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Countdown to the Manchester Grand Prix

The Manchester Grand Prix is the largest International Wheelchair Dance Sport competition held in the UK. Gary Lyness and Paula Moulton, better known as Strictly Wheels, will join competitors from around 10 European countries on Saturday June 27. Fish Insurance asked Paula to keep a diary of the days leading up to the competition, here’s what she got up to during the countdown to the Manchester Grand Prix.


The week leading up to a competition is always non-stop, so it probably wasn’t the wisest decision to buy a new car in the same week. However, I got up feeling brave and went to the BCA Motability car auction looking for a wheelchair accessible vehicle. I was outbid first time round, but eventually managed to get the car I wanted.

Next I had a two hour training session with Gary, working on some changes to our paso doble dance for our competition routine, followed by another three hour session with a lady called Gill who I’m entering the duo dance category with. Gill is in her 70s and relatively new to wheelchair dance, it just shows you’re never too old to dance! We’re entering at debutante (beginner) level.


Tuesday began with a meeting with a lady from Manchester Airport regarding the wheelchair assistance getting onto a plane. I’ve had some bad experiences at airports in the past but we had a really long and informative meeting where we discussed different ways Manchester Airport can meet the true needs of a disabled passenger. Gary and I are going to go back next week to do a ‘walk through’ of the passenger journey and identify ways things can be improved. It’ll be interesting as we both pick up on different things with our different perspectives – me as somebody using a wheelchair and Gary as an able bodied person travelling with a wheelchair user.

After the airport I had a BMX session. It’s something I do to improve my physical fitness which is important both for my health and when dancing. Finally, I visited a local special needs school, which encourages specialist activities for children with disabilities. I’ve been assisting the teachers there and helping the children to learn wheelchair dancing, and they’re also going to be taking part in the Manchester Grand Prix entering the junior debutante category.


Today I did some work on a book I’m helping put together for NHS England, it’s a guide to life for wheelchair users. I was also asked to speak at the Posture and Mobility Group conference, which was exciting! Next, I went to buy fabric and thread for some costumes I’m making for some of the school children. Costumes are a must for the Grand Prix! For the boys it isn’t too much of a problem as we can buy them trousers, but the girls need nice matching skirts. That’s where I come in, so I need to make eight little girls’ skirts before Friday. Wish me luck!


I had another two hour training session with Gary, where we worked on the paso doble again to bed in the changes. I also practised my solo routines as I’m entering the Single category for only the second time and it’s all quite new to me. The first time I competed in the Singles was only three weeks ago in Serbia so I have limited expectations, especially as I’m going straight into the top class. It’s a bit more nerve-wracking dancing solo as you are more exposed.

In the evening, a group of my friends came round to help me with making the children’s skirts. We had a little production line going by the end of it and we managed to get all eight finished by 10pm, which is impressive!


I took the girls’ costumes to the school to make sure they all fit, and now they’ll just need a few finishing touches before next weekend. I also took one of the girls to get a hairpiece for the competition – it’s all about the overall look! Speaking of which, I’ve spent today booking appointments for my nails and fake tan so that everything’s in place for next week, and I’m going to begin my week-long routine of exfoliating and moisturising every day up until the competition.

Next week will involve more training as the competition edges closer, but I’m excited. It’s always good competing closer to home as you always have lots of people there to cheer you on. I’m looking forward to supporting my little girls and boys too, as well as doing the duo with Gill.

As for Gary and I, we’d like to make the final as it’s a smaller competition for us. Watch this space!

Fish Insurance is a proud supporter of Strictly Wheels.  Find out more about the award winning wheelchair dance duo at

 You can also follow Strictly Wheels on Facebook and on Twitter @StrictlyWheels.

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