Secrets of the Strictly Blackpool ballroom – celeb’s backstage rant and nicest stars

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Now Strictly Come Dancing has reached its halfway point, the remaining celebs can dream of lifting the Glitterball trophy.

Sadly the contestants won’t be making their usual pilgrimage to Blackpool Tower due to Covid-19.

But the show will instead pay homage to the yearly spectacular with some fabulous routines set to music by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Meghan Trainor.

For Blackpool Tower boss Kate Shane though, it just won’t be the same.

Kate, who oversees several attractions at the seaside resort, said: “It’s a huge buzz for the town every November.

Blackpool Tower boss Kate Shane with judge Craig Revel Horwood and former judges Darcey Bussell and Len Goodman
(Image: THISISINFLUENTIAL.COM)

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“The taxi drivers are busy, the hotels are busy and it all builds up to Saturday night’s show, which is my favourite moment of the year.

“We’re missing the Strictly cast and crew – they should be here right now and the building should be buzzing. Instead, it’s closed.”

So, to keep the Blackpool dream alive for 2020, we asked Kate to share some of her Strictly highlights from the resort – and spill a few ­backstage secrets from years gone by.

At first sight

Celebs are blown away when they first see the Strictly Tower ballroom
(Image: Getty Images/AWL Images RM)

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One of my favourite moments is when celebs first see the ballroom.

When they see the scale and beauty of it and feel the sprung dance floor beneath their feet, it’s magical.

Anita Dobson’s reaction was a standout one for me, what a lovely lady. I took her out to her car after the show and she grabbed hold of my hand and said: “You’re so lucky, dear, to have that.”

I said: “We view it as Blackpool’s living room and we’re all so proud of it.”

I then asked Anita if she wanted to see the purpose-built circus in the basement. She was absolutely blown away by it.

Superfans

Rory Bremner was one of the stars to make it to Blackpool
(Image: Getty Images)

On Saturday, when the live show is on, people start queuing at five o’clock in the morning. Some actually come the night before and camp.

I remember the year Rory Bremner was in it – he went and talked to the crowd, he was brilliant with them. The male dancers always get a big reaction from the fans outside and Take That were very popular too.

But the biggest moment was one Saturday night when I got a call from the security team saying the police were on the phone and wanted to speak to me.

They said: “We just want to know why there’s a massive crowd outside”.

Natalie Lowe was one of the nicest Strictly dancers
(Image: Getty Images)

I thought it was odd. I went down and there was a sea of people on the promenade with a people carrier in the middle of it.

The crowds were there for McBusted and thought they might be in the car.

I tapped on the window and it was Craig Revel Horwood’s driver. I had to get in the car and help him find his way out.

Who's the nicest

Ian Waite has also been described as one of the nicest dancers
(Image: Get Reading)

The loveliest people by a country mile were Strictly dancers Natalie Lowe and Ian Waite. Natalie’s a beautiful person inside and out, she’s very kind.

Len’s probably my favourite judge but Darcey Bussell was lovely too.

And Craig is always great. He has a laugh with the audience, he’s very funny.

Remembering Caroline

Blackpool has very fond memories of Caroline Flack
(Image: BBC)

Our ballroom is huge and if the dancing’s not coming that naturally to you, like with Edwina Currie or Judy Murray, it can be quite intimidating.

Caroline Flack was a standout star for me – she did an upbeat dance. Her face told a massive story when she finished and the crowd gave her a standing ovation.

She was a good character when she was here and a lovely lady so we were very sad to hear what happened earlier this year. When Caroline and Pasha [Kovalev] did their VT, they were having their fortunes told so we used the Royal Box in our circus in the basement.

I remember holding up curtains and props for them and we had a bit of a laugh. It's a nice memory.

Behind the scenes

Kate Shane described the Strictly logistics as "exciting"
(Image: Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

The logistics are exciting. The Tower is Grade I listed and they have to get enormous props in through very small doors, like when Craig flew in through the air on a huge guitar.

I’ll get a call from the props guys and they go: “Can we use fireworks?” or “Can we set fire to the dance floor?” and I say: “I’ll come and have a look.”

The Tower team that work on Strictly all love it. We do the catering so they get to see all the stars.

Stunning Shirley

Shirley Bassey's Strictly performance was "incredible"
(Image: BBC)

There have been some great music acts in the Blackpool Tower.

When Michael Ball and Alfie Boe performed, that was a moment, but the one for me was Shirley Bassey.

All of the music acts rehearse in the afternoon. She arrived and didn’t even do a soundcheck.

When it came to do the pre-record of the performance before the live show, Shirley walked on in front of the full audience, had a few words with the band and they started up with Goldfinger.

Every hair on my body stood up, it was incredible. I don’t think anyone took a breath, she did it in one take and it was amazing.

Heart-stopping

There have been some hairy moments. We took Len Goodman [Strictly’s former head judge] to the top of the tower to do a VT and the lift stopped halfway down.

We were stuck for about 10 minutes, but Len was having a laugh and a joke – he was brilliant.

I remember taking Jessie J back to her dressing room one year and she used some “terminology” to express how cold she was, shall we say.

A lot of the doors are propped open to get stuff in and out, so any kind of temperature control is difficult.

Terrific Tango

Harry Judd and Aliona Vilani’s stunning Argentine tango was performed in Blackpool
(Image: BBC)

If I was to pick one dance it would be Harry Judd and Aliona Vilani’s Argentine tango. You knew it was going to be a 40.

It was the final and they won here – it was a spectacular night.

When Harry was announced the winner, his [McFly] bandmates were in the front row and they ran on to congratulate him.

Bruce Forsyth was the host back then.

He didn’t know who they were and had a bit of a panic.

Best entrance

Ed Balls was a big character on the show
(Image: Collect)

Ed Balls making his impresive Blackpool entrance
(Image: BBC)

Ed Balls’s entrance for his routine was a memorable one – and he was a big character too.

As a former MP, he’d been to Blackpool before for conferences.

There’s always the party after the Blackpool show and I got Ed to put on his I Heart Blackpool hoodie and took a picture.

They all party after the show and it’s fun. But I don’t stay late as I’m in from 7am!

Save the best for last

The stunning Viennese waltz under the moon
(Image: BBC)

Last year’s pro dance was spectacular – a Viennese waltz under the moon.

When I saw the dress rehearsal, I felt my eyes getting a bit watery at the corners.

I’ve got one of the best jobs in the world, in my opinion. I can get up from my desk throughout the year and walk into the ballroom and see our beautiful regulars dancing.

But when they set up for Strictly and do the rehearsals, it’s even more fantastic.

For such a popular show to talk about Blackpool in such a positive way – we couldn’t ask for anything more.

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