Strictly Off Air With Zoe

As Strictly fever grips the nation once again, Sam Harrington-Lowe caught up with Zoe Ball to go behind the scenes, and find out more about her new YouTube channel

You’re very busy at the moment, tell us what you’re up to…
I love this time of year when Strictly season starts. Each year you think the celeb dancers couldn’t get any better at wowing us with the entertainment they bring us all every Saturday and yet each year there are more amazing couples. This year’s group are going to dazzle us.

Is being busy your default setting?
I love being busy especially with my job and the kids, which takes some good organising skills and some wonderful support from Norm. We have a good deal going though, he’s busiest in summer festival season, and I’m busier in autumn. The balance seems to work well.

How do you relax?
Cooking, cycling with the kids; we recently bought an old Triumph Stag which we love to take on spins in the countryside. Love a bit of Celebrity Big Brother and Orange is The New Black.

How is the new YouTube channel going?
The new channel is so exciting for me! I was really inspired by many of the young YouTube vloggers who are setting the pace for the rest of us. How we watch television is changing and you can learn a lot from the likes of PewDiePie (computer game vlogger based in Brighton) and Zoella. You can make television yourself about the things you love, in an instant. The internet is brilliant.

What plans are there for it from October for the next few months?
We have some great music sessions from Luke Sital Singh and Dry The River coming up, filmed in The Oak Room at The Hospital Club in London, and we’re making a guide to all my favourite things to do in Brighton, as people always ask me what they should do on a weekend down here. Also some good autumn recipes.

We’re also still featuring the fantastic cooking series ‘Fakeaways’, with local restaurateur Ben from the Ginger Man group. He showed me how to create some quick and easy to make tasty takeaways and naughty dessert cocktail recipes! I’ve always been a huge fan of Ben and his brilliant culinary wizardry and his fine establishments, and he makes cooking fun and sociable.

He’s my favourite redhead for sure! We also have some great videos from a ‘Zoe Off Air’ weekend at Jamie Oliver’s Feastival. I met all his food YouTube family and cooked up a storm with the likes of Levi Roots, DJ BBQ and food busker John Quilter – a delicious weekend of food, music and shenanigans.

What was the thinking behind the Off Air channel?
The idea was that I could make YouTube videos about all the things I love like film, food, music and so on and make it easily accessible. You can subscribe to the channel for free. It’s been a great learning curve, and it’s early days, but I’m so excited about what we’ve got planned now I know what people have enjoyed so far.

What has been the most fun part of doing it?
We had a fantastic time at The Big Feastival, meeting the great Food Tubers DJ BBQ, John Quilter, Jamie Oliver and Alex James, and of course my husband…. He said on air my cooking was rubbish. I did protest! If I follow a Jamie Oliver or Ottolenghi recipe it’s always delicious.

Tell us more about your involvement with Strictly. You’re presenting It Takes Two again this year aren’t you? I love presenting It Takes Two; we are the naughty little sister programme to Tess and Claudia’s big Saturday night show. We have so much fun with the celebs and their incredible dance partners. And Ian Waite my darling dance partner teaches me some moves, which I love and Craig Revel Horwood, whom I adore, and the divine Karen Hardy gives us great critique. Our VT team knows everything there is to know about the couples…. It’s always great fun to gossip. And I love seeing the daft high heels and the glittery tops come out the attic again. I have started the shopping already….

How much time does recording the shows take? Give us a bit of ‘behind the scenes’
We rehearse in the afternoon and we’re live from 6.30-7pm, recording at London Studios on the South Bank – you must come up (we’d love to! Ed). It’s fun. We do about 65 shows in a run… which is lots, but they’re so much fun. I love my production team they come up with loads of daft things to do.

Can you tell from the start who will do well and who will fall at the early hurdles? What sets people apart? You can never tell who will be brilliant or not until they’ve danced a couple of dances together, as some are shy initially, and some are brilliant immediately. It’s better to be a grower…. Everybody loves a journey and seeing the hard work and improvement. But some are funnier when they’re not as perfect, but so entertaining and we still love to watch them.

Any hot tips for this year’s contestants?! Who do you think we should look out for?
I’m thinking Thom Evans and Iveta could be fab; he’s fit and looks like he can move and Iveta danced with my Dad and also was brilliant with Mark Benton last year. Jake Wood and Janette look good. I want Scott Mills to do well as he’s a mate and he’s dancing with Kevin’s sister Joanne, she’s amazing.

I love Alison; she’s a disco diva so Alijaz will have a wicked time with her. I love Steve Bachshall and Ola, I’m liking Jenny Murray and Anton and Pasha with Caroline Flack… Frankie Bridge with Kevin from Grimsby….. there’s so many goodies! Oh, and Jennifer Gibney with new boy Tristran. HOT.

Once Strictly is over, what’s next for Zoe?
I’m looking forward to a lovely Christmas with the family, try and sneak in some winter sun, and then it’s the exciting lead up to BAFTA FILM Awards in Feb 2015. I love working with BAFTA and presenting their online coverage of red carpet and exclusive winner’s backstage interviews – having to watch all the nominated films over Christmas, such a treat and pleasure! More BBC R2 action across the year and a couple of other exciting projects popping up along the way too!

BBC Strictly It Takes Two from Mon 29th Sept, BBC2 18.30
Zoe Ball: Off Air YouTube channel