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Strictly Inverness: Meet Team Thursday

By Andrew Dixon

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Strictly Inverness's Team Thursday.
Strictly Inverness's Team Thursday.

Strictly Inverness's 32 contestants are currently training with their experienced dance tutors, as well as organising an endless variety of events to boost their fundraising on behalf of the annual event's organisers and hosts Highland Hospice and Inverness Ice Centre.

Eight couples perform two individual dances on Thursday and Friday nights, plus a group dance in front of an audience and panel of judges in May.

Here's more about Team Thursday.

Shireen Fyffe and Jason Kelman. Picture: Callum Mackay..
Shireen Fyffe and Jason Kelman. Picture: Callum Mackay..

Jason & Shireen

NAME: Jason Kelman

AGE: 50


OCCUPATION: Principal project manager – Highland Council

RELATIONSHIP STATUS : Married to Yvonne (44) with children Lily (17) and Grace (14)

REASON FOR TAKING PART: My wife and kids entered me without me knowing, the first I heard about this was when the email arrived confirming I was accepted.

My first reaction was no way I’m doing this as I cannot dance but after a lot of persuasion and knowing that the whole idea of Strictly is to raise money for the Highland Hospice, I thought I should give it a go.

DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A SENTENCE: Don’t take myself to seriously.

INTERESTING FACT: I started the City of Inverness Pipe Band and play in the band as a snare drummer.

NAME: Shireen Fyffe

AGE: 30


OCCUPATION: Careers adviser

RELATIONSHIP STATUS : Married to Sean (31) with Zach (2)

REASON FOR TAKING PART: My fabulous mum, Joan Mackay, was cared for by the Highland Hospice in 2022 and spent the last five months of her life there. Knowing that my mum was in her last stages of her life, the Highland Hospice helped us to create memories that I wouldn’t have been able to create at home. The staff at the hospice provided my family with so much love, care and support – I will forever be grateful to everyone that works there. So, as I turned 30 this year, I wanted to do something that will make my mum proud, fundraise for a charity so close to our hearts and use the opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone. I hope to use Strictly Inverness to get a bit of my sparkle back!

DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A SENTENCE: A friendly, chatty and loving person who has just joined the over-30s club – trying to navigate motherhood and all the challenges that come along the way!

AN INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOURSELF THAT OUR READERS MAY WANT TO KNOW: I have been with my husband since we were 15 years old – he’s stuck with me through it all. He’s always been my biggest cheerleader, always making me laugh through the highs and lows. Let’s hope my two left feet aren’t the centre of his jokes for the next 10 years!

Melissa Brailsford and Scott Wilson. Picture: Callum Mackay..
Melissa Brailsford and Scott Wilson. Picture: Callum Mackay..

Scott & Melissa

NAME: Scott Wilson

AGE: 43

AREA: Inverness

OCCUPATION: I’m the owner of Home Improvements Inverness where we carry out all aspects of painting and decorating.

RELATIONSHIP STATUS: My partner is Victoria Connolly (41) and we have been together for over 20 years. We have two daughters Ava Lillie (18) and Kayla Maree (16).

DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A SENTENCE: I’m honest and reliable with a good heart, and self-motivated.

INTERESTING FACT: I used to be a helicopter landing officer while I worked out in Africa for nine years on oil rigs.

NAME: Melissa Brailsford

AGE: 43


OCCUPATION: Personal trainer

RELATIONSHIP STATUS : Married to Gordon (46) with children Leo (15) and Frankie Brailsford (11).

REASON FOR TAKING PART: Through my job as a personal trainer and online fat-loss coach I encourage all my clients to push themselves out of their boundaries, do activities that bring them joy, try new things that challenge them and boost their confidence. Strictly is doing exactly this for me!

