Twelve dancing couples thrilled a packed house at the Winter Gardens on Saturday for Weston Hospicecare’s inaugural Strictly Fun Dancing event.

The event – based on the BBC’s hit TV series Strictly Come Dancing – saw a dozen amateur couples compete in a dance contest compered by Homes Under The Hammer host Martin Roberts.

Each couple had undergone eight weeks of dance training from Weston-based Burning Salsa in preparation for the event, which played out in front of a sold-out audience of nearly 400 people.

And with raucous backing from their own teams of supporters, the couples delivered a series of fun, inventive routines which earned lavish praise from a panel of judges which included BBC Radio Bristol’s Emma Britton, the Weston Mercury’s Vicky Angear, dance organiser Chloe Helmore and Emma Sage of Weston’s The Dance Company.

Winners Sarah Woolf and John Harvey earned a huge ovation when their victory was announced; the only bigger cheer of the night came when it was revealed the night had raised £18,000 towards the hospice’s work caring for people with life-limiting illnesses and their families. Further sponsorship is still being collected, so the final total is not yet known.

Sarah, a dance movement psychotherapist, runs an expressive movement therapy group at the hospice, and said she and John were thrilled to be able to support a cause which meant a lot to them.

She said: “We were in it to support the hospice and to entertain people, but we also wanted to show through dance what music and creative movement can do to help people relive memories or reconnect with parts of themselves they may have lost.

“Our performance was dedicated to the expressive movement therapy group, but was also themed around Weston-super-Mare – the first routine was based on the old Winter Gardens tearooms and meeting my love, and the second was set on the beach.

“I thought everyone was amazing on the night, and we were gobsmacked to win, so we would like to thank everybody who played a part in the event – it was one of the best days of our lives.”

The event was sponsored by fuel company BWOC, and helped raise money for the hospice – which costs £4million a year to run, of which only a fifth is funded by the government – through ticket sales, sponsorship, donations on the night and a silent auction.

Weston Hospicecare’s event fundraiser Kelsey Dehaney said: “I was very proud of everyone who took part. I have been watching them train from day one, and they have improved so much. Even though a lot of them were nervous, they all did an amazing job.

“I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and I am pleased to see that everyone else did too. So a huge thank you on behalf of everyone at Weston Hospicecare to everyone who took part, and everyone who came to support. It was a fabulous night – and we’re already looking forward to doing it all again next year.”

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