The Miss Great Britain pageant celebrates its 75th anniversary this year and a new book has been published to celebrate what was once one of the annual biggest draws to Morecambe.
Sally-Ann Fawcett, herself a former beauty contestant, has been head judge at the pageant since 2014 and a fan since childhood.
She wrote Miss Great Britain 1945-2020: The Official History during lockdown, calling it a ‘labour of love’.
“What I always loved about Miss Great Britain was how inclusive it is,”she said.
“Even since its early days it allowed married women to take part, and this tradition continues to this day.
“It has also produced some really well-known winners, such as film star Anne Heywood (1950), Blue Peter presenter Leila Williams (1957), breakfast TV anchor Debbie Greenwood (1984), Real Housewives of Cheshire star Leilani Dowding (1998), Celebrity Big Brother housemate Danielle Lloyd (2006) and Towie celebrity Shelby Tribble (2014).”
Miss Great Britain was born following a collaboration between what was then Morecambe Corporation
and Mecca Dancing in 1945, with the heats and final taking place at the Super Swimming Stadium.
The first ever winner was local girl Lydia Reid. The contests attracted audiences in their thousands at the lido and soon became one of the most prestigious beauty pageants in the country. It was first screened on television in 1970, but a growing movement of opposition towards beauty pageants saw it being banished from the small screen in 1985.
Sally-Ann said: “The television executives got scared of the politically correct brigade, which is a shame because it was mainly women who enjoyed watching beauty pageants and revelling in the glamour and fashion.
“There was still a huge audience for these contests but the mainstream channels wouldn’t touch them after the mid-80s.”
The Miss Great Britain pageant has had its fair share of controversies too, including contestant protests when they considered the ‘wrong winner’ had been crowned, a winner leaving her husband to marry one of Britain’s top comedians, two winners sacked due to their behaviour on television, and a resignation following the publication of topless photographs.
All of these incidents and more are documented in Sally-Ann’s book, as well as the tragedy of Sophie Gradon (2009) following her appearance on ITV’s hit show Love Island.
Lancaster City Council sold the title in 1989 and it underwent various transformations and ownership over the following two decades.
The event is now owned by The Kreative Group, a Leicester-based events agency run by Kate Solomons-Freakley and Jemma Simmonds, who have organised the pageant since 2012, restoring its reputation as one of the biggest and most popular pageants in the country.
The 75th Miss Great Britain, Jen Atkin from Grimsby, was crowned in February, along with the very first Ms Great Britain - a new title for women aged over 28 - April Banbury, from London. Next year will see the addition of a new Classic division for ladies aged 40+.
Morecambe BID very kindly helped sponsor Sally-Ann’s book, with signed copies being sold by Tony Vettese at The Old Pier Bookshop, Marine Road Central.
Sally-Ann said: “I am hugely grateful to Morecambe BID for their support.
“They are so proud of their heritage and I was so happy to document what was such a huge part of Morecambe’s identity for 45 years.”
*Miss Great Britain 1945-2020: The Official History (2QT Publishing) can be ordered from Amazon, The Old Pier Bookshop, Foyles, Waterstones, or direct from the author by contacting [email protected]