There are times in PR and communications when something pretty amazing happens – and for our Northern Spire team, and particularly me, that time has been this week.
After all, it’s not every day you manage to get your client’s brand new landmark bridge in front of 11million people on the biggest show on TV.
However, that is exactly what happened for Sunderland City Council tonight when its impressive Northern Spire bridge took centre stage alongside the stars of Strictly Come Dancing.
By taking a punt, and believing that with a lot of tenacity and a bit of good fortune the very unlikely can happen, DTW managed to arrange for actress and former Steps popstar Faye Tozer and her Italian dance partner Giovanni Pernice to rehearse their Foxtrot routine on the bridge deck before the cameras.
It was an amazing opportunity for Sunderland to showcase its new bridge to a huge national audience, and I have to admit that it was an incredible personal experience for me, too.
You see, I’m a massive Strictly fan. I never miss an episode, follow them all on twitter, and go to the live shows when they tour. My poor husband and three sons all know, and accept, that Saturday night (and part of Sunday) is ‘Strictly night’. I start singing the theme tune from about 5pm onwards and make sure tea is out of the way early.
So, having the opportunity to work with the crew and host Faye and Giovanni at Northern Spire – a construction project I have absolutely loved – was beyond exciting.
The hardest thing was keeping the whole thing under wraps, as directed by the BBC’s production team.
It all started back when the bridge opened at the end of August. We were busy promoting the opening on social media and we noticed that a certain Faye Tozer was taking an interest in the bridge and liking and sharing our posts on Twitter.
I knew that Faye had just been announced as a celebrity contender on the 2018 show, so set about trying to establish her link to Northern Spire.
To be honest, it wasn’t difficult. A dig around the internet told me that Faye was married to a Sunderland businessman, and they lived fairly close to the new bridge – so her interest was purely as a local resident.
What a result! What if we could actually get Faye and her yet-to-be-announced dance partner to rehearse on Northern Spire. How fab would that be?
It took a few attempts to make contact with Faye’s agent, but once we did, it was wheels in motion, and soon I was liaising with a Strictly assistant producer.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Filming on Tuesday, for me, at least, was a surreal experience. Faye and Giovanni came to the construction site, got ready in one of the meeting rooms in the staff cabins, had a chat over a cup of coffee and biscuit, and were a total delight.
Using my iron and ironing board (which I had been requested to take to site), a costume assistant prepared their outfits for the shoot. Meanwhile, Faye put the final touches to her make-up and Giovanni stripped down to his underwear to change into his costume – that was a treat I wasn’t expecting.
I loaned Giovanni my high vis jacket, in case it got cold between shoots on the deck, (the sun came out and it wasn’t needed) and I watched as Faye’s beautiful red satin gown and his shirt/underwear combo was ironed on MY ironing board.
We talked sparkle and glitter, what it’s like to be in the middle of the Strictly bubble, the media attention, and their busy training and TV schedules. It was all very laid back and normal, whilst being remarkable at the same time.
Of course, both Faye and Giovanni said they loved Northern Spire and rehearsing on the deck, while the crew, delighted with the footage they had captured, said their visit to the bridge was likely to be one of the highlights of the series for them.
Success all round.
So, it just goes to show how great things can come out of the blue from seemingly unlikely opportunities.
I guess the message for us all here is take every opportunity that presents itself, and don’t be afraid to take a punt, no matter how much of a long shot you think it is. You never know, you may just pull it off.