Wirral Strictly star Shirley Ballas joins Dani Dyer and Little Mix singers on Comic Relief mountain trek
Strictly star Shirley Ballas will join former shadow chancellor Ed Balls, Love Island winner Dani Dyer and Little Mix’s Jade Thirlwall and Leigh-Anne Pinnock for a Red Nose Day expedition.
They will converge with TV hosts Dan Walker, Alexander Armstrong and Anita Rani, and NFL sports pundit Osi Umenyiora as they seek to conquer the 19,000ft mountain.
The band of nine begin the ascent in February for a special one-hour documentary to air on BBC One, Comic Relief organisers said on Tuesday.
Kilimanjaro: The Return takes place 10 years after the original excruciating climb led by Gary Barlow, which raised £1.5 million for Comic Relief.
Ed Balls said: “It’s an amazing group of climbers, I’m especially looking forward to dancing up the mountain with Shirley Ballas. My whole family are beyond excited that Jade and Leigh-Anne of Little Mix will be scaling Africa’s highest mountain, too.”
Dani Dyer added: “I can’t believe I’m really climbing Kilimanjaro. Comic Relief means so much to me and my family, and the money they raise does so much good, so I’m thrilled to be involved. It doesn’t feel real yet, but I’m excited to put my backpack on and get going.”
Following in the footsteps of the likes of Chris Moyles, Fearne Cotton and Cheryl, who took part in the 2009 climb, the newly formed team will face a gruelling eight-day trek battling altitude sickness and freezing night-time temperatures, driving them to their physical and mental limits.
Pinnock said: “It’s so amazing to be part of this challenge for Comic Relief. I can’t wait to get to the top of Kilimanjaro, and knowing that we are doing it for Comic Relief makes it incredibly special.”
Thirlwall added: “Leigh-Anne and I went to Liberia in 2014 for Red Nose Day and we have seen first-hand how much work this incredible charity does and how much it is needed. The nerves are certainly starting to kick in for the climb, but I’m lucky I will have Leigh-Anne up there with me and I can’t wait to get stuck in with everyone!”
The climb will be part of a multitude of shows, sketches, challenges and celebrity fun, all planned for the lead-up to the main event broadcast live on Friday March 15, beginning at 7pm on BBC One.
A short film will reunite the cast of Four Weddings And A Funeral 25 years on, in a swathe of evening entertainment.
This comes after an exclusive sneak peek picture of the highly anticipated One Red Nose Day And A Wedding has been released ahead of the premiere.
An illustrious roster of comedians have also announced their plans for a “spectacular” comedy gig held at the SSE Arena, Wembley, on Thursday February 28, the first of its kind.
The comedy troupe includes Russell Howard, Jimmy Carr, John Bishop, Sir Lenny Henry and Alan Carr, with ticket sale profits going to Comic Relief.
Howard said: “Gigs like this are great as they help Comic Relief raise vital funds that enable them to help people here in the UK and around the world.
“Back in 2017, I travelled to Liberia for Red Nose Day where I saw first-hand how Comic Relief cash was making a difference to lives over there – it was such an eye-opener; which is why I’m delighted to be joining forces with them again to take part in the first ever Comic Relief Spectacular. So grab your ticket now, for what promises to be an enormous, life-changing night of fun.”
In a more competitive atmosphere, Lord Sugar is stepping back into the boardroom alongside his trusted advisers Baroness Brady and Claude Littner to cast his eye over a group of celebrities jostling to avoid the firing line.
Baroness Brady was a contestant in the first edition back in 2007, striding to victory as project manager for the girls’ team, leading to the firing of Piers Morgan, who was accused of winding up his fellow teammates