Louise writes – During our many years of making props we often made trophies for various shows, but the most iconic one, although we did not know it at the time, turned out to be one of the most difficult to make. One afternoon in Spring 2004, I received a video from Bob Warans, the Production Buyer, of the opening titles for a new BBC show. We played the cassette on our old video player and the most amazing vision appeared – sparkling reflections of a spinning mirrored ball with swirling colours and the words Strictly Come Dancing appeared to encompass the ball, moving across its surface. It was a wonderfully exciting start to a show that gripped so many viewers of all ages from its early beginnings.
But how to make a three dimensional version? I watched the tape several times until the images were embedded in my mind. The first thing that was needed was a mirror ball. I went to DZD, a retail display company and bought 10 inch (250mm) diameter balls for the main trophies and 6 inch (150mm) diameter balls for the smaller versions to be presented to the winners of the dancing competition. Subsequently we also had to make two full size trophies for the travelling stage show.
The first trophy we made had to revolve, so a motor was inserted into the square base, in addition there was another non-revolving trophy. The mirror ball was mounted onto a clear Perspex rod so it appeared to float. Once we had drawn out the lettering full size I got Eric in graphics to design a shape, rather cloud like, that the cut out brass letters could be mounted on. These were initially pink but have been painted various colours over the years. The letters were cut out by Adams Engraving Ltd (who also engraved the winners names for the trophy) and were mounted on the clear 3mm Perspex ‘cloud’ that went round the mirrored ball. The shape was cut out and formed and polished on the edges by White Ellerton Products Ltd who also made the black perspex bases for the awards. Nick had the unenviable task of assembling all the various parts of the trophy – attaching the perspex shape to the ball with thin rods was a particularly horrible job, since none of the mirror pieces that were stuck onto the polystyrene ball were precisely aligned. It was enough to try the patience of a Saint! But Nick is nothing if not patient. This was his annual task for years to come. It remains the trophy to this day, with the show now in its thirteenth series.
Keir and I enjoy watching ‘Strictly’ but we are always very nervous when the large trophy is presented to the winners at the end of the series and they start waving it around in their excitement. So far everything has remained safe and secure, let’s hope it does this year. Despite designing the 3D award we have never seen the show live in the studio. In the 41 years we ran our business we only went to two recordings – Absolutely Fabulous and the Victoria Wood show. We were always too busy working in the evenings meeting deadlines.