Blackpool stars in Strictly triumph

The stars were shining as bright as Blackpool’s giant glitterball as the resort went live to the nation on Strictly Come Dancing.

Taking centre stage was the glorious Blackpool Tower Ballroom, resplendently decked out with silver glitter and extra chandeliers for the occasion.

The opening sequence of Strictly Come Dancing in Blakcpool.  BBC photographs  - Photographer: Guy Levy

The opening sequence of Strictly Come Dancing in Blakcpool. BBC photographs - Photographer: Guy Levy

While viewing figures saw an average of 10.3million people tuning in at home on Saturday, hundreds of fans of the show packed into the venue, some having queued from 5am to secure their place in the most sought after audience in the country.

The BBC received 1.6million ticket applications through its website for the series this year - having around 400 places each week at the London studio, and around double that at Blackpool.

The stars of the show and their dance partners were seen riding donkeys and dodgems, travelling in trams and visiting fortune tellers.

After waving off the last of the BBC’s trucks yesterday afternoon, and as the team ploughed on with the clean up operation, general manager of The Tower Kate Shane hailed Saturday night as the best Strictly visit yet.

“The buzz around the BBC after the show, right the way up, was that it had been amazing,” she said.

“The show received a phenomenal reaction on social media, and one executive even said it had been the finest moment they’d worked on.

“It’s the best Blackpool Strictly I have been part of, either as an audience member or manager, on every level.”

Even after the whirlwind, long hours put in this week, she’s ready to start planning next year’s visit should the Strictly chiefs wish to return.

“They tell me that of all the venues they work with for various shows, the team here at the Tower are the most accommodating and helpful,” Ms Shane added.

Last night, TV viewers saw tennis coach Judy Murray leave the show after a dance off against Casualty actress Sunetra Sarker, as they landed in the bottom two of the public vote.

Judy’s Viennese waltz with Anton du Beke to Let’s Go Fly A Kite saw her soar out of the competition - literally - in one of the many show-stopping moments broadcast from the 120-year-old Tower.

The routine ended with her floating off towards the gilded roof holding a cluster of balloons, and she got a high-flying score of 24 which included her first sevens of the series.

The results show also featured a 24-carat performance from singing sensation Dame Shirley Bassey, who brought Gold Finger to the Golden Mile.

Ms Shane added: “Dame Shirley Bassey was unbelievable - I’ll remember that moment for the rest of my life.”

Ms Shane also paid tribute to the 100-strong team of Tower staff working on Saturday night, which came at the end of a ‘golden’ season.

“2014 has been one of the most golden years the Tower has ever had,” she said.

“The visitor footfall in the resort and at the Tower has been huge, revenue growth, we’ve had some of the biggest events in years here too.

Mayor Coun Val Haynes was in the audience on Saturday night, and said: “Dame Shirley Bassey is a legend. To have stars of that kind coming to Blackpool, we can’t wish for better.

“It was absolutely brilliant. There was a huge amount of free publicity for Blackpool, not just from Strictly but also Children In Need was from the Tower Circus. Everything about it put Blackpool in a good light.

“People would like the final here, and I asked one of the directors, but they said it’s down to costs; they have to bring so many people, 200 workers come for the week - so it really does help the economy of the town.

“The whole thing is fantastic for Blackpool.”

Saturday night’s show saw dancers whirl and wow their way around the floor, and there must have been something in the sea air, as the judges Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli, Craig Revel-Horwood and Darcey Bussell pulled out numerous 10 paddles to score dances.

Opening the show was The Saturdays’ singer Frankie Bridge and partner Kevin Clifton, flying around the vast Tower Ballroom floor making the most of its sprung boards, as they danced to The Jam’s A Town Called Malice in a rock band-themed routine. And straight away, it was a 10 from Len, as well as Bruno, an eight from Craig and nine from Darcy.

But topping the leader board were Simon Webbe and Kristina Rihanoff, who danced the Argentine tango, and Pixie Lott and Trent Whiddon, the paso doble, each picking up 38 points, taking five 10s between them.

And TV presenter Caroline Flack ‘flew the flag for Strictly’ in her Union Flag dress, with partner Pasha Kovalev in a Guardsman’s uniform winning a 10 from Bruno for their jive.

Scores and spirits were high all round, when in the aftermath of Simon’s moody routine, head judge Len Goodman appeared to utter an expletive in delight - raising the eyebrows of the Blue singer, as well as viewers at home although it seemed to go unnoticed inside the arena.

Moments later, Blackpool-born co-host Zoe Ball - whose dad, former Think Of A Number presenter and 2012 Strictly contestant, Johnny was in the audience - told viewers: “I also would like to apologise. Len got a little bit carried away with the excitement of the dance and I’m very sorry for the bad language.”

There was even a throw-back to the summer success of Mamma Mia!, which played to record audiences at the Opera House, when Strictly’s opening number of Saturday saw the dancers take to the floor to Abba hit I Have A Dream, which also features in the musical.

The audience, dressed to impress for the cameras, was transported back to the roaring 20s for last night’s resort show for a Michael Jackson medley set in a speakeasy, before boy band super-group McBusted showcased their new single Air Guitar, as drummer Harry Judd returned to the scene of his 2011 Strictly Come Dancing win.

Before the weekend’s dancing got under way, some of celebrities and their dance partners helped to calm the nerves with dinner and drinks at the Beach House on The Prom.

Former The Only Way Is Essex star Mark Wright happily posed for photos with fans during the night.

And after Saturday’s broadcast and filming, a wrap party was held at Rumours in Talbot Square, with the glittering celebrity dancers drawing the attention of paparazzi and gaining extra column inches for the 
resort.