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Blackpool councillor hits back at Strictly 'squatter camp' jibe

Strictly Come Dancing contestants and professionals in rehearsal at Blackpool Tower Ballroom. Picture by Guy Levy
Strictly Come Dancing contestants and professionals in rehearsal at Blackpool Tower Ballroom. Picture by Guy Levy
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"If that's how you feel about it, don't come."

Those were the words of the leader of the opposition at Blackpool Council after the new star of Strictly Come Dancing revealed fellow dancers compared the town to a 'squatter camp'.

Strictly professional Johannes Radebe, 31,who joins the show this year, revealed that he was warned not to expect much from Blackpool by some people on the show.

He told The Mirror: “Growing up, for me there’s always been the Blackpool championship... and when you look at Blackpool from the inside, it’s majestic.

“And you would think it would be in a very posh area as it hosts one of the biggest events in the dancing calendar.

“And apparently... they’re like the squatter camps.”

The town hosts one of the biggest nights in each series of Strictly, as contestants perform in the famous Blackpool Tower Ballroom.

Councillor Tony Williams, who is the the leader of the Blackpool Conservative Group, said: "Blackpool has never been a shanty town. Blackpool has its own problems that it is aware of, but they are coming to the best ballroom in the world and the most famous place for dancing. They should be honoured to be dancing in this magnificent ballroom.

"If that's how you feel about it, don't come."

Hotelier Claire Smith, of Stay Blackpool, said: "There are so many wonderful, exciting and great things going on in this town. Why can't people concentrate on the positive instead of always picking at the negative? We have the same problems as any other town but as a bonus we have amazing entertainment. Why do people like to drag us down?

"There's so much hard work that is going on. We have a blue flag beach, we have a great party area, and we have other areas in the town for families. We're doing a superb job of attracting families back to the resort for the right reasons but all that gets forgotten when you get kicked like this and it's such a shame.

"What everybody says when they start Strictly is 'I just want to get to Blackpool' because we are the dance capital of the world. We have got this amazing ballroom that nobody else has got.

"The ballroom looks amazing on TV and I always feel so proud when that episode comes out. It never fails to wow."

Mr Rabede has since apologised for any offence his comments may have caused.

The Gazette asked Blackpool Council to respond specifically to the ‘squatters camp’ slur. But the authority declined.

Coun Gillian Campbell, deputy leader of Blackpool Council said: "The reality is that Blackpool is the undisputed capital of ballroom and that's why coming here to dance is the pinnacle of everyone's Strictly journey.

"We know from experience that the Strictly family cherish their relationship with Blackpool and we look forward to welcoming them back in a few weeks' time for another magical weekend."