ARTFUL Dodger star Mark Hill could not resist when he was invited to meet some of Southampton's real life artful dodgers.

The invitation came from Fairbridge Solent - a Southampton group working with young people coming to terms with problems such as a criminal past, homelessness or a mental illness.

And when manager Kevin Allen was penning his letter, he decided to grab Mark's attention with the cheeky pickpocket line.

Mark, part of the successful garage duo that has put Southampton on the music map, was only too happy to spend an hour or two at Fairbridge Solent on the Holyrood estate, where friend and musical collaborator Craig David grew up. He said: "It's amazing to see what is going on here at Fairbridge. I walked past the place loads of times on the way to Craig's place and I was always intrigued to know what was happening here."

After a tour of the centre, youngsters had a chance to talk to Mark about his meteoric success - and get a few tips for stardom, too.

He said: "The biggest thing for me about the chosen career I have followed is that it wasn't about what I learnt at school. I have got where I am through trial and error along with a bit of experimentation."

One 16-year-old was overjoyed to meet Mark and inspired by hearing how the Southampton duo broke into the music scene.

The teenager said: "He told us it wasn't an easy road to follow if you want to make it in the music industry.

"They have experienced lots of problems along the way - but they have made it and fair play to them.

"I have been really inspired by listening to him."

Fairbridge manager Kevin said he was delighted Mark had been able to make the date - and he hoped it would be the first of many links.

He said: "Mark was very keen to meet our young people and he is now looking at how he can work with us in the future."