Will Strictly Come Dancing pull the plug on a trip to the seaside in 2020 for the Blackpool Tower Ballroom live show?

BBC pictures Strictly Come Dancing at Blackpool Tower 2019BBC pictures Strictly Come Dancing at Blackpool Tower 2019
BBC pictures Strictly Come Dancing at Blackpool Tower 2019 | other
Strictly Come Dancing without Blackpool?

Question marks hover over whether hit BBC show Strictly Come Dancing will return to the Blackpool Tower Ballroom this year amid the chaos for the entertainment industry caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The BBC has refused to comment amid claims "drastic changes" are set to be made to the 2020 series, including the axing of the annual Blackpool trip, live audiences and the showstopping ensemble numbers.

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It has been reported producers are hopeful of a series being able to come to air but viewers of the long running entertainment show have said a "pared down" version of the dance spectacular would not meet the expectations of loyal fans.

BBC Pictures Emma Barton and dance professional Anton Du Beke performing at Blackpool Tower in 2019BBC Pictures Emma Barton and dance professional Anton Du Beke performing at Blackpool Tower in 2019
BBC Pictures Emma Barton and dance professional Anton Du Beke performing at Blackpool Tower in 2019 | other

Some enthusiasts have suggested cancelling the family favourite show altogether would be in the better interests for the contestants and professionals to get the most of the Strictly experience.

A spokesperson for the BBC said there was no comment to be made on this year's series and reports in the national media over the weekend were "just speculation".

The live Blackpool Tower programme, which sees the last seven couples take to the sprung floor of the UK capital of ballroom dancing is a highlight in the show calendar for the BBC production team, professional dancers, celebrities and those fortunate enough to land the coveted ballot tickets.

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Last year's spectacular at the 125-year-old Tower saw eventual winners Kelvin Fletcher and Oti Mabuse perform a high energy jive while longest serving professional Anton Du Beke made history after receiving his first ever scores of 10 with partner Emma Barton. Superstars Westlife also made a guest appearance.

BBC Pictures. Westlife and Strictly professionals performing at Blackpool Tower in 2019BBC Pictures. Westlife and Strictly professionals performing at Blackpool Tower in 2019
BBC Pictures. Westlife and Strictly professionals performing at Blackpool Tower in 2019 | other

The Blackpool Tower episode regularly attracts audiences of more than 10 million viewers. Strictly Come Dancing at Blackpool Tower Ballroom first waltzed onto screens in 2004, since becoming a regular fixture.

Kate Shane, head of Merlin's Blackpool attractions has frequently spoken of the pride in the Tower team in accommodating the mammoth production year in, year out and the honour they feel for taking part.

Ahead of last year's visit she made mention of the wider benefit to the town and the buzz the show creates for the wider community.

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She said: “We’re immensely proud each year and it’s wonderful to see the whole of Blackpool getting excited from the taxi drivers to the coffee shops.

“There are 13m TV viewers wherever they are looking at our town’s ballroom, our town and we love working with the BBC team it’s fantastic.”

In the lead up to the Saturday spectacular, couples in previous series have relished in the sights of the resort from the Pleasure Beach to the piers and majestic Empress Ballroom at the Winter Gardens, which hosts world championships and dance festivals.

Strictly super-fans have been offering thoughts in forums and social media groups online, with one commenting: "Group dances are an amazing and massive part of the show, having been in the audience it's a huge part of the show for the pros and celebs. And strictly without Blackpool is like Ant without Dec, Holly without Phil..."

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Many fans agreed safety of all those involved was paramount and some suggested scrapping the 2020 run in favour of a highlights reel of show favourites.

Ahead of this year's series professional stars champion Kevin Clifton and favourite AJ Pritchard both announced they would not be rejoining the cast in order to pursue other opportunities. The rest of the professional cast has already been confirmed.

BBC boss Charlotte Moore told The Times "a lot of work" was being done behind the scenes to ensure Strictly’s return to screens.

She said: "We’re looking at how that would work. Could you quarantine people? Can we test everyone before filming? There’s a lot of work being done. It’s a big task."

The Gazette has approached management at Blackpool Tower for further comment.