How Strictly Come Dancing winner Ore Oduba owes career to a three day trip to Edinburgh

From the moment he jived to victory with Joanne Clifton to win the 2016 series of Strictly Come Dancing, Ore Oduba's career may have taken a unexpected turn but as he prepares for his Edinburgh stage debut, the 36-year-old reveals that without Edinburgh he wouldn't be where he is today.

By Liam Rudden
Tuesday, 25th January 2022, 1:31 pm
Joanne Clifton and Ore Oduba with the glitter-ball trophy after they won the final of Strictly Come Dancing in 2016
Joanne Clifton and Ore Oduba with the glitter-ball trophy after they won the final of Strictly Come Dancing in 2016

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Remarkably, it was a three day trip to the Capital for the Edinburgh International Television Festival that changed his life forever.

Best known these days as a TV presenter (to a generation he will always be the face of CBBC's Newsround, which he fronted from 2008 to 2013), Oduba recalls, “It was the summer of 2007 and I'd applied for a place on a TV networking scheme at the Edinburgh International Television Festival​.

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Ore Oduba as Brad Majors in The Rocky Horror Show, which comes to the Edinburgh King's

“I’d known I wanted to work in television from when I was 15 and had applied for the TVYP (Television and Young People) scheme for four or five years. However, I never got on it until that final year by when I was in my ​penultimate year in university.”

He continues, “It was a networking scheme, you did workshops, attended talks and got to rub shoulders with people in the industry in order to get an idea about what working in television might be like.

“I had the best time and met a lot of people including a top executive in Children's BBC and we got on really well. I remember leaving Edinburgh after that weekend with pages of contacts. Six months later I had coffee in London with that BBC executive, it was my first ever trip to BBC Centre, which was mind-blowing. I was one step closer.

“Then four or five months on from that he got in touch to say they were looking for new presenters for Newsround and did I have a show-reel to pass on to him.

Strictly Come Dancing winner Ore Oduba

“Because of the advice he had given me in Edinburgh I did and I passed it on. Two weeks after graduating from university I did a screen test and started as a presenter on Newsround.

"So, I have Edinburgh to thank for my whole career, everything came from those three days up in the Capital. If I hadn't got my foot in the door there, I don't know where I would have done it.”

I​f that trip to Edinburgh opened doors for the young Oduba it was winning Strictly’s Glitterball Trophy that allowed him to follow his childhood dreams and buy into the ethos of The Rocky Horror Show, which brings him back to the Capital next month; 'Don't Dream It, Be It!'

“Strictly changed the direction of my life,” he says. “I'm a bit of a dreamer, even just working on television, which was so far removed from what my friends and family group were doing was such a huge dream of mine.

Ore Oduba in presenter mood

“So, I guess I've allowed myself to dream in that way throughout my career. I did a lot of stage work as a kid. At school I was in every production under the sun, I was in concerts and went to Fame Academies and was even in a band once. It was a rock band, we didn't have a name but we jammed a lot of Bon Jovi covers in our breaks.

“But then you get to that certain age when you park all those things that you love doing and I guess it was Strictly that made me remember how big a passion it was of mine – had we not won Strictly, I don't think I would have had the belief to take a leap into such a different world. It was a big gamble.”​

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And as Richard O'Brien's cult musical prepares to rock onto the stage of the King's Theatre from February 21-26, Oduba reveals he can't wait.

In the risqué ​rock opera he ​plays squeaky-clean Brad Majors who, along with his​ ​fiancée Janet Weiss, ​stumble into the world of mad scientist Frank-N-Furter​. Cue songs like The Time Warp and​ ​Sweet Transvestite​ as ​Oduba ​finds himself in ​various states of undress.

“​I have not actually performed in Edinburgh before but any time I have been in town it's always felt really special.

"I guess that after Joanne and I did Strictly I realised I had to keep performing in my day to day life. It was just something I loved to do. But going further back through the various guises my career has taken, I never thought I'd be kicking a six inch heel, dancing in stockings, platforms and suspenders – it's not a competition but I'm pretty sure my heel is the highest of all the boys.”

He laughs, “That wasn't ever part of the deal,” adding, “It's actually my wife's fault that I'm doing the show because she thought it would be hilarious seeing me going around the country dancing in my pants, but I'm definitely having a good time.

So w​hat will his four-year-old son, ​Roman, think when he's old enough to understand what daddy does for a living.

Oduba laughs again, “I love the idea that when I'm older and greyer and my kids and grand-kids ask, ‘What did you do for fun when you were younger dad?’ or ‘grandad’ and I'll just reel out the pictures of me in Rocky and go, ‘This is what I used to do...’ and just wait to watch their reaction.”

He laughs, “They probably wouldn't see that coming.”

​Tickets for ​The Rocky Horror Show ​at the King's Theatre are available here

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