A NEW set of contestants are dusting off their dancing shoes and digging out their sequined frocks with the launch of Strictly Oxford 2014 today.

The 16 will be partnered with Headington’s semi-professional dancers from Step By Step Dance School for the fundraiser at the New Theatre Oxford on April 27.

The event, inspired by BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing, will raise money for Vale House, a 40-bed nursing home in Sandford-on-Thames that provides specialist end-of-life care to adults who suffer from dementia.

With the first rehearsal on March 15, the couples will be performing just six weeks later.

“That is the real challenge,” said event organiser Mary Carey of Step By Step Dance School.

“They have got to learn three dances in a short space of time.”

Last year the event raised more than £40,000.

Ms Carey said: “The first year we organised Strictly Oxford, we raised more than £36,000. Last year we exceeded £40,000. This year we should hit a total fundraising pot of £100,000, which would be a fantastic milestone to achieve.”

These are the participants

Karen Warmington


Karen Warmington, 38, carer at Vale House: “I am taking part in this event because, having worked at Vale House for almost seven years, it is a charity very dear to my heart.”

Emma Stanfield


Emma Stanfield , 40, DJ for Radio Cherwell: “I don’t have any professional dancing experience but my granny was a famous ballerina when she was alive. I used to do ballet when I was younger.”

Sue Staunton


Sue Staunton, partner and head of technology at James Cowper LLP: “My experience of dancing is patchy – as a child I did ballet but it says it all that I was the spider or the bee when the others were fairies or flowers.”

Jane Dixon


Jane Dixon, head of Denman College: “I want to do Strictly Oxford for two reasons. Firstly I think Vale House is a great charity. Secondly – Strictly. Wow. Show me a woman who hasn’t dreamed of wearing one of those sparkly dresses.”

Linda Wastie


Linda Wastie, 60, administrator for W Lucy & Co Ltd: “As a keen racquet sports player I know a lot of people and I think I can help raise lots of money for Vale House and didn’t want to miss this opportunity.”

Lynn Knapp, right in picture


Lynn Knapp, 54, headteacher at Windmill Primary School in Headington: “I got involved with the Strictly Junior competition earlier this month. I enjoyed it so much that I couldn't wait to be involved in the adult version.”

Lesley Smith


Lesley Smith, researcher in maternal and women's health at Oxford Brookes University: “My job is all about ways to improve the health and wellbeing of young women. It is important to me to 'walk the talk'. It will be a great way to keep fit and have fun.”

Deborah Mackin


Deborah Mackin, 52, director of Cafe Coco said: “I have never done ballroom dancing before. My husband had such a fantastic time doing it two years ago that I decided to follow in his footsteps. I am nervous, but it will be good fun.”

David Bellan


David Bellan, dance critic for The Oxford Times, and former BBC Radio 2 and Radio 4 presenter: “I have been watching dance for several decades now – part of my work, but I would have done anyway, as I love it.”

Jeremy Smith


Jeremy Smith, 52, features editor for Newsquest Oxfordshire: “I’m looking forward to raising much-needed money. Vale House is a pioneering care home and I have a very personal reason for wanting to help those affected by this most debilitating of illnesses.”

Mike Jennings


Mike Jennings, 57, businessman and chairman of Jennings: “I have no dancing experience, though I quite enjoy it. I had a major operation on my lungs in October, so I am doing this to stretch myself physically, to learn to dance, and because I was asked.”

George Martini


George Martini, director of Salsa Kids in Oxfordshire schools and Zumba teacher: “Entering Strictly Oxford will take me out of my comfort zone. Alzheimer’s could happen to anybody and fundraising for this concern is a must and I am glad to be part of it.”

Ignacio Lamata Martinez


Ignacio Lamata Martinez – nicknamed Nacho – earthquake engineering researcher at Oxford University: “I have been too focused on my work recently, so my motivation is to blow the dust off my hips and to contribute raising funds for people that need it.”

Ben Molyneux


Ben Molyneux, 40, founder of The Oxfordshire Project: “I have one experience of dancing – in front of 500 people at the Oxford Union. I have a habit of not being able to say no to new challenges and experiences, so I jumped on board.”

Andrew Leadbitter


Andrew Leadbitter, 68, consultant at Morgan Cole: “My reasons for competing? In Miss World they used to say world peace and travel. I suspect raising money for charity and accepting a challenge might do.”

Donald Sloan


Donald Sloan, 43, head of the Oxford School of Hospitality Management, Oxford Brookes University: “I am taking part to give my students something to laugh about, and as a result of Bill Heine catching me in a moment of weakness.”