After the decision is made it is quite easy because you don’t do anything for a few months so at the end of the year Mary had to start thinking how she was going to put it together and also make it just that little bit more special. And we thought that it would look good if we could put in some proper Riverdance type Irish dancers and that is a problem in itself. It is not only a problem locating the dance troupe but also convincing them that this is not some sort of joke act it is a serious event and hence the first group we approached who sounded keen on the telephone didn’t actually get back to us at all. But then we were given the details of a group based in Coventry who seemed really keen and they were called Celtic Feet. The next problem was liaising with them to put it all together and arrange rehearsals and to ensure that they understand it was a serious event and not a doggy dancing stunt. And I can tell you that one of the girls is a 5 times world champion. The young lady in charge is called Roisin and her mother who is with them all the time was one of Michael Flatley’s original teachers and the week before Crufts some of the troupe were in Oman dancing for a Arab Prince so obviously it is a concern that being a highly sought after group we needed to emphasise just how important this was. They came over to rehearsals at our training hall a couple of times and it was quite amazing to watch. There were 4 girls and Roisin was in charge and she was an expert choreographer. When I thought something looked great she said “no, do it again it wasn’t quite perfect” so at this point everything was looking good for Crufts.
On the Wednesday afternoon the day before Crufts opened, Mary was booked for a rehearsal in the main arena for an hour at 3pm. It was a bit of a worry because the Celtic Feet troupe couldn’t make it because they were only arriving back from Oman that evening. None the less, Mary had some stand in Irish dancers which we subsequently named “Chronic Feet”! I have to say it is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen! Pauline Churchill, Jan Morse, Jan’s daughter Beverley and Mary’s sister Pauline. All of them have got various health problems and it was so funny when they got down on their knees and couldn’t get back up again. What a creaky lot they looked and then when they came out of the arena Ann Roberts did her impression of a picture house ice cream lady offering ibrufen, aspirins, paracetamol etc!
Anyway, we got through the Wednesday and everything was fine and Friday night was to be the full dress rehearsal but not starting until 9pm. Nick Brooks-Ward was in charge, he had previously arranged to have the spotlights in the places where the girls were going to stand and it is probably a good point to say that the sound, as always, was excellent but this year they had a new lighting director and the lighting was just excellent but more than that was innovative. Not just for Mary but for the whole show. Anyway, with Nick’s help and a little bit of fine tuning one hour later Roisin and Mary had got everything how they wanted it.
So we arrived at the big night Sunday. It is always a bit stressful, not helped this year by the extremely tight security when I had to get Roisin, her Mum and the troupe in to Crufts plus the families of the girls. We made use of a little bit of a private side entrance that we had into the arena and we got everybody in trouble free and I’d obtained a supply of best in the house seats for the family so we got them seated there so they could have a good view of the show. The girls had their photo taken with the Crufts Best in Show trophy and they had a nice posh star dressing room with lights all round the mirror etc it could have been the one that Robbie Williams had used!