Writing Strictly from memories

The season of Strictly is upon us.  The bad jokes, the glitter ball, the makeup the strange skin coloured bits on the dresses that always worried me when I was a kid. Were those women really half naked?

Years ago, I used to watch the grandparent of Strictly.  It was a serious affair, called ‘Come Dancing’. I have absolutely no idea how the scoring worked, who the judges were, who the contestants were – I was a child on my Grandma’s sofa – marvelling at the costumes, the glitter, the orange spray tan ( things have moved on there) and the only moments of anything remotely sexy shown before the 9 o’clock watershed. It was as if glam rock had fused with the old ladies at tea dances and the two spawned something strange and exotic and slightly illicit.

I took my childhood fascination and used it to write The Yoghurt Plot. Which is an accidental homage to that almost forgotten sequinned world that the 1970s toyed with and abandoned in favour of orange space hoppers and brown cars.   I wanted to reach into that strange marriage of frump and glitz and pull it out and make it live.

The result is overtly a time travel story, but underpinned by love for a world I never really saw except through the juddering TV, and never remotely understood.  In the Yoghurt Plot, I imagined what living right up close to that greasepaint and patent leather would feel like.  I took as my setting an east coast run down sea side town and planted the dance into the middle of it. It might have been some strange monster like Little Shop of Horrors, but instead I chose to let it lift my heart as a writer. While I was writing it, I grabbed at the glimpses of Come Dancing that I could remember, along with the smells of Grandma’s face powder and held my breath in an attempt to get right back inside the memory.  Because Bugg, the central character was visiting the past, it was easier for me to visit my past through Bugg’s eyes. My incoherent memories had to coalesce in order to construct the story.

Curiously, now, eighteen months after writing it – I almost can’t remember the process.  I know it’s a story, a fiction, but because it came so much from sensory snapshots I think more than any other book I’ve written – it feels like one of those dreams where it might really have happened.


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