Sunderland dancing fundraiser was Strictly good fun

The Strictly Sunderland team. Pic: Gabriel Petre.
The Strictly Sunderland team. Pic: Gabriel Petre.
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Fast-footed fundraisers brought some sparkle to Sunderland with a Strictly Come Dancing-themed event.

Strictly Sunderland, which saw six couples hit the dancefloor, proved so successful that organisers have pledged to run it again next year.

Winners Gavin and Fiona Leng.

Winners Gavin and Fiona Leng.

Gavin and Fiona Leng, from the Martino’s restaurant chain, took the top title after wowing guests at the Quayside Exchange, on High Street East, in a hotly-fought contest.

They shimmied their way to victory with a salsa version of Viva Las Vegas, after beating off competition from Andy Bradley and Samantha Czwordon-Wright from The Bridges; Ken Dunbar and Gemma Dishman from Sunderland Bid; Simon Robertson and Melissa Crawford from Miss Sunderland GB and Made in Tyne and Wear; fitness expert Katie Bulmer-Cooke and Mr Gay World Stuart Hatton, and Lorraine Griffiths and DJ Sipho from The Point.

The event was the brainchild of Nicola Collinson, from Sunderland, and friend Debbie Hayes from Make My Day events.

Mum-of-three Nicola said: “We are big Strictly Come Dancing fans and we wondered why no one had ever thought of doing a Sunderland version before.

Katie Bulmer-Cooke and Stuart Hatton

Katie Bulmer-Cooke and Stuart Hatton

“We were out with Andy and Ken at the time and we persuaded them to come on board.

“Each of the teams rehearsed for about 10 hours prior to the event to make sure they knew the dances.

“It went fabulously on the night, it couldn’t have gone any better.”

Each team danced for a different charity, with Gavin and Fiona winning £2,000 for their chosen charity, the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, which helps disadvantaged children.

Gavin said: “We chose it because, unlike a lot of charities, this is totally ran by volunteers, so no salaries or operating costs, meaning 100% of the money raised goes directly towards helping people.

“We can stipulate which province we wish the money to be distributed in also, so we can keep it local.”

A panel of judges were on hand to score each dance, but it was the audience members who voted for the overall winners.

Nicola said it went with such a swing that plans are already in the pipeline for next year’s event. She added: “We’re definitely planning on holding it again. We’ve already had inquiries from people wanting to take part.

“We’re going to make it even bigger and better.”