates tested, just six unlikely finalists emerge. They include a barmaid, a shelf-stacker and a call centre worker. All have proved they have a hidden talent for doing multiple tasks at the same time, but are any of them genuine super-taskers?

To find out, the final six are invited to a state of the art driving simulator for more demanding tests. Here they are asked to answer maths questions, memorise and recall words and drive at the same time. To run the test Dr Jo Iddon enlists the help of US academic Professor David Strayer. In his previous research, he found that some people had a remarkable ability to do multiple tasks whilst driving without any deterioration in performance. He labelled these people super-taskers.

After a gruelling day of mental tasks behind the wheel, 27 year old Cassie Gledhill scores the highest Professor Strayer has ever seen. The score is even more surprising considering Cassie is a track cyclist used to focusing on a single goal. The ultimate challenge of Cassie's new found talent is a real world scenario doing one of the toughest multi-tasking jobs there is. Cassie will work as an ambulance crew dispatcher where decisions can mean the difference between life and death. After a three day intensive course that normally takes three weeks, Cassie takes the hot seat working a shift co-ordinating ambulance crews on a busy Friday night in Birmingham city centre. Within minutes she deals with a deluge of emergency calls including a heroin overdose. Will Cassie's super-tasking ability cope under the intense pressure or will her senior supervisor have to step in and take over?

In the next search, Hidden Talent looks for someone with a rare ability to never forget a face. Most of us can remember familiar faces, but the latest scientific research has discovered that 2% of us are super-recognisers who can remember faces they've only ever seen once sometimes many years later.

To find someone with that natural talent, candidates sit two tests overseen by neuropsychologist Dr Ashok Jansari. In the first test, candidates identify celebrities from their childhood photographs and in the second they must memorise and later identify computer generated faces that become increasingly obscure. Three exceptional finalists emerge, - 19-year-old graphic design student Richard, legal clerk Charlie and business student Higo who grew up in the slums of Brazil where he claims remembering faces was key to survival.

For the final test the three are brought to one of the country's busiest train stations - London's Liverpool Street. Here a group of fifteen actors are dressed in identical hooded sweatshirts and beanie hats and asked to mingle amongst the hurrying crowds. Each candidate has just a matter of seconds to spot the actors and memorise their faces. Later they will have to pick out the faces they've seen from a line-up of twenty people. Who out of our final three will have the talent to really pick a face out of the crowd and be a super-recogniser?

Episode 4/6, Tuesday 15th May, 9pm, Channel 4

In this episode the Hidden Talent experts are looking for two very different abilities: the natural aptitude for becoming an opera singer and the inbuilt instinct to navigate through the wilderness without a map or a compass.

To find a potential opera singer Musical Director Stuart Barr puts the participants through a range of singing tests - starting with a simple rendition of Happy Birthday, right through to putting the finalists through scientific voice profiling to objectively find someone with the magic combination of range, power and resonance to sing opera. A unique quality called "ring" allows opera singers to be heard in a huge auditorium above the sound of a full orchestra without any amplification. It takes years of training to develop this quality but those who have it naturally could progress to singing opera much quicker.

Out of almost 600 people, one person finally emerges with the hidden talent to be an opera singer. Thirty-four-year-old charity contracts manager Jayson Khún-Dkar. It's a total surprise for someone who can't read music and has had no formal musical training. For Jayson it's the chance of a lifetime and "better than winning the lottery because the lottery is just money."

Finding your hidden talent is one thing, realising it is another. To help Jayson hone his potential, Stuart Barr enlists the help of operatic legend Joy Mammen, who has sung with the best in the business including Pavarotti. Alongside daily singing lessons, Jayson learns Italian and works out in the gym. Joy and Stuart's ultimate goal for Jayson is for him to audition for award winning operatic production, La Boheme, in only five months - something that can take years of training to achieve.

As the training intensifies, Stuart and Joy hit a snag when Jayson's shyness threatens to overshadow his natural ability. To help build his confidence, Joy and Stuart send him to an international opera school to hone his acting skills and ask him to perform on the streets of London's Covent Garden. Will it be enough to help Jayson overcome his inhibitions and will his voice be up to the standard of a professional baritone?

As Jayson has to train hard to realise his natural potential, the experts search for a much more instinctive ability - someone who can naturally navigate their way through the remotest landscapes. To find someone, 500 people took two tests overseen by neuroscientist Dr Hugo Spiers. The tests are at the cutting edge of science and one of Hugo's specialist areas of study. They reveal ten candidates who had no idea they had a natural talent for navigation. None were more surprised than 26-year-old science teacher Adele Rhea. Adele admits to frequently getting lost in the country lanes near her home while Brazilian Carolina thinks her natural talent for navigation may stem from finding her way through the Amazon rain forests as a child. The deciding test for the ten is memorising and navigating their way through the maze of streets that make up London's Soho.

The surprise winner is Adele, whose score is the best of anyone Dr Hugo Spiers has ever tested. Adele's childhood dream was to be an RAF pilot but she was unable to qualify as her arms were too short. She reapplied to be a navigator but again her arms were too short. Could finding her hidden talent for navigation prove to have been a missed opportunity?

For her final challenge, Adele is thrown into one of Britain's remotest landscapes in North Wales. Her mission is to navigate between two points 11 kilometres apart across rough terrain in unpredictable weather with nothing more than her instincts to guide her. Will Adele in-built ‘sat nav' get to the end point successfully, or will she be lost in the valleys forever?

Episode 3/6, Tuesday 8th May, 9pm, Channel 4

In the third programme, the tests are designed to seek out one extraordinarily talented, but unknowing, linguist, whose way with words could change their life. Language experts: Dr Radia Kesseiri, Lecturer in Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies at The University of Leeds; Dr Anil Biltoo, Coordinator of Less Widely Taught Languages and a language teacher at School of Oriental And African studies and Major Eddie Trowbridge, The Defence School of Languages, all tested groups of people from across the UK using the MLAT test (Modern Languages Aptitude Test), which requires participants to have no prior knowledge of foreign languages other than school level, ensuring only those with a natural talent for languages come through.

For the next test they are challenged by the language experts to work a shift as waiters in a Turkish-speaking restaurant, after only day of Turkish lessons. The five hopefuls find themselves thrown into the lunchtime service, tasked with recalling the menus and greetings they've learned and serving the correct food orders. It's a tall order. The experts monitor their progress to see how well they perform under pressure and whether they have the practical skills to learn a complex language.

Surprisingly it's A level drop-out, 19-year-old James Whinnery who impresses the experts and wins the chance to unlock his linguistic ability learning one of the world's most complex languages - Arabic. When James came to the Hidden Talent test days he was living in a homeless hostel after falling out with his mother. Having dropped out of his studies and with no full time job, it's a huge opportunity for James as he's suddenly thrown into learning this extremely different language not in two or three years, as it takes most talented linguists to become fluent in Arabic, James has just 19 weeks.

Faced with this exciting, but hugely daunting prospect, James takes on tasks such as ordering in Arabic in a restaurant, driving around London using an Arabic-speaking Sat-Nav, memorizing nearly a hundred words a day and getting to grips with a strange new alphabet and pronunciation. During his training, James also reveals that this opportunity means much more to him than learning a new language - it is a chance for him to prove his true potential to himself and his family.

Nearing the final stages, James travels to Jordan to immerse himself in Middle Eastern culture and prepare for the ultimate challenge: a live interview on Jordanian breakfast television after only 19 weeks of learning Arabic. But as the stress mounts, James struggles with old demons, anxious about failing and about his family situation. Will he crack under the pressure or manage pull off this unbelievable ask and open up a potentially different future?

Episode 2/6, Tuesday 1st May, 9pm, Channel 4

In the second programme, Hidden Talent seeks to discover someone with the physical and mental capacity to succeed in the international free-diving arena and an individual who, even with no previous artistic training, can spot a masterpiece in a room full of fakes?

Once the twelve finalists in the free-diving tests are selected, they are then put through their paces by top instructor Emma Farrell, who observes each candidate to see who has the best biological and psychological aptitude for the sport. A small amount of people have an advanced mammalian diving reflex which enables some people to hold their breath for upwards of four minutes to dive to a depth of over 60 metres without scuba gear. After the participants have had their natural skills tested in a freezing cold quarry, 28-year-old Roxanne Messenger, an Art Director at an advertising agency, is selected from the group to undertake further one-on-one training in an effort to push her newfound talent as far as it will go. Despite the fact Roxanne has never considered herself sporty and was until recently, overweight, she faces the challenge head on as she receives intensive training from Emma, ahead of her final diving challenge. As she travels to Egypt, Roxanne is taken under the wing of Marco Nones, one of the best free-diving instructors in the world. But as Roxanne pushes her mind and body to the limit, and with only weeks to master this complex skill, can she learn fast enough to compete with professional free-divers?

Lee Yenson, who has always worked in a tractor-making factory, has never before stepped foot in an art gallery and never considered a career in art. But after completing one of the Hidden Talent test days, he is discovered to have a keen eye for art after gaining an exceptional score in the ‘aesthetic appreciation' test - in fact, he scores higher than many people who already work in the art world. Lee says he fell into working in the tractor industry, having struggled since school to find his direction in life. As Lee is chosen develop his newly discovered talent, he is given intensive training by art expert, Professor Matthew Kieran in all aspects of art, from theories of composition to depth of field, before he undertakes his final challenge. After just a day's training, Lee's challenge is to identify a multi-million pound Monet masterpiece in a room of fakes, some of which were created by art forger John Myatt, who was involved in what was said to be the biggest art fraud of the 20th century. Will Lee's lack of artistic experience let him down, or will he conquer his doubts and use his natural potential to identify the real work of art?

Episode 1/6, Tuesday 24th April, 9pm, Channel 4

The first episode focuses on two drastically different skills, rock climbing and lie detection. After experts test the general public in both physical and mental capacities, they narrow their search down to find the individuals that they believe had the greatest potential to excel in each field.

The 10 finalists in rock climbing are put through a series of tasks by world-class climbing coach Martin Chester, testing their agility, ease with heights, leadership qualities and communication skills. Maggie, a 45 year-old nurse and grandmother, is selected to take her new-found skill even further by receiving one-on-one training ahead of her final challenge: to ascend the 200ft Old Man of Stoer sea stack in Scotland, the base of which can only be reached by abseiling across the turbulent sea, and normally takes years of training to attempt. Maggie's adult life began at 16 when she found herself alone with a baby to raise, but determined to prove she could succeed regardless. After just 18 days of intense tuition, through which Maggie displays true courage and tenacity, will she be able to show once again that she can conquer her fears and overcome this sheer 60m rockface?

Only one in 400 people are able to spot a liar with any degree of accuracy. After hundreds of volunteers are tested on their ability to read body language and identify the liars as people respond to a series of questions, Brenda, a 63-year old retiree who previously owned a wedding boutique, emerges as the most successful ‘human lie detector' with a remarkable 80% accuracy rate. To develop her natural talent, Brenda travels to the US for an intensive 2-day crash course in interrogation techniques and reading body language. Her Hidden Talent experts are two ex-FBI agents, Jack Schaeffer and Joe Navarro, who between them have over 40 years' experience in counterintelligence and counterterrorism. Brenda is put through her paces as she learns the skills that usually take years to hone to an expert standard. For her final challenge, she must interview five people to determine which of them has taken a bag containing £500 from a room they have all entered independently. Brenda is used to sniffing out white lies at home or knowing what mother-of-the-bride really thinks when her daughter tries on her dream dress, but will she become a human lie-detector and identify the culprit among these masters of deceit - after just one interrogation?

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01 Jun 2012, 03:00
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