Dancing to the tune of £25,000

Hospice of St Francis Strictly Learn Dancing contestants 2015
Hospice of St Francis Strictly Learn Dancing contestants 2015
  • Hospice’s annual extravaganza Strictly Learn Dancing expected to make £25,000 17 couples took to the stage after just weeks of professional training
  • Ray and Claudia Ashley-Brown from Hemel Hempstead crowned winners

A toe-tapping, fundraising dance event in support of the Hospice of St Francis has seen £25,000 waltz in to the charity’s vital finance pot.

A total of 17 courageous couples put on a show to remember in a night of showbiz glamour at the Berkhamsted-based Hospice’s Strictly Learn Dancing grand finale on Saturday.

After just six weeks’ training with professionals Brian and Shirley Cusworth, from Balia-Cusworth Dance School, they took to the stage in the charity dance extravaganza, performing the cheeky Charleston and the passionate Paso Doble in front of an audience of 500 at Berkhamsted’s Centenary Theatre.

In a close contest of daring lifts, splits and comic turns, three couples – Richard Carter-Savigear and his partner Janine Dines from Berkhamsted, Ray and Claudia Ashley-Brown from Hemel Hempstead, and Michael and Florence Yass from St Albans -made it through to the all-important dance-off, performing the Charleston to music they’d never heard before.

After much deliberation, Ray and Claudia Ashley-Brown were crowned victors – a popular choice, given that Ray is the Hospice’s chaplain.

Claudia, 49, said: “We can’t quite believe it. We were amazed to make it to the top three but when they said we’d won, we were flabbergasted - we’ve never won anything in our lives!

Ray and Claudia Ashley-Brown, from Hemel Hempstead, were crowned winners of the Hospice of St Francis Strictly Learn Dancing 2015

Ray and Claudia Ashley-Brown, from Hemel Hempstead, were crowned winners of the Hospice of St Francis Strictly Learn Dancing 2015

“We both have a huge amount of respect for the work of all hospices. My sister Anna spent time in one before she died, and working in the Supportive Care team at the Hospice, Ray sees the value they bring every day. This was our chance to support what they do and have some fun at the same time. It’s been the most fantastic experience!”

The event looks set to raise more than £25,000 for the Hospice, which relies on donationsfor 80% of its £4.7million annual running costs.

Event organiser Fran Martin said: “I am so proud of all our couples. They worked really hard, showed total commitment and found the courage and confidence to dance in front of 500 people. To me, they’re all winners!

“I want to thank all of them for taking part.”

We were amazed to make it to the top three but when they said we’d won, we were flabbergasted - we’ve never won anything in our lives!

Claudia Ashley-Brown

Registration is now open for the Hospice’s ninth Midnight Walk, with a new glowing theme and a brand new 5 or 10 mile route. Sign up now at www.stfrancis.org.uk/midnightwalk or call 01442 869555.