Popstars: The Rivals judges pay tribute to Girls Aloud star Sarah Harding

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Former Popstars: The Rivals judge Louis Walsh has said he will remember Girls Aloud star Sarah Harding with “great fondness” following her death at 39.

The Irish music manager helped put together the group on the ITV show in 2002, after similar successes with Boyzone and Westlife.

He was among famous names from the worlds of music and television sharing their condolences and memories of working with Harding after her death was announced on Sunday.

 Sarah Harding death
Judges Pete Waterman, Geri Horner and Louis Walsh with presenter Davina McCall during Popstars: The Rivals (PA)

In a statement, he said: “It’s just sad she has gone too young. She was always fun and the life and soul of the party.

“Anytime she came to Dublin in the early days we went out to the Pod nightclub and would be the last to leave.

“It’s just so unfair, I was hoping she was getting better. She was fun and loved music, dancing and life. I will remember her with great fondness.”

Davina McCall, who presented The Rivals and remained friends with Girls Aloud, described Harding as a “star from the get go” and “hugely fun and outgoing yet also somehow fragile”.

Record producer Pete Waterman, who was also a judge on the talent show, told Sky News that he will “always remember her smile and the friendship and that bouncing on the bed” when he revealed she had won a place in Girls Aloud.

Spice Girls star Geri Horner, the third judge on the programme, paid tribute on Twitter, writing: “Rest in peace, Sarah Harding. You’ll be remembered for the light and joy you brought to the world.”

Reality TV star Calum Best, who was in a relationship with Harding between 2005 and 2006, spoke of the “crazy fun times and adventures” he had with her.

He said on Twitter: “Jesus this one hits home, so damn sad, so young.

“I hope u rest In peace Sarah we had some crazy fun times and adventures.

“U will be so very missed. Sending so much love to ur mom.”

His post was accompanied by three pictures of him with Harding.

Singer and talent show judge Alesha Dixon said on Twitter: “A sad day!

“Such a shining star! Rest in peace beautiful Sarah.”

Former glamour model and reality star Katie Price shared a photo of them appearing together on a panel show and wrote: “I’m devastated to hear my friend, @sarahnicoleharding has passed.

“You were always such a genuine and honest person, I will remember all the laughs we used to have back in the day…

“I always valued Sarah’s friendship and my thoughts go out to her family and friends.”

JLS star Oritse Williams, whose band emerged four years after Girls Aloud, shared a lengthy tribute online.

He tweeted: “Heartbreaking to hear that Sarah Harding from Girls Aloud has just passed away after a long battle with cancer.

“The times we met she was always so bubbly, such a big beautiful personality. My sincerest sympathies and heart goes out to Sarah’s friends, family & band members.”

A tweet from the official account of Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly said: “Such sad news. RIP Sarah xx”.

Others paying tribute included former Spandau Ballet member Martin Kemp who sent his condolences to Harding’s family and friends.

“Sarah Harding so sad, my heart goes out to all your friends and family and all your fans,” he tweeted.

“Rest in peace!”

Sabrina Washington from girl group Mis-Teeq said: “Our paths had crossed many a time over the years and everytime was filled with such warmth and energy. Nobody lit up a room like you did. You’ll never be forgotten – RIP Sarah Harding.”

Boyband Blue said in a statement on Twitter: “We are deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Sarah Harding. Her light shone bright but was gone all too soon. Our thoughts are with her family in this difficult time.”

Presenter Fearne Cotton wrote: “Oh my gosh I’m so sorry to hear this. I’m sending your family so much love and strength.

“She was always kind and so much fun to be around. I’m very sorry for your loss. Prayers and love to you.”

Steps star Ian “H” Watkins wrote on Instagram: “Fly high beautiful Sarah xx I will miss you xx”.

TV presenter Vernon Kay described Harding as “the driving energy in the room”.

“Very sad news,” he tweeted.

“From the moment Pop Idol finished GA were regularly on T4 and Radio1. Sarah was always the driving energy in the room… RIP.”

TV star Denise Van Outen commented on the Instagram post from Harding’s mother, Marie, announcing her death.

Van Outen wrote: “This is so heartbreaking. Rest in peace beautiful Sarah. Thinking of you all. Family and friends.”

Kym Marsh, whose band Hear’Say emerged from ITV show Popstars a year before Girls Aloud, also paid tribute.

She wrote on Twitter: “I’m so very sorry to hear of the passing of Sarah Harding. What a beautiful girl and person she really was.

“I don’t claim to have known her very well but what I did know was how fun and kind she really was. My thoughts are with her family and friends at this time. Sleep tight.”

Harding disclosed last August that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, which had spread to other parts of her body.

Her mother Marie announced the death on Instagram on Sunday and described her “beautiful” daughter as “a bright shining star”.

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