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'I'm doing Strictly Inverness for my mum' – dancer hopes it'll be third time lucky

By Andrew Dixon

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Ailsa and her mother Morag.
Ailsa and her mother Morag.

A Strictly Inverness dancer is hoping third time's a charm after being picked for the annual charity fundraising event.

Ailsa Campbell, who lives just outside Conon Bridge, will be competing in the area's answer to the mega-popular TV series as a tribute to her parents.

The 39-year-old has completed a money-generating challenge for Highland Hospice each year since the heartbreaking deaths of Morag and Brian MacLeod within weeks of each other at the start of the pandemic.

Dance contest organisers and hosts, the hospice and Inverness Ice Centre, will benefit from her efforts – as well as those of 31 other rookie dancers who are starting their training this week ahead of showtime in May.

"I believe what's meant to be will be," said Ailsa, who is an executive officer for the Department for Work and Pensions. "I have applied twice previously and was unsuccessful so here's hoping for third time lucky!

"This is a big year for me as I turn 40 and I'm finding I am reflecting lots over the past decade – the highs and the lows. I unfortunately lost both my parents around the first lockdown period in 2020. My mum had been fighting breast cancer for six years at the point she passed away and 10 weeks later my dad passed of what I call a broken heart.

"Since losing them, I have found myself a challenge each year that pushes me and helped raise very much-needed funds for the Highland Hospice. In 2021, I did an abseil at the Kessock Bridge; in 2022, I did a zip line at the Kessock Bridge; and I did the bungee jump at Dores in September 2023.

"I love the whole vibe of the Strictly event with the dancing, music, outfits and I just can’t wait to be a part of it!"

Partnered with Neil Pirritt, from Inverness, they will be learning a waltz and a bachata, while also doing a range of fundraising activities.

Ailsa Campbell and her family.
Ailsa Campbell and her family.

"I have a few fundraising events in the pipeline," said Ailsa, who is getting support from husband Kev for the events and juggling family life in between. "I’ve signed up to the 5k in March in Inverness with the support of parents and children from my sons' [Preston (11) and Cooper (6)] school, Ben Wyvis Primary, alongside Ben Wyvis Hockey Club which I coach at.

"I’m also planning a dinner-dance themed event for March 16, with details to be finalised. I'm also hugely grateful to my corporate sponsors at MKM Inverness.

"I’m sure I will continue to support the hospice after Strictly. I just can’t wait to be a part of the experience."

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