Apprentice winner Stella English
Apprentice star Stella English was forced to find new acts for her first major entertainment event after artists dropped out because of poor ticket sales, it has emerged.
Ms English, who shot to fame in 2010 when she won the BBC show, set up her latest venture - English Events Company - months after an unsuccessful employment tribunal against former employer Lord Sugar.
She arranged an evening of live music at Whitstable Castle, which took place on Friday and had been due to feature chart soul artist Dionne Bromfield, soprano Natalie Coyle and jazz singer Xara Vaughan.
Tickets were on sale for up to £55, including canapes and champagne. But the firm announced a late change to the billing, with tribute acts Rachel Stone and Darren - who perform as Amy Winehouse and Robbie Williams booked at three days' notice after the artists withdrew.
Ms Coyle's management company, Rushdie Media, said the classical singer cancelled the performance because of poor ticket sales.
Attempts were made to contact representatives of Ms Bromfield and Ms Vaughan, but there was no response as to why the stars did not perform.
Stella English was forced to change the line-up for a show at Whitstable Castle
Ms English, who lives in Whitstable, confirmed low sales had prompted the withdrawals.
She said: "I'm disappointed we had to change our plans so late, but I'm delighted we were still able to go ahead with it.
"Arranging an event over the summer at quite short notice was going to be a tall order and I'm sorry there wasn't the response to our organised artists.
"Cancelling the event would have been a last resort. I felt committed to our customers, many of whom had booked hotels or arranged outfits. I also had people come up to me who are fans of The Apprentice.
Soprano Natalie Coyle. Picture: Chris Jackson/Getty Images
"If you are going to cancel, it has to be the last resort. Once you have sold the idea to somebody you have to at least offer them an alternative."
Ms English added she had no grudges against artists withdrawing from her event and had already begun planning for the next one.
She added: "Business is business and if something is not viable, then it's not viable.
"On balance I was disappointed, but I'm proud we were able to go ahead and I for one had a fantastic time. We are already planning the next one for Christmas."
Whitstable Castle manager Olian Dura estimated 50 guests were at the star-studded bash and admitted he thought more would attend the event.
He said staff catered for the number of tickets sold by English Events Company and added he would like to put on similar events in the future.
He said: "I thought it would have been a bit busier, but the feedback we received on the night was very positive.
"We would look to try and build on those type of events here at the castle. In that respect it was a great event for us.
"You have to remember as well people are still on their summer holidays – I think Stella got something together in record time."
Soul artist Dionne Bromfield. Picture: Landmark/PR Photos
Despite the late changes, many guests said they were happy with their night out.
Helen Polley, who attended the party with her husband Simon, described the entertainment as "brilliant".
She said: "Initially I was disappointed as having tribute acts changed the feel of it, but having been there I was not disappointed at all.
"I'm not much of an Amy Winehouse fan so I didn't enjoy that as much, but I thought Darren was brilliant and the disco afterwards was also fantastic."