ENTERTAINMENT
20/01/2012 12:13 GMT

Britain's Got Talent: Simon Cowell Joins Alesha Dixon, David Walliams, Amanda Holden On Red Carpet

Britain's Got Talent got ready for blast-off today as the first auditions for the new series began with the winner promised an out-of-this-world prize.

TV supremo Simon Cowell has offered the star uncovered among the thousands of hopefuls the chance to perform in space, thanks to Sir Richard Branson's space venture Virgin Galactic.

Cowell appeared on the red carpet at The Lowry theatre in Salford, Greater Manchester, with his new line-up of judges, including Alesha Dixon, poached from BBC rival Strictly Come Dancing.

Cowell said: "We nicked her - but she wanted to come on the show."

He has returned to the talent show this year with the promise to "get back to basics" after falling TV ratings on both sides of the Atlantic for his X Factor shows.

Wearing sunglasses in rain-lashed Salford, he was greeted with the loudest cheers of the day by hundreds of fans, the last judge to arrive on the red carpet before auditions began.

"I have worked in this business a long time. You have got to be a big boy about it and get back to basics," he said.

"The idea of the first person to perform in space is brilliant. I love it."

Asked for his hopes for the show this year, he replied: "Somebody who can be a star all over the world - that's all I want. I'm positive - ish."

Amanda Holden, a "veteran" judge on the show proudly showing off her baby bump, said: "We are looking for a galactic act this year - not just a global act."

Hosts Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly were first along the red carpet, welcoming Cowell's return and the new line-up of judges.

Ant added: "Simon is the best talent judge out there and it's great to have him back."

Comedian David Walliams, the second new judge along with Alesha Dixon, said: "I think I'm there to provide a bit of comic relief. I'm just going to be myself and hopefully I will be funny at some points.

"I always wanted to do a show like this. It's the biggest show on TV.

"It's a great year to do it because Simon is back. I'm going to be close enough to smell him."

Walliams, asked what he would perform if he had to audition himself, replied: "Naked hoola hoop dancing."

Dixon, who braved the winter cold and rain wearing a sheer, off the shoulder bright yellow dress, said Cowell liked her being "gobby" and

was relishing being on the judging panel.

"I like a new challenge and I wanted to do something different. I wanted to get involved in a show that would find a new star," she said.

"It's a fantastic year - we have got the Olympics, the diamond jubilee, and this is the year to be really patriotic and Britain's Got Talent really sums up the spirit and the mood of the public, doesn't it?

"At the end of the day it is the British public who will eventually decide who will win this show.

"I just want somebody, whether singing, dancing, juggling, acrobatics, comedy, it doesn't matter, as long as it evokes some kind of emotion and the whole country gets behind them.

"We can find a real star that hopefully will translate abroad as well, all around the world, not just in the UK.

"That's the beauty of this show - the unknown."

The new series of Britain's Got Talent will begin on ITV in March. Here are the judges and presenters kicking off the action in Manchester this afternoon: