THE weather was dull but the mood was bright when the Earl of Wessex descended on Wyre Forest on Tuesday for a tour of Kidderminster College's performing arts departments.the Earl of Wessex was given a tour of Kidderminster College on Tuesday.

Following a visit to Worcester, Prince Edward enjoyed a tour of the college's new £9 million building, which included a trip around the Mighty Atom Smasher record label, film making and recording studios.

The VIP guest, who captured the hearts of national diploma dance students when they performed a dance routine for him, was also treated to live performances by MAS band The Boswells and a string quartet and watched demonstrations of how to use recording equipment.

Conversations with the royal visitor ranged from his interest in films to the career aspirations of students.

There were also congratulations on the latest addition to his family - three-month-old daughter Lady Louise Windsor.

Kidderminster College principal Andrew Miller said: "It went really well - he was very relaxed with the staff and students and seemed to enjoy the variety of things he was involved in.

"I was particularly impressed with how good he was at talking to our students about their intended careers - he was very relaxed."

Relaxed Earl puts students at ease

WHILE it is an understatement to say my snatched words with the Earl of Wessex were short and sweet, there was no escaping the royal visitor's approachable and laid-back manner - before I was swept aside by one of his aides.

And this was the general opinion among staff and students who spoke to Prince Edward during his tour of Kidderminster College's performing arts departments on Tuesday.

Conversation with the new father, who left his three-month-old daughter Lady Louise and wife Sophie at home during his trip to Wyre Forest, ranged from his favourite film being The Breakfast Club to the messiness of students.National Diploma dance students strut their stuff.

There were smiles and laughter all round - particularly among a class of swooning teenagers, who performed a dance routine for the prince before giggling he was better looking than they expected.

Principal Andrew Miller said he was impressed by the Earl's genuine interest in the students' work and career plans, and added his tour of the new £9 million building had been a success.

"He'd obviously done his homework - he was well prepared and knew what further education is about, which impressed me," he said.

"It was a relaxed visit. Students were asking him questions and shaking hands with him."

The VIP guest explored the college's Mighty Atom Smasher record label and film-making studios before dropping into the college theatre for a demonstration by National Diploma music students. He was treated to live performances by MAS band The Boswells and a string quartet and watched demonstrations of how to use a mixing desk and edit film principal Andrew Miller, left, and MAS Records manager Kevyn Gammond.

MAS manager Kevyn Gammond, who sent the prince home with compilation CDs and biographies of the record label's signings, said: "He was very interested in the arts and what MAS has done in Worcestershire.

"He had a look at Groove Sadistic and Girls Love Ponies and nodded and listened as he walked around."

Pink-haired, tattoed rocker Nick Townsend, who was helping out at MAS during the royal visit, said the prince had been pleased to hear the young bands would be raising cash for Kidderminster War Memorial with a rock festival on March 12.

"He was quite flabbergasted by my image - but seemed very interested in MAS and was asking about the bands and the war memorial gig," he said.

"It was nice for someone like that to take note of such things - and he didn't even seem scared by my appearance, which I had a laugh with him about."

Eighteen-year-old dance and drama student Felicity Cooper added: "He seemed pretty outgoing for a prince and was easier to talk to than we expected.

"He asked us what we liked doing at college, how long the course was and what we were going to do afterwards."

Her classmate Cara Venables, 16, said: "He was really nice and laid back - he made the atmosphere relaxing because I was really nervous before."