It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to a true gent!
Firstly, in their time of grief, I would like to send my condolences to Len's family who he adored. To his partner Sue, his son James and the rest of their family I send my very best wishes at this difficult time.
There are many things I could say about Len so it will be hard to sum up what he meant to me in this small moment putting pen to paper. To me he was not only one of the best television judges there has ever been but he was the consummate showman and a true gent all rolled ono one! Len's gift was that he made everyone he came into contact with feel special. It didn't matter the circumstance or how fleeting and perhaps insignificant the time one spent with him, Len had a presence and if you were lucky enough to have a moment, he simply made you feel special. Len and I certainly had a few moments over the years! As a contestant, whether receiving a 10 from Len or a good old telling off, when it came from him it meant something and you listened. As many will know, Len and I had many an exchange on the show, some were kind and warm, others were not so fuzzy but our arguments both on and off screen were always fleeting and always managed with mutual respect. It didn't matter where it was, whether standing before him on the dance floor while he pondered his critique of your latest performance, or out the back chatting away, him with a cigar in his hand and an anecdote on his lip, his charm as well as his edge (and occasional grumpiness) commanded your respect and he did so with an grin and an ease very few people are able to manage. He always made people feel special, including me and I was proud to call him both a colleague and a friend.
When it comes to Strictly, to be an original means a lot to all of us who first entered that studio back in 2004. To be there at the inception of this great new show was an honour and a privilege for me and I know Len felt exactly the same. We all had a passion for our art and a love of the show that we helped to create. For me, Len was not only the head judge, he was the one who set the tone for us all. With his nutty one liners, his cheeky chappy grin, his eloquence and elegance, he was second to none and in many ways made Strictly what it became. He had an ability to read the room and knew exactly what needed to be said in any given moment. If someone had had a hard time, he'd metaphorically pic the up with a wise word or if someone (normally me) needed bringing down a peg or two, he would have no problem finding exactly the words needed to achieve a right verbal lashing. His passion for dance and his wonderful delivery was the perfect mix for Stritly and one that won't be replicated easily. The day he left the Strictly was a sad one for the show and it would never we the same again but his legacy will live on. Barely a week goes by where someone doesn't yell 'Seven' at me in the street. From now that will have a new meaning for me personally and it will definitely be met with a smile as I remember a true gent, a legend and a friend.
Len, thank you for the memories, thank you for the guidance, thank you for the warmth you always showed and the moments that we shared. I will treasure them all.