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New show aims to bring showbands era back to life

Art O’Hagan with one of the photographs from his days as a musician in the Clipper Carlton band. DR01

The magic era of the showbands is set to be recreated in Strabane as the BBC comes to town to record a new show.

Filming for ‘Back in Time for the Dance’ will take place in the coming weeks and producers are calling on dancers young and old to come forward and take part in the show.

The aim of the programme is to bring twinkle-toed locals out to dance and recreate for one night only the infamous ballroom of romance.

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Half a century ago these ballrooms existed all over Ireland and Strabane’s Art O’Hagan, the former Clipper Carlton bassist and vocalist and the last surviving member of the band knows just how special those heady days really were.

“When the showband era was at its height Strabane and the whole  of Ireland was buzzing,” Art recalled.

“In Strabane we had the Town Hall, the Pallindrome Ballroom, St Pat’s Hall and many other venues. There were dances on every night of the week and thousands of people would flock to them.

“At one stage there were 400 showbands in Ireland. It was a fantastic era to be part of and I definitely think the younger generations are missing out. If they understood the following these dances generated they probably wouldn’t believe it.

“Each dance had no less than a 1,000 people at it and sometimes there could have been as many as 1,500 people at one venue – it really was that big.”

Speaking about the new BBC programme Art believes the concept for the show is fantastic. “I would do anything to get dancing again. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see people young and old coming together and recreating those showband days. It truly would be a wonderful experience.”

The search is now on for locals wishing to trip the light fantastic. The producers want to hear from a vast selection of people – maybe you were lucky enough to have danced the night away during the showband era and are keen to take to the floor again, or perhaps you are a young jitterbugger who is just dying to learn some quality old time dances.

During the course of filming the would-be dancers will learn some of the steps favoured in that golden era – these will include classics such as the jitterbug, swing and quickstep.

At the end of the programme all the dancers will unite in their very own ballroom of romance to recreate one unforgettable night of dancing in the original show band style.

• If you are 18 and over and would like to be involved contact Julie at Alleycats TV, via julsforbes@gmail.com or by phoning 07811 281 663. Alternatively check out the Ultimate Dance Kraze page on Facebook for more information.

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The Strabane Chronicle is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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