Getting their skates on in Leeds for Donisthorpe


Clad in Lycra, sequins and spangles, the Leeds community’s skating stars took to the ice to help raise £55,000 for the Donisthorpe care home.

The dancers — who had just six months to become proficient — were part of the entertainment at the Skating on Ice gala dinner at the Leeds United Conference Centre, attended by 900 people.

On a specially constructed synthetic rink, skaters including young mothers, local actresses and business executives performed extravagant routines to the strains of Kate Bush, Dolly Parton and Celine Dion. Dancing on Ice stars Chico, Rosemary Conley, Mark Hanretty, Chemmy Alcott, Sean Rice and Vicky Ogden also strutted their stuff in a choreographed cabaret.

Chico said that having entered Dancing on Ice as a complete novice, “I have nothing but admiration for these guys because I know what they’ve gone through.

“Skating on ice is a thousand times easier than skating on a synthetic surface like the one they used. What they’ve achieved is incredible.”

Emma Gordon was one of three skaters who fractured a wrist at rehearsal. “I was standing quite still after doing my routine and I must have ceased concentrating,” she said. “My feet just went under me.”

When asked to participate, Samantha Walton’s heart said yes, but her head suggested the opposite — she could not skate. But after performing her solo number at the gala, she expressed gratitude for the opportunity. “I’ve loved learning a new skill and meeting new people.”

The gala was the brainchild of Stuart Levin, who has staged celebrity events for his children’s charity, Make A Dream. He has long wanted to stage an event for Donisthorpe, where his late mother was a resident, and pitched the idea to Donisthorpe chair Andrew Brown.

A condition of entry for the local skaters was to bring in at least one table of diners (a minimum of 10 guests) and to guarantee at least £500 in sponsorship. Auction prizes included a trip to the House of Commons, donated by Leeds MP Fabian Hamilton, and there was dancing on safer terrain to a performance by Bucks Fizz.

The event also helped to raise awareness of Donisthorpe, which is struggling to make up the shortfall from reduced local government income.

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