Millions of people tuned in to watch the first episode of the new series of Strictly Come Dancing.

Overnight ratings reveal the BBC One launch show, filmed at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, was watched by an average of 8.6 million viewers - 800,000 higher than last year.

Strictly has gone ahead this year with limited audiences due to the pandemic and during the performances, the couples did not get as close with their own partners as they normally might, due to coronavirus rules.

Either the professional dancer or the celebrity is living on their own for the duration of the series as they form an exclusive support bubble.

Borehamwood Times:

Elstree Studios

Nicola Adams was paired with Katya Jones, while celebrities including comedian Bill Bailey, actress Caroline Quentin and former home secretary Jacqui Smith also featured.

YouTuber HRVY, Made In Chelsea star Jamie Laing, EastEnders actress Maisie Smith, radio DJ Clara Amfo, former NFL player Jason Bell, musician Max George and TV presenters JJ Chalmers and Ranvir Singh are also taking part.

Judges Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse and Shirley Ballas returned to the panel, however Bruno Tonioli was absent from the launch as he is in the US working on Dancing With The Stars.

The Italian will appear remotely for the results shows before he returns full-time towards the end of the series.

Borehamwood Times:

Credit: BBC/PA

The eighteenth series of Strictly is being filmed at George Lucas Stage 2 at Elstree Studios, with It Takes Two taking up residency for its live weekday shows in Stage 6, on the same site.

BBC Studioworks says it has worked closely with the Strictly production and health & safety teams to ensure the environment they are working in is Covid secure, including:

  • Additional air handling units have been hired to fill the stage with fresh air, and the fresh air system within the gallery suite has been upgraded.
  • Each gallery is limited to a specific number of people at any one time. Bespoke Perspex screens are in place across all the gallery suites and a number of gallery-based operatives and production staff have been relocated to cabins outside.
  • On the studio floor, some of the operated cameras have been replaced by remote heads and all other cameras are spaced more than two metres apart.
  • Perspex vocal booths have been created for the band’s singers, each with an air extraction system.
  • Microphones will not be shared across the series-run.
  • Electrostatic misting is sprayed overnight after each day on set, including communal areas and toilets.
  • Editors and producers for Strictly are working remotely at home

Meryl McLaren, commercial manager at BBC Studioworks, said: "As we collectively steer our way through the Covid-19 pandemic, entertainment shows such as Strictly are more important than ever, offering audiences a big dose of normality, fun and high energy content.

"Making the Strictly ballroom a Covid-secure environment has been a real collaborative effort between BBC Studioworks and BBC Studios, with months of planning and preparation.

"Now we just can’t wait to let the dancing begin and for it to hit our screens."

Strictly Come Dancing continues next Saturday on BBC One at 7.25pm.