Gary Barlow to return to The X Factor

Gary Barlow has signed up to return for a second series of The X Factor, it has been confirmed.

The Take That star – who has also been working on Golden Jubilee celebrations – said he was “thrilled” to be back on the judging panel.

He joins Louis Walsh who has already announced he will be taking part in the 2012 series.

Barlow has confirmed his return at a time when show boss Simon Cowell finds one of his other major shows, Britain’s Got Talent, being beaten in the ratings by BBC1 rival The Voice.

Cowell has also found his private life in the spotlight thanks to a new unauthorised biography by Tom Bower, in which it was revealed the media mogul had an affair with X Factor judge Dannii Minogue.

Barlow, who mentored last year’s runner-up Marcus Collins in the ITV1 show, said today: “I’m thrilled to be back and really looking forward to working with The X Factor team again.

“The fact that a superstar could just walk out on that stage is very exciting.”

Open auditions for the next series have already been held ahead of the judges sitting in for the next stage of the contest. Wannabes can also apply through Facebook for the first time.

Cowell said of the signing: “Gary has earned his place and I’m excited to be working with him again.”

ITV’s director of television Peter Fincham said: “Gary quickly established himself as a key member of The X Factor judging panel, drawing on his years of experience in the music industry to help in the search for our undiscovered singing stars.”

This year hopefuls can enter regardless of whether they have