For the past 10 years my family and I have been major fans of the sparkle and razzle dazzle that comes with watching Britian’s best loved show – Strictly Come Dancing.
For years, we had all religiously applied for tickets for Strictly, and I’m happy to say that our years of disappointment and tears finally paid off last year. (Now I don’t want to mention that my Mum had originally wanted to invite my sister instead of me, but I will!)
The main problem for us (and everyone else queuing up) was that we didn’t know what to expect, which is why as the new season of Strictly hits our screens, I wanted to share my experience. Like most other attendees there, we’d done our homework and scoured the internet for any handy titbits of information for when to start queuing up, where to go and whatnot. But most of the blogs out there are very outdated and conflicting, so I wanted to set the record straight.
The first thing you have to know, is that you have to pre-queue for Strictly in order to get a seat ‘number’ for the stage. This is because the Strictly ballroom can only hold about 600 people (and this number gets smaller when you consider all the friends and family members of the dancers and celebs who automatically get tickets each week). So you have to be wary about getting there in time to get a number, as the BBC always oversubscribes to ensure that it has a full audience. This is very important because it means that not everyone who queues is guaranteed to get in.
The next question then, is when do you need to start queuing to ensure you get in for the live filming? The tickets themselves say to start queuing from 9am on the Saturday morning, but from the other blogs we’d read, it said people had been known to start queuing from as early as 2am. So we we decided to err on the side of caution and got there sometime just after 6:20am. Even this early, the queue was already pretty long. And most impressively, there were a number of people at the very front of the queue who had been there since midnight the night before with tents!
My advice? Go as early as you dare. We were able to get in perfectly fine arriving at 6:20am, but don’t rely on being accepted if you rock up at 9am. By that time, the queue was so long that you couldn’t see the end and we knew that there would be a number of very unhappy fans near the middle/back that wouldn’t be getting in. And if you don’t get in, that’s it – you don’t get offered tickets for another day and you’ve lost your chance for Strictly. So if you’re serious about getting in to the showing, make sure you’re in line well before the suggested 9am.
One other thing to remember is to bring something to do, a jacket (it’s early and cold) and maybe even a fold down chair for this initial pre-queue because you’ll essentially be standing around for hours.
As 9am comes round, staff come up the line and scan your ticket (so make sure you have it printed!), check your ticket matches the name on your photo ID and then should give you a sticker with a number – which refers to what group you’ll be in when you are initially seated. If you have tickets with someone else’s name on them or that doesn’t match your photo ID, then they will not accept your ticket. Another lady who was in the queue with us told us that she was able to phone up the BBC ticket hotline and change the name on tickets, so just make sure you do this well ahead of your event date.
After your ticket had been validated you are free to go away and get glammed up and come back at 3 o’clock to queue for the real show! Luckily we lived very close, so we were able to go home and then come back, but there are a number of cafes and a MacDonald’s that are fairly close to the studio that you can hang about in if you are travelling in from somewhere a little further.
At 3 o’clock you are essentially queuing up again in exactly the same place as you did first thing that morning. At this point, things move fairly swiftly and you go through security who confiscate your phones and cameras (and any oversized or large bags) and put them in a set of lockers for you to retrieve them from after the show. My advice here is to take as little as humanly possible and leave your phone in your car, otherwise you’ll be stuck in a two hour queue trying to get your stuff back at the end of the show.
At this point, you and everyone else with validated tickets are herded into a set of gazebos affixed to the side of the studio where you can get a drink, go to the loo and generally hang about until it gets closer to the shows airing time. There are a limited number of chairs available in the main tent. So, if you need to sit down because of your fancy six inch heels, then make sure you’re you line up early for the second queue to get in, otherwise you’ll be stuck on you feet for the next couple of hours.
About an hour before the show was set to air, the staff called out numbers (e.g. 1 – 50, 51 – 100, etc) and we were all slowly taken in and seated – so you don’t need to worry if you were last in the second queue as it’s your original number that counts for who’s let in to be seated first.
The studio itself is so small, so no matter where you are sitting, everyone has a pretty good view. The higher your number, the further back in the rows you’ll be. But don’t worry because you’ll still be able to see all the glitz and glamour up close!
— BBC Strictly✨ (@bbcstrictly) September 30, 2017
Just before the show, they film the Sunday portions professional group dance and any other shots needed for the weekend. Tess and Claudia also come out to say hello just before the show goes live and go over their lines and there’s also a fabulous MC who warms up the crowd and generally goes over what will happen during the filming. After that it’s showtime, so all you need to do is sit back and relax (and hope someone has it on record at home)!
After the Saturday portion has been filmed live, there is a short interval where you can go to the toilet or eat the little snack and drink that the staff provide. Thirty or so minutes later the Sunday portion is filmed and you get let in on the Strictly Secret (who goes home) a full day before anyone else!
When all filming is completed, everyone is slowly funnelled back to the gazebos where you originally start and anyone who has anything in a locker has to queue up to retrieve them – be ready to queue behind a couple of hundred people!
Our Strictly experience was truly amazing and I’m so glad that we put in the effort to get there early and then properly glam ourselves up for the night because it made it all the more special. Seeing the celebrities and the professional dancers up close was truly a highlight for me, especially after watching them all on TV for years. But I think the best thing about the whole event was watching the judges reactions for each dance live. From Bruno’s over-the-top hand waving, to Craig’s frequent looks of horror, it was really hilarious to watch things that aren’t always caught on the TV screen.
If you are lucky enough to get tickets to see Strictly then all you have to do to make sure you have a good time and it will undoubtedly make you the coolest person in the office come Monday!
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