After eleven series you’d expect a TV programme’s popularity to be gradually dying out, but if the miles-long queues outside the studio each week and the die-hard fans who have been applying year after year for audience tickets are anything to go by, Strictly Come Dancing is going stronger than ever.

I somehow missed the first eight series of Strictly – I was living abroad for five of them and the other three I managed not to really notice - but from the moment I tuned in to the launch show of series 9 and saw Harry Judd’s bottom clad in tight black satin I was hooked and have been slightly obsessed ever since.

Now, with the programme’s transference from the now-closed BBC Television Centre to Elstree Studios, I thought it was time to go along and see for myself exactly what it is I’ve been getting so excited about.

After watching the launch show and first live show on TV with about 10 million others, I have been lucky enough to get tickets for the first live elimination show, and what turns out to be the longest show in the series - with all 15 couples still in, I’m welded to my teeny tiny, but glittery silver, seat for almost five and a half hours as they record the live show and pre-record the results show, to be screened the following night.

When I arrived I was driven across the studio grounds in a golf buggy and dropped off next to a small marquee outside the George Lucas stage, where a group of unusually well-toned people were milling about, stretching and twirling. It wasn’t until I almost walked into one of their biceps as I got out of the buggy that I realised they were the improbably tall pro dancers Brendan Cole, Pasha Kovalev and James Jordan. I went rather red and managed a weak smile before I was hurried into a bustling corridor, where I almost bumped into Vanessa Feltz on her way to her dressing room.

I’m led up some rickety steps and suddenly there I am – on the Strictly set. Seven hundred people in a glittering array of cocktail dresses and suits, some of which could rival those we’re about to see on the dancers, line three sides of the dancefloor, and there is the famous judges’ desk and the double staircase framing the band area – and, above us, the enormous silver glitterball. I’m really here.

“It’s a brilliant atmosphere here with the show,” Roger Morris, Elstree Studios’ managing director, tells me later, “it’s such a theatrical show, there’s a real buzz that goes with it and I think that’s reflected into the audience.”

Roger tells me that Elstree can accommodate 200 more audience members than was possible at Television Centre, there’s a larger floor area, and it’s now a fixed set, meaning the celebrities and their professional dance partners can rehearse there during the week, as can the directors and floor crew. In its previous home, the show’s set often had to be swapped in and out with that of Later… With Jools Holland.

“We’ve always had the biggest TV shows here at Elstree,” Roger continues, “Dancing on Ice, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? We have a history of really big entertainment shows, so Strictly goes really well with that. It’s fantastic that we’ve got it.”

Back in the studio, I’m having a great time. We’ve been warmed up – told when to cheer, boo and go ‘ahhhh’, joined in a rousing sing-a-long to Build Me Up Buttercup to calibrate the microphones that are trained on us, watched Tess Daly record a couple of trailers, and witnessed an audience member get up on stage and propose to his girlfriend (she said yes) – and now we’re live on air.

Watching at home, I’d always thought the audiences on Strictly were extraordinarily easily pleased, but now I’m part of it I’m totally, unashamedly caught up in it all. We were told beforehand to go over the top whenever one of the couples did a twirl or a lift or to boo whenever Craig Revel Horwood said anything mean, and soon we’re cheering pretty much every turn and step and hissing at every critical word out of the judges’ mouths. It’s like a glorious pantomime.

When golfer Tony Jacklin and his partner Aliona Vilani are voted off after the dance-off with fashion designer Julien Macdonald and pro dancer Janette Manrara, we’re all positively sobbing and clutching on to each other’s hands. It’s an emotional rollercoaster.

As the celebrities and pro dancers join Tony and Aliona on the dancefloor for a tearful farewell and the cameras finally stop rolling, we fans extract our aching but gloriously happy selves from our seats and make our way out of the studio and out into the late-night air, trying to catch one last glimpse of rippling bicep or sequined, tasselled behind as we go.

John O’Callaghan, head of studios and post production services at the BBC, tells me later: “Strictly will be at Elstree next season as well and, beyond that, we’ve got to decide. But it’s working out amazingly well so far.” And I and the other 699 ridiculously over-dressed fans can attest that it most certainly is.

I don’t know about the others in the audience, but I hurry back home and go straight online to see if I can bag myself any more tickets for another show. I’m thinking the final would be nice…

  • Strictly Come Dancing is on BBC1 on Saturday at 6.30pm.