A show full of real celebrities

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my views of “reality” television. I also suggested that by being part of the audience for Strictly Northampton, anyone in the audience would have a great view of the genuine reality of people taking on something that would challenge them. I wasn’t wrong.

Last Saturday saw not one, but two excellent dance events taking place, with children from Cedar Road Primary School taking the title in the Junior Strictly Northampton competition, and boxer John Daly, from Far Cotton Amateur Boxing Club, with his partner delivering a knockout performance which won him the public vote in the adult equivalent. John had a very personal reason to take part, after a member of his family was diagnosed with cancer, and he was a worthy winner indeed. Both events were attended by sell-out audiences and I was honoured to have the presenting duties in the evening. From the moment each event started the audiences were vocal, partisan but supportive of each dancing group or couple. There may have been two sets of champions, but there were no losers.

Throughout the past eight weeks, I’ve been amazed to see the level of commitment that the “celebrities” and their dance partners have put into their moves, their working relationships and also the raising of cash to support the Macmillan Cancer Support appeal. It’s fair to say, I think, that not one of the “celebrities” was a genuine celebrity when this year’s Strictly competition began. In the same way, as one earns respect (or should), I think the term “celebrity” should only be conferred on a person when they have done something for which we would reasonably be expected to celebrate their actions or their life. All too often in the recent past, people have been held up for public acclaim as being celebrities when they have done nothing to deserve it. As a result the term “celebrity” has been devalued. Who then are the true celebrities? Certainly not politicians who desert their constituents, nor chancers on a talent show who are in turn exploited by the cynicism of transient “talent factories”. I suggest we should reappraise our understanding of the term, and look for genuine and worthy cases for its use.

We could start with the dance contestants for Strictly Northampton, and their partners. At least one of them was dancing through considerable pain and had done so for weeks, having picked up an injury which then required a variety of treatments just to get that person to the night of competition. Many had put in hours and hours of practice beyond the group rehearsals in order to take their places on the stage at Derngate. All had worked tirelessly to help raise money for the Macmillan appeal. Most were completely out of their comfort zones when the house lights went down and the music started up... I suggest that all of that is evidence worthy of celebration.

At the end of the year the appeal will come to an end and with just over a month remaining, it is on course to achieve its £1.55million goal. Saturday night further swelled the coffers through the generosity of the audience and the dancers’ sponsors. Maybe that’s the final act of celebration for which the Macmillan charity can be grateful and the 
participants – dancers, crew and audience – justifiably proud.

The date for next year’s Strictly Northampton event has already been pencilled in for November 23. The organisers are looking for new contestants; no previous dancing experience necessary.

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