NERVOUS novices are preparing to “step out” for Bolton Hospice’s annual Strictly Learn To Dance competition.

Eleven couples have already signed up for the contest, which will start with a get-together on Monday.

Contestants have 10 weeks to learn three styles of dance ahead of a grand finale in April.

With one woman still waiting in the wings without a partner, the hospice is searching for one more man to complete the line-up.

The couples will learn their steps under the expert tutelage of the team at A Touch Of Class dance studio, in Little Lever, and the champion will be crowned at a showdown at the Whites Hotel on April 5.

Joining the list of debutant dancers will be The Bolton News reporter Liam Thorp, who will be keeping readers updated on his pirouetting progress.

Liam will be following in the fancy footsteps of reporter Melanie Wallwork who took part last year.

She said: “I had an amazing time in last year’s event, even though I was extremely nervous on the big night.

“Everyone was in the same boat though, and it was a lot of fun, with plenty of sequins and spray tans — and that was just the men.

“I’m sure Liam will do brilliantly and everyone in the office will be rooting for him.”

Each entrant is challenged to raise £400 in sponsorship — the amount that it costs to run the hospice for one hour.

Sally Wilson, hospice events co-ordinator, said: “Last year all of the participants thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. There was a real camaraderie in the group and everyone felt it was an opportunity to try something different.”

Tickets for the Grand Finale, which will be held at the Premier Suite, at the Whites Hotel, go on sale on February 3 at a price of £15 a head, which includes a hot buffet.

If you would like to be the final male dancer in the competition, call 01204 663055 or email

‘I’m a cheeky chappy hoping to surprise everyone’ - reporter Liam Thorp explains why he is taking to the dance floor for this year’s Strictly Learn to Dance

DURING my time at The Bolton News, I have been involved in weird and wacky challenges, including dressing as a pantomime dame and having a prosthetic monkey mask attached to my face — but I can safely say that entering Bolton Hospice’s Strictly Learn To Dance will be my biggest challenge.

I have never been renowned for my dance moves and the only fancy footwork I have ever displayed has been on the football pitch — so I am feeling apprehensive, to say the least.

On Monday, I will be matched with the poor soul who will have to put up with my two left feet for the next 10 weeks as we aim to transform into Bolton’s answer to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Thankfully, we will be under the expert eye of dance professionals who will guide us through the three dance styles.

I have never been a big fan of Strictly Come Dancing, but if I was to compare myself to a former celebrity contestant I would have to go for the cricketer Darren Gough — a cheeky chappy who is not in his prime physical condition but who hopefully will surprise everyone on the night.

Of course, there is an important reason why I have decided to make a fool out of myself — the competition is to raise vital funds for the brilliant work done by Bolton Hospice.

So I will keep everyone updated with my progress, or lack there of, and hopefully, I will be able to raise some money for a great cause.