John Holden is one of those people who deserves an award for services to the local community.
For the last half-century John has been involved in the ice skating world and for the last 14 years has organised the annual Blackpool Ice Twirlers Show, raising thousands of pounds for charity in the process.
The latest Twirlers show – Rhythm of Dance – takes place tomorrow and on Saturday at the Pleasure Beach ice rink (7.30pm start, tickets from www.blackpoolpleasurebeach.com).
For John, it is the culmination of months of hard work preparing for the event.
“We rehearse every week, two and a half hours on Tuesday nights, and although it takes up a lot of my time, I just love doing it,” he said.
John first walked into the Pleasure Beach ice rink in 1959 as a young lad from Highfield School who wanted to learn to skate.
“I didn’t see it as cissy – ice skating was very prevalent in Blackpool in those days and me and a lot of my mates wanted to give it a go,” he said.
John proved a dab hand at it and began competing as part of the Blackpool Ice Formation Dance Team at rinks all over the country, becoming a silver medallist at national junior level.
“Unfortunately it’s an expensive game and by this time I was married and having kids, so I had to give it up,” he added.
So competitive skating went on the back-burner, but John switched his attention to helping others.
“I loved the sport and I wanted others to like it too, so I decided to try and encourage the next generation,” he explained.
He helped at several clubs and became a test organiser for the National Ice Skating Association.
Then he decided to get something going in Blackpool.
“I was watching the processions go by at Lytham Club Day and they had these majorettes twirling batons,” he said. “It suddenly struck me that would be a great idea, to put twirling on the ice.
“I formed Blackpool Ice Twirlers in 1996 and it has been going strong ever since.”
The team started with 12 members but has since grown – there are now 26 girls split into three age groups.
They have competed in various tournaments (“we’ve been to Belgium 16 times over the years and done exhibition dances all over the place,” said John) and have even been headhunted by Peter Kay (“he got us to do a trailer for one of his TV shows – we spent a full day filming and he had the girls dressed up in beards as if they were disciples.”).
Many of the dancers in the group have gone on to appear in Hot Ice or Disney On Ice. Indeed John’s own daughters have toured the world in the latter.
“First and foremost it is about enjoying yourself, but we take it seriously as well and are proud of what we do,” said John.
“We’ve reached a high standard and we’ve got some talented skaters.”
You can find out yourself by attending one of the shows over the next two nights. All proceeds go to chosen charity, Breakthrough Breast Cancer.