My grandparents Jenny and Dave Duncan were ballroom champions who lived and breathed everything dance. They ran a dance school in Inverness so as soon as I could walk I was doing Majorette classes. From there I learned disco, rock 'n' roll, ballroom and Latin American and danced competitively but lost interest as a teenager and it's always been a huge regret. I'd like to say I could remember ANYTHING I was taught 30(?) years ago but even my 11-year-old daughter Frankie gets frustrated at me for not picking up TikTok routines as fast as she would like – the only dancing that's done these days is around the kitchen worktop at parties!

I'm used to lifting weights and like to keep myself feeling fit and strong for my own health but this a completely different discipline. Participating in Strictly has reignited my love of dance and the fact that we get to raise a huge amount of money for Highland Hospice at the same time makes it even more worthwhile. My late uncle Gordon spent some time in the hospice and I know first hand the amazing work they do for their patients and to bring comfort to their families. It's an honour to be fundraising for such a worthy cause.

DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A SENTENCE: I consider myself disciplined but also love to have fun, passionate about what I do, have a cracking sense of humour and pride myself in being as supportive and kind as I possibly can.

INTERESTING FACT: Although my principal job is a PT, I also own a pub with my husband, the Mosset Tavern in Forres, and have a Batchelor of Arts degree in law.

Kenna Ross and Shaun Rose. Picture: Callum Mackay..
Kenna Ross and Shaun Rose. Picture: Callum Mackay..

Shaun & Kenna

NAME: Shaun Rose

AGE: 22

AREA: Maryburgh

OCCUPATION: Nursery practitioner


REASON FOR TAKING PART: I have chosen to take part in Strictly this year as a personal challenge to myself, and also as a tribute to those who have been supported by the Highland Hospice over the years. It’s a charity which is close to so many people’s hearts and I want to try and give just a little something back.

DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A SENTENCE: I’d say that I’m just a very go with the flow person, I try not to get hung up and worry about things – what will be, will be. I much prefer having a laugh and just living in the moment – as a lot of us know, unfortunately life’s too short!

INTERESTING FACT: Two weeks into starting at the nursery I was so tired I ended up falling asleep in my car on my lunch break and was awoken by my manager!

NAME: Kenna Ross

AGE: 27


OCCUPATION: Session piano player/tutor


REASON FOR TAKING PART: I’ve always wanted to apply for Strictly but have been too busy with work commitments – this year I’ve made space to be able to commit fully to the whole experience.

From a young age it was highlighted to me how important the Highland Hospice is to everyone, so I have always donated to the charity through different events.

I really hope the hospice is there if my family need it – and future generations for many years to come. Every family in the Highlands will be in need of it at some point in their lives.

Through my career as a musician I’ve performed at events and attended shows at the ice rink, and also have piano students who do ice skating lessons and curling. We need to have somewhere for people to show their talents on and off the ice.

DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A SENTENCE: Creative, pretty chilled but committed.

INTERESTING FACT: My three-year-old dog Gio is named after Giovanni Pernice.

Jackie Sutherland and Sonny Rhind. Picture: Callum Mackay..
Jackie Sutherland and Sonny Rhind. Picture: Callum Mackay..

Sonny & Jackie

NAME: Sonny Rhind

AGE: 65


OCCUPATION: Retired leisure manager and gymnastics coach

RELATIONSHIP STATUS: Widower. My wife Marion, passed on June 21 following a two-year battle with cancer.

CHILDREN: Rachel McCabe (41) and Tina O’Grady (36).

DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A SENTENCE: I am a recently retired gymnastic coach, who has a long track record of community volunteering. You will find me now mostly on the golf course or walking in the countryside.

REASON FOR TAKING PART: I was pushed into it, and have many close friends, including my wife, who have benefited from the hospice’s support.

INTERESTING FACT: I’m a twin, not identical, and my brother still thinks he’s the good-looking one!

