CONFIRMED: Gary Barlow returns to The X Factor 2012!

Gary Barlow

Gary Barlow is to return to judge The X Factor 2012, it has been confirmed by ITV and The X Factor this evening.

Gary, who joined the show last year, is the first of this year's line up to be officially confirmed.

One of Britain’s most successful singer songwriters and a member of one of the biggest pop groups of all time, Take That, Gary has amassed twelve UK No. 1 hits and is a five times recipient of the Ivor Novello award for songwriting.

In a statement released this evening, Gary said: “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.”

X Factor boss Simon Cowell added: “It’s great to be able to confirm our first judge for this year’s show.

"Gary has earned his place and I’m excited to be working with him again.”

The show's exec producer, Richard Holloway commented: “Gary brings his vast music expertise, his fabulous character and down-to-earth approach to the show and audiences adore him so we are absolutely delighted that he’s coming back.”

Quickly taking to Twitter, Gary wrote: "I'm so happy to tell you all that I'm back on the X factor this year ! See you at auditions."

It's expected - but not yet confirmed - that Gary will be joined by Kelly Rowland, Louis Walsh and Tulisa on the panel once again this year.

Simon previously said that his "gut feeling" was to keep the judges unchanged, despite a decline in ratings last autumn.

Filming for the new series begins with the auditions, which start in Cardiff in May.

> X Factor 2012 live judges audition dates revealed!

The series returns to ITV1, ITV2 and itv.com later in the summer, 2012.

Meanwhile it's also been revealed today that the show will be accepting applications via Facebook for the first time. Find out more about The X Factor Facebook applications her.

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