Bloomfield girls back Christine for Strictly title
When Christine Bleakley was a pupil at Bloomfield Collegiate in Belfast, debating was the main extra curricular activity.
These days, the grammar is picking up awards for its after-school dancing — with three different teams of girls recently winning first places in the Ulster Fitness and Dance Championships.
So the teams — along with the rest of the students and the staff — are delighted to see their former head girl tripping the light fantastic on the BBC’s prime-time show Strictly Come Dancing.
Although the One Show presenter has no experience of dancing, she wowed judges and the public alike last weekend with her “elegant” and “ethereal” foxtrot.
Tomorrow night, she will take part in another group dance with the six remaining female contestants, but won’t put in another competitive routine until next Saturday.
She is a truly wonderful girl and we are all so proud of her achievements
Bloomfield principal Dr David Neill said everyone in the school was watching her progress with excitement.
And he said he wasn’t surprised to see her doing so well.
“When Christine was at school, we didn’t have any after-school dancing, it was mainly activities like debating or hockey,” he said.
“Now we have teams which are picking up numerous awards, including first place at the Northern Ireland Creative Movement and Aerobic Championships earlier this year.
“Although Christine never danced, I’m not at all surprised to see her doing so well on Strictly Come Dancing.
“Christine is the type of girl who gives 110%, she’s a real trier.
“She is a truly wonderful girl and we are all so proud of her achievements.”
Dr Neill described last Saturday night’s foxtrot with dance partner Matt Cutler as “outstanding”.
“But my favourite part of the show was seeing Christine’s face when she got through.
“She really thought she was going home, which is typical. She’s a very modest girl.”
Vice principal at the time Christine was a pupil, Dr Neill said he had had the pleasure of teaching Christine.
And he said he always knew she was destined for big things.
“She was a smashing girl at school, bubbly, hard-working — nothing was too much trouble for her,” he said.
“She had great interpersonal skills and loved presenting things on stage. Her careers teacher Helen Shearer had a contact in the BBC and managed to get Christine work experience there for a week. But she did so well she was offered some type of part-time work there. And then she climbed her way up the ladder to where she is now.”
Mrs Shearer said she had fond memories of the BBC star.
“Christine always had a smile. She would breeze into class and fill it with her energy,” she said.
“She was so lovely, she could relate to anyone young or old, everyone loved her.
“She was very creative, full of ideas for her art and worked very hard to do well at A-level.
“Her only problem was her curly hair. ‘I can’t do a thing with it,’ she would say, but that was before hair straighteners.
“Her outlook on everything was very positive and nothing was ever too much trouble.
“She was in charge of organising the formal and bargained the hotel into reducing the price for everyone. She could charm the birds out of the trees.
“We are all rooting for her in Strictly Come Dancing and hugely proud of what she has achieved. She was and still is lovely, lovely, lovely!”
Dr Neill added: “Christine is still very much involved with the school and we are only too delighted to be able to support her now. So that’s why we’d love everyone to get behind her and vote for her again next week.
“She deserves all the success coming her way, so let’s show everyone across the UK just what type of girls Northern Ireland can produce.”
To vote for Christine on Strictly Come Dancing tune in tomorrow evening on BBC1