IT’S hard to believe it’s that time of year again, but Strictly Come Dancing is back with all the usual sequins and glitter to ring in the start of autumn – and the countdown to Christmas – with the launch episode airing this weekend.

But the last series only just ended?

It may seem like it, but it’s been a year since the last series began, ultimately ending in December with TV journalist Stacey Dooley and her dance – and now real-life partner as well – Kevin Clifton crowned the winners.

So who are the contenders this year?

A fair few folk most of us have never heard of.


Viscountess Weymouth? Dev Griffin? Will Bayley? Saffron Barker? Michelle Visage?


Not exactly household names – not yet anyway. The Viscountess is, well, a Viscountess; Dev is a Radio 1 DJ apparently and Will is a Paralympic table tennis champion. Saffron is a ‘vlogger’. Michelle is a US TV host.

Any contenders anyone has actually heard of?

Yes, former England goalkeeper David James is one of the big names stepping on to the dance floor, as is double Olympic gold rower James Cracknell, and if you watch Coronation Street you'll know Catherine Tyldesley, who played Eva on the cobbles.

Who’s the hot favourite?

The bookies are backing Anneka Rice, famed for running around in a jumpsuit on Challenge Anneka years ago.

There’s a new judge?

Dame Darcey Bussell has departed to "give more focus to my many other commitments in dance", to be replaced with Motsi Mabuse, elder sister of Strictly professional dancer Oti, who is returning for her fifth year. Motsi will join Shirley Ballas, Craig Revel-Horwood and Bruno Tonioli on the BBC show's panel and will obviously have to judge her own sister.

And isn’t Kevin’s wife a professional dancer as well?

Kevin, who parted from wife Karen Clifton last year, is back on the dance floor for the seventh season, alongside his former wife, who is returning for the eighth time.

And Anton’s back?

Anton Du Beke has appeared in every single series since the show began in 2004. Now 52, he has pledged to carry on dancing as long as he’s wanted.

What about the ‘curse’?

The curse is nearly as renowned as the series, with Strictly frequently seeing a number of professional dancers finding love with their dance partners.

Last year, comedian Seann Walsh hit the headlines for a drunken kiss with dancer Katya Jones, which led to him being dumped on Twitter by his girlfriend. Last year also saw Stacey and Kevin get together, while runners-up Joe Sugg and his dancer partner, Dianne Buswell, also got together.

When does it begin?

The launch show is tomorrow night at 7.10pm. Kylie is set to perform a melody of her greatest hits, while the 15 contestants find out which professionals will be their partners.

So this basically means Christmas is around the corner?

It’s a slippery slope from the start of Strictly to Halloween and then boom, Christmas, so best to write to Santa fairly soon.

Maureen Sugden