Helen Skelton’s Strictly Diary: ‘I’m not used to being the centre of attention’

Helen and Gorka Márquez quickstepped their way to a near-perfect score in Blackpool - Guy Levy/PA
Helen and Gorka Márquez quickstepped their way to a near-perfect score in Blackpool - Guy Levy/PA

The magic of Blackpool had us all entranced. It’s impossible to be there and not have a smile on your face. Gazing at the illuminations gave me the warm and fuzzies and reminded me of so many family trips.

The Tower Ballroom is a huge place − as soon as you walk in you can feel the history. I sort of wish those corridors could talk because I imagine there would be some amazing stories to tell. It was incredible to see the professionals rehearsing their group dances, they are always impressive, but I think the choreographer, Jason Gilkison, really excelled in Blackpool. Magical to watch in real life and on telly.

For lots of the dancers, they were back in the place they had competed as youngsters, when their careers were pipe dreams. Which makes being there even more of a privilege for us non-dancers. During rehearsals, I spent some time studying the magnificent painted ceiling. You don’t appreciate these things as a child, so returning to Blackpool as an adult brought new charms.

There was a real variety show feel to last week’s proceedings, one of pure theatre and of us really putting on a show with that extra level of sparkle. So what a place for us to get our best mark yet. We received 39 from the judges, just a Craig Revel Horwood-shaped point off perfection. But we’re working on that. I promise, Craig!

The crowd were all stomping their feet when we finished our Quickstep. What a feeling that was. We were so thrilled to receive a great reaction from the audience and a succession of positive comments from the judges. But what I loved just as much was seeing my partner Gorka so happy and the other professional dancers, such as Luba, Karen and Katya, cheering wildly for us. They’re his peers and are also watching with a keen eye, so it’s an extra endorsement for him when a performance goes well.

I continue to agree with Anton Du Beke about my concentration face. But last week he said I was “great from the neck up” as well. Hurrah! I’m not used to being the centre of attention and wearing a lot of make-up. Even after 10 weeks of being on this show, I still don’t find it easy strutting across the dancefloor on my own. What helped last week was being part of an ensemble as we had backing dancers.

I loved my rock’n’roll outfit, so much so that I kept my hair extensions in all weekend. My kids laughed at me and said I looked like a peacock. They really are my biggest fans.

It made all the difference being in my homeland. Gorka and I spend a lot of time commuting up and down the country, which can eat into our training, so we were a bit more relaxed. It was wonderful to get our kids together and see them having such fun. It gave me a huge boost, because every working parent always thinks they should be somewhere else, but since the kids are enjoying Strictly too it feels like this experience is valid.

I also felt a bit teary on Saturday as my parents were there. Another memory to add to our Blackpool family album.There’s a tremendous amount of running up and down stairs backstage at the Tower Ballroom and, for one week only, all us girls shared a dressing room with the professional dancers.

Tyler West was the latest contestant to be eliminated from the competition - Guy Levy/PA
Tyler West was the latest contestant to be eliminated from the competition - Guy Levy/PA

Molly Rainford was in the dance-off again, this time against Tyler West. We all assumed Tyler would be in the final, so it goes to show that it’s anyone’s game this year. I think most of all we will miss his megawatt smile.

It’s back to Latin for me, which is not my strongest suit. However, it is a chance to demonstrate a level of improvement in that discipline. We will be dancing the Samba on Saturday and I am playing a posh woman in a hotel, while Gorka is a quirky bell boy.

We’re performing to Eso Beso by Emma Bunton. I was a big Spice Girls fan and went to see them live when I was younger. However, I think I’m definitely more Baby Spice than Posh Spice, but let’s see how it goes.

Poor Kym Marsh is having to miss the show this weekend as she has Covid. Everyone’s being extra careful, but it’s a real shame for her.

The Samba is tricky − it’s basically the Brazilian Waltz. This dance is less placed than other routines, is characterised by a particular bounce action and is all about pure abandon. We’re still riding high off the back of Blackpool, so here goes!

Helen Skelton was speaking to Rachel Ward; Strictly Come Dancing continues on BBC One on Saturday at 7.15pm and Sunday at 6pm