NAME: Jackie Sutherland

AGE: 62

AREA WHERE YOU LIVE: Inverness, but originally from Wick

OCCUPATION: Retired medical staffing manager for NHS Highland

RELATIONSHIP STATUS: Common law partner – Kevin MacDonald

CHILDREN: Jill (40) and Jason (37)

REASON FOR TAKING PART: I am delighted to have been given this fantastic opportunity to participate in Strictly Inverness. Dancing to music fills me with joy and learning how to dance ballroom properly is a dream come true. Having retired recently, competing in Strictly is on my ever-growing bucket list.

Supporting Highland Hospice is a charity close to my heart. My partner’s mum and two of our very close friends have received excellent end-of-life care. It is also a service any one of us may need to depend on in the coming years so having the opportunity to assist in fundraising is a privilege.

Also to support and raise funds for Inverness Ice Centre, who provide the venue for this fabulous event, is an added bonus, knowing the benefits this facility brings to the local community and wider area.

DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A SENTENCE: I am an enthusiastic and friendly person with a “have a go” attitude for most things (but draw the line at bungee jumping and throwing myself out of a plane!). I love to have a good laugh, travelling and meeting people.

INTERESTING FACT: I was a Highland dancer when I was young and achieved my teachers’ certificate when I was 17 but never put it to good use, much to my regret.

Amy Macleod and Lana Ingram. Picture: Callum Mackay..
Amy Macleod and Lana Ingram. Picture: Callum Mackay..

Amy & Lana

NAME: Amy Macleod

AGE: 26


OCCUPATION: Trainee solicitor

RELATIONSHIP STATUS : In a relationship with Ali Morrison (28)

REASON FOR TAKING PART: I lost my dad when I was 16 years old and set up a charity in his name, raising money for personal locator beacons for sole fishermen in the Western Isles.

I have now supplied every sole fisherman with one and since I have moved to Inverness felt like I wanted to give back to my new local community. I lost my granny to MND last year as well and I wanted to do this in both of their memories.

DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A SENTENCE: I am an islander who loves all things Hebridean and I would say I was quite competitive and a bit impulsive which has pushed me to do this!

INTERESTING FACT: My first language is Gaelic and I still sometimes think and dream in Gaelic.

NAME: Lana Ingram

AGE: 30


OCCUPATION: Medical secretary

RELATIONSHIP STATUS : Married to husband Ryan (35) with son Ruben (8)

REASON FOR TAKING PART: I’ve seen a lot of my friends and family’s health change from being completely healthy to ill/terminally ill very quickly, and this made me realise how important services such as Highland Hospice are. I was also diagnosed with being in early menopause last year, and I needed some focus to find myself again. What better way to do it than by helping local charities?

DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A SENTENCE: I would like to think I’m an empathetic, bubbly individual with a lot of determination.

INTERESTING FACT: As a child I did fire poi dancing (which is swinging fire) and I have performed this for the likes of Mohamed Al-Fayed.

Ruth Mason and Andy Dixon.
Ruth Mason and Andy Dixon.

Andy & Ruth

NAME: Andy Dixon

AGE: 39


OCCUPATION: Journalist

RELATIONSHIP STATUS: Married to Carol (41) with children Iona (8) and Emily (7)

REASON FOR TAKING PART: We've been the media partner of this wonderful event since day one and whenever I went to the final, I always thought: "I'd love to do that." Since moving to Inverness almost 20 years ago, I've written, edited and read countless articles about the tremendous work the Hospice does and anyone I've spoken to about the cause always speaks so highly of it. Sadly, I know friends and family who have had cancer with varying outcomes so this is an opportunity to give something back. I also want to show my girls that if they put their mind to something, they can do it.

DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A SENTENCE: I'm an organised and self-motivated fitness enthusiast with a sweet tooth and an even sweeter personality!

INTERESTING FACT: I played American football for the Highland Wildcats senior team for a few seasons, including a period as a defensive captain while being a middle linebacker.

