Get on your dancing shoes

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There could literally be blood on the dance floor when local SDLP politician Mark H Durkan and Gasyard community worker Veronica Deeney take to the dance floor for the Pink Ladies next month.

“When I said that I would take part I approached it with both fear and excitement,” says local Derry City Councillor Mark. “It’s going to be a great night and it’s really good that we are being given the chance to raise money for such a worthy cause as The Pink Ladies.”

The Pink Ladies are a local breast cancer support group and to mark their sixth anniversary they have organised a Strictly Come Dancing event during Derry’s Jazz Festival with music on the night is The Slammers Maximum Jive Band.

The event will take place in a large marquee outside the Gasyard Centre on Friday, April 29 and when tickets went on sale last Friday all 450 had been sold within hours.

“It’s a real honour to be part of this event,” says Veronica. “I know a few of the Pink Ladies and the work they do is just second to none; it’s important to remember that this is event for them and all money raised will go towards the Pink Ladies.”

Event organisers Karen Mullan, Mary Breslin and Donna McCloskey have been extremely busy bringing everything together over the last few months. Three weeks ago they brought all the participants together in the Drum in the Gasyard Centre to tell them who their dancing partners would be.

Well known people such as Fr. Chris Ferguson, local solicitor Maoliosa Barr, former footballer Ray McGuinness and Sinn Fein councillor Colin Kelly all agreed to take part.

“When I found out that I was to be paired with Mark I was delighted,” says Veronica. “We got on like a house on fire and although we are there to dance we are still having plenty of fun.”

“I am not sure if she [Veronica] knows this but I have two left feet,” says Mark laughing. “My girlfriend tells me I am a good dancer but I suppose she’s just being kind, she has to say that.

Dancing is new territory for Mark but his dancing ability is improving with every training session.

“To be honest with you when I was asked to take part I saw it as a chance to raise money for the Pink Ladies and to learn to dance. I’ve always wanted to learn and when you get to my age you find yourself being dragged out on to the dance floor at weddings. I’m a wee bit terrified at the prospect of dancing in front of 450 people but I’m also really excited too.”

Mark said that the competition between himself and Sinn Fein’s Colin Kelly is quite healthy but added that he doesn’t see the Bogside councillor as a threat.

“There is no competition, I am going to be too good on the night,” he says joking. “In all seriousness it’s not about the winning it’s the taking part that counts,” says Mark grinning. “I’ve also heard rumours that Ray McGuinness’ dancing partner is wearing shin-pads but like I say it’s just a rumour.”

Veronica is quietly confident that she and Mark will turn a few heads on the night. She explained that they have been practicing vigorously over the last few weeks and added that she has even given Mark a few tips ahead of the Stormont Assembly elections in May.

“Mark is running for the SDLP in the up-and-coming assembly elections. I’ve told him that when he is out canvassing he should try and practice his dancing. [As she’s talking, Veronica stands up and proceeds to perform the dance she has taught Mark.] One-two, walk to the door; three, four ring that bell.”

The election campaign will soon demand a lot of Mark and his party colleagues. He says that taking part in the Strictly Come Dancing event is a way for him to relax and take things easy.

“Although it’s all about having fun we are taking our dancing very seriously. The last thing I want to do is to get up in front of hundreds of people and make a complete eejit of myself.

“Obviously there’s the election coming up and I am going to be really busy with that. I have been out and about already the last few weeks but it’s always good to come here and practice my dancing; I find it really therapeutic.”

Veronica claimed that although the competition between the couples is healthy she claimed that some feel the need to “compensate for the lack of dancing ability”.

“A few things have happened in the last few weeks that we are not happy about,” she says smiling. “The competition is generally good but believe me when I tell you that there are some dancing couples who are trying to compensate for their lack of dancing ability,” she laughs.

“Seriously though, this event is going to be great. It’s a credit to not only Karen Mullan, Mary Breslin and Donna McCloskey but to the area as a whole. There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes and I’ve no doubt that it’ll be a major success.”

For further information on the Pink Ladies’ Strictly Come Dancing event phone 02871 262 812.