Everything You Need To Know About Going To See A Recording Of Strictly Come Dancing
Tomorrow sees 'Strictly' kick off it's annual run as another line-up of celebs battle it out on the dance floor to take-home the Glitter Ball trophy.
Last week I was lucky enough to go along to the recording of the first episode which sees the celebs paired with the professional dancers and , whilst I can't tell you who is with who, I can give you the low down on what it's like to be part f the Strictly audience and everything you need to know if you manage to get one of the most sought after tickets for a TV show.
The bad news is, it's already too late to apply for tickets to this years series. The draw for tickets closed on 1st September. If you want to apply for next years series then make sure you register with the BBC Shows and Tours Website, because unless your specially invited i.e - you're related to or a friend of one of the celebs or dancers, this is the only way you stand a chance of getting in the audience. Bear in mind 4.5 million people applied for tickets to the launch show, so your chances are slim, but you have to be in it to win it as they say. The other bad news is that many people try for years before they get selected.
Visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours for more information.
Assuming you are lucky enough to picked at random for a ticket, you will be notified by email of the date of the show you have been picked for. The information given is very vague, other than the location of filming, the request to dress glam and that you must take photographic ID with you. Without it you will not be allowed in.
Even though you've been picked, you're still not guaranteed to get in! They actually over allocate to make sure they have a full studio audience, allowing for no-shows.
So, what does that mean, well basically you have to get to the studio early. They start validating tickets from 9am but by that time there are hundreds of people queuing. Those at the very front of the queue got there at 5.30am and are equipped with seats, food and sleeping bags. These are the people who get the best seats in the studio directly in front of the dance floor, the second best seats are those around the judges table, on the opposite side are the friends and relatives. There is further seating upstairs but some will have a restricted view and you will not be seen on the television.
You will not be told whilst you are in the queue whether you are likely to be successful. Only when you get near the front will the audience staff start to talk to you. When you reach the front your ID and ticket will be checked and a colour coded sticker will be put on your ticket. The colour of the sticker will be indicative of where you will be seated later. Once you have your sticker you will be told what time to come back. It is only at that point that your place is confirmed.
So, if you don't want a wasted journey, the advice is to get there early. There are several hotels close to the studio including a Holiday Inn and Travel Lodge. Having a base nearby will reduce the stress of commuting across London in the early hours and you'll have somewhere to go between queuing and going back to film and when filming finishes late in the evening. A bus stops on the main road outside the studio and will get you back to the hotel fairly quickly.
When you return to the studio later in the day you will have to queue yet again. Why they can't stagger arrival times is a mystery but there will be a queue the same length as the first time, so be prepared to be standing for while and think about the weather you might be stood in. You are not allowed to take any phones or recording equipment in to the studio. If you take your phone you must hand it in to staff who will put it in a clear bag and give you a ticket to reclaim your phone at the end of filming. Unless you really need to have a phone with you, you may as well leave it at the hotel, otherwise you will have to queue yet again to get your phone back. You will also need to go through airport type security scanners and staff will also scan you with a hand held device.
The waiting area for Strictly is pretty basic. There is a block of outdoor toilets- not many of them considering how many people there are. Inside there are a few seats, a table selling Strictly memorabilia, a bar (again, another queue) and someone on a mic doing a bit of a Strictly quiz with stats and show memories. When the studio is ready for you the same person will call you in a little like boarding a plane. ie 'People with a green sticker numbered between 1-50 can now be seated'
You are not allowed to take food or alcohol into the studio. You can take food into the waiting area. There's a big Tesco next to the studio, where apparently you can regularly catch members of the EastEnders cast doing a bit of shopping. We had been told we could take snacks so had to eat them before going in. Make sure you have had something to eat as filming can take hours and you will be unable to leave, particularly if you are seated around the dance floor for continuity. (Although you are allowed to go to the toilet if a suitable time arises) In terms of food and drink - we were all given a freddo frog, a cereal bar and a can of water!
The studio and dance floor is much smaller than it looks on TV. You'll be amazed by how much smaller and how close everything is together, it is however just as sparkly as it seems on TV.
The real presenter of the show is warm up man Stuart Holdham. OK, so some of his jokes are a bit old, but right from the start he talks you through what is happening, he brings the acts, celebs, dancers and even Tess and Claudia on stage. He'll tell you when to clap, when to be quiet and ensure there is no dead spaces between goings on.
There's obviously only one chance to get things right on a live show but on pre-recorded sections the professional dancers may have to do the same routine up to 3 times until they're happy with it. Lines will be repeated and if you in the news about Craig's dig at Stacey Dooley, it's true, much to the shock of everyone, filming was stopped and the his response redone. The judges are much the same off camera as they are on. Craig keeps moody demure and Bruno is just as flamboyant. Without wanting to sound sexist, Tess is even more beautiful in the flesh and Claudia is just as witty. All the ladies of a certain age in the audience love Anton, the rest seem to go mad for Kevin. Both clearly love the attention.
You are told not to tell anyone anything about anything which is not live - such as results, pairings etc but you are not made to sign anything. For many years a website called Strictly Confidential names the eliminated to couple ahead of the results show on Sunday. To this day the production company claim not to know who is behind it!
By the end of the show everyone is tired, there's no big farewell and everyone just saunters off. If you're hungry the M & S petrol station shop down the road is still open to grab some food, and you'll probably find a lot of the other audience there. As luck would have it they reduce the sandwiches at that time of night. (We finished at 10pm)
It's not all glitter and glamour.