NAME: Ruth Mason

AGE: 54


OCCUPATION: Retired police officer


CHILDREN: Euan (24)

REASON FOR TAKING PART: Although I’d always fancied Strictly I’d never applied before. My husband, Stuart, died just over a year ago and the hospice helped with practical advice while I cared for him at home. Our last night together was in the hospice, where I was also given care and support.

I wanted a positive focus for myself, so here I am! I’m no dancer and fundraising is not my forte but it is good to be part of something knowing it is for a cause which really does help people at such a difficult time. And if I can master a dance that’s a bonus!

DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A SENTENCE: A quiet extrovert who can usually get folk to chat.

INTERESTING FACT: I can’t dance. I had a back op in my 20s. I had a run in the Prime Minister’s Jag many years ago. I worked on the completion of the first semi-submersible drilling rig.

Rachel Wood and Reece Ross. Picture: Callum Mackay..
Rachel Wood and Reece Ross. Picture: Callum Mackay..

Reece & Rachel

NAME: Reece Mackay

AGE: 21

AREA: Inverness

OCCUPATION: Rehabilitation assistant


REASON FOR TAKING PART: I’m taking part in Strictly Inverness this year as I've always loved watching Strictly Come Dancing and I thought it would be great fun taking part in the Inverness one raising money for the Highland Hospice and Inverness Ice Centre.

DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A SENTENCE: I am ambitious and driven and love a challenge. I’m very open and honest and I'm a people person.

NAME: Rachel Wood

AGE: 26

AREA: Inverness

OCCUPATION: Events and experience manager, The Singleton of Glen Ord

REASON FOR TAKING PART: I have wanted to apply for Strictly for years and felt this year was the year to go for it!

Over the past few years I have pushed myself to do the things that scare me most, and what a difference I feel in myself and my life!

Strictly is next on this journey. I have loved every minute of it so far. My mum and other family and friends have previously competed and I knew it was my turn next. As a teenager, I skated with Inverness Ice Centre with synchronised skating teams.

I’ve volunteered at Strictly for years and see all the hard work that gets put in by every person involved, and I wanted to raise money for two amazing charities close to me.

DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A SENTENCE Positive, creative, determined.

INTERESTING FACT: I have four chickens called Angela, Barbara, Dorothy and Eliza – the best pets – I even have them on a live-stream!

Beth Saunders and Darryl Geegan. and Picture: Callum Mackay..
Beth Saunders and Darryl Geegan. and Picture: Callum Mackay..

Darryl & Beth

NAME: Darryl Geegan

AGE: 32


OCCUPATION: Staff nurse



I've been involved in fundraising for the hospice for many years, and having participated in Ness Factor in 2018, I've been looking for my next personal challenge!

My friends eventually twisted my arm into applying for Strictly, and I was lucky enough to be selected! Recently, my connection to Highland Hospice has become more personal, having had a cousin and a dear friend receive palliative care from the amazing staff working there. I'm doing this for them.

DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A SENTENCE: Friendly, hardworking, determined guy who is his own worst critic most of the time!

INTERESTING FACT: Many people in the local area know me as Venus Guytrap, the drag performer. Others know me as Daz, lead singer of The Idiotix! Neither of these facts give me any kind of advantage, as couple-dancing and ballroom dancing in general are completely alien to me. If anything, my background is making this more difficult as I'm having to completely reimagine how my body works.

NAME: Beth Saunders

AGE: 22

AREA: Inverness

OCCUPATION: Administrator

RELATIONSHIP STATUS: In a relationship

REASON FOR TAKING PART: Strictly Inverness is always something I’ve felt passionate about doing as it’s for such an amazing cause.

My mum applied in 2016 and got through to the interview stage. However, she got diagnosed with cervical cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy at the time of Strictly so in a way I feel I am doing it for her, and I want to make her very proud.

DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A SENTENCE: I am a very loving, fun and bubbly person with a friendly personality.

INTERESTING FACT: I abseiled from the Kessock Bridge.

See our website around this time next week for Team Friday.

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