Strictly through the ages

Aliona Vilani and Harry Judd lift the glitter ball
Aliona Vilani and Harry Judd lift the glitter ball

The glitz and glamour of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing has a sparkling history in Blackpool that would put even the coveted glitterball to shame.

So while the celebrities are looking ahead to their night at the Tower Ballroom on Saturday, we take a look at some of the show’s Blackpool highlights from years gone by.

The Gazettes campaign to bring Strictly home

The Gazettes campaign to bring Strictly home

The popular dance contest will return to Blackpool this weekend for its long-awaited annual show.

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Coming to Blackpool has made it more special but it definitely added to the pressure

However, the resort has not always been a part of the modern-day Strictly – even if it was home to the precursor series Come Dancing for 49 years.

Series two of the rebooted show saw actress Jill Halfpenny wow the crowd and judges with a perfect scoring jive in the show’s Blackpool final – but it would be a while until the cameras returned.

Cue a Gazette campaign, plenty of public support and even strong words from judge Craig Revel Horwood, who said: “Blackpool is ballroom dancing... I love Blackpool and I think it’s really sad the BBC don’t film Strictly here. I demand it goes back!”

The show’s producers listened and in 2009 the programme returned – with mixed emotions for local lad Craig Kelly.

The St Annes-born ex-Coronation Street actor made it to Blackpool on the strength of public support – if not dancing ability – but it would be his final dance of the series. He said afterwards: “I’m grateful I got the chance to perform in such a magnificent building.”

That was the start of the annual tradition of filming a show a year at the Tower – with 2012 the only exception – and in 2011 the resort hosted the final, which was won by Mcfly drummer and firm fan favourite Harry Judd.

He said: “Coming to Blackpool has made it more special but it definitely added to the pressure.”

Fast forward to last year and 21m people tuned in over the course of the weekend to watch as Northerner Georgia May Foote topped the leader board in Blackpool.

It would be the end of the road for popstar Jamelia, however, who was voted off the show, while eventual winner Jay McGuinness scored an impressive 36 points on the night.

This year, after saying farewell to Daisy Lowe, and seeing Ed Balls through to yet another week, the dancers have turned their attention to the seaside resort once more and are preparing to battle it out with their sambas, salsas and jives.

The much-anticipated episode on Saturday opens with a Fred Astaire and Ginger
Rogers-inspired number from the professional dancers and celebrities.

Although winning the glitterball is the main goal, making it to Blackpool is something that all contestants aim for as it is seen as a milestone in the competition.

Saturday’s Strictly episode will air on BBC One at 6.55pm.