Novice dancers gave two spectacular performances and helped raised thousands of pounds to protect a town centre landmark during the second Strictly by Brackley last weekend.
After individual American Smooth and Jive routines, and a group freestyle performance, celebrity Hannah Westcott of Defern Beauty, and her partner Ian Walker from Topsy Turvey gift shop walked away with the audience vote and the winners trophy on the Saturday evening.
Moments after their win was announced Hannah said: “I’m utterly shocked we weren’t expecting that at all.”
Ian, who took part last year as a celebrity, said: “We joked earlier we’re taking these big trophies away to put them in our shops, and now we are actually taking them away!
“But we got on really well and had a laugh, Hannah enjoyed changes frocks and shoes, but it all come together really well in the end.”
Speaking about how they prepared for the event Hannah said: “It’s very intense we’ve been doing seven to nine hours a week, we’re going miss that now.”
After a repeat performance to a different audience on the Sunday night Jack Buckley, student and Red Lion barman, and dancer Katie Appleton walked away with the second winners’ trophy.
Katie has danced for Step by Step Dance School in five Strictly competitions, but said: “It really is daunting being up in front or 200 odd people trying to perform, and trying not to get nervous so you can actually enjoy it. And you want to remember every minute of it, especially the celebrities who only get one chance to dance in a situation like this.”
“And jack was brilliant, we knew each other a little bit, so we had a bit of rapport already, we laughed all the way through our practice sessions. We had so much fun and I think the audience could see that connection on the dance floor, and he can certainly move those hips.”
Jack said: “It was a massive surprise, especially since to we hadn’t made it through to the audience vote on the Saturday night, and even more so because Katie’ done a couple of Strictlies on hasn’t won yet and her partner from last year, Ian, won on the first night. But we thought we’re never dancing with each other again, so we decided to go out there and give it everything we had.”
So far the event has raised more than £4,000 for the Magdalen College School Chapel in High Street.
Theo Hayward of Brackley Town Council introduced the evening by explaining why they chose to support the Old Brackleians Society maintenance fund for the chapel.
Parts of the chapel date back to the 12th and 13th centuries, but it has been the school chapel since 1548, and it is thought to be the oldest school chapel still in use. MCS graduates have the right to use the chapel for weddings and other family events, and it is used by community groups and choirs, as well as the normal Sunday morning church service. Ms Hayward said: “It is used by so many different groups in the town, and it has such a long heritage. Then of course there is the unique connection it has with the school and it is very rare to have a chapel serving a school for so long.”
Thoughts from the judges’ bench
Advertiser reporter Gavin Moore had the privilege of being asked to judge both nights having taken part as a celebrity last year.
He said: “As a novice dancer I felt under a lot of pressure, but I was told to trust my instincts which seemed to pay off.
“On both nights those couples who the judges scored the highest ended up being the audience’s favourite as well.
“And there were some great performances, especially when you consider many of the celebrities had never done any ballroom dancing before and many of the Step by Step dancers were novices last year.
“And yes, the event did raised some much needed funds for a much loved building, but more importantly, and the one thing you can not plan for, the crowd loved it. They got behind the dancers from the outset by cheering and clapping and many had banners with messages of support. So it was for a noble cause, but mostly it was cracking good fun and a great evening’s entertainment.”