Looking back at the days when Morecambe was the home of Miss Great Britain - the biggest and oldest beauty pageant in the UK
and live on Freeview channel 276
Sally’s book charting the story of the contest up to its 75th anniversary, Miss Great Britain 1945-2020: The Official History, required hours of research – but she still yearned to trace the path of the event in person.
So after a night in Manchester attending a modern day pageant, Sally and her husband Anthony took the train for a stay at the iconic Midland Hotel, and to walk in the footsteps of Miss Great Britain past in a 24 hour odyssey of Morecambe's rich pageant tapestry.
Here is Sally’s own account of her special trip.
First stop – and, to my mind, the most important – was the former site of the Super Swimming Stadium, situated mere yards from the Midland Hotel.
Opened in 1935, it was Europe's largest outdoor pool and at the height of summer welcomed thousands of swimmers and visitors a day.
In 1945, the very first Miss Great Britain contest took place there, and the weekly heats and finals attracted vast numbers to watch. The pageant was held there until 1970 when it was taken inside – partly due to the permanently windy conditions and partly due to the introduction of TV cameras.
When holidaymakers were tempted away from British seaside resorts by cheap air travel in the 70s, the decision was made to close the swimming stadium in 1975.
The site was used for other ventures including Bubbles and the Superdome, but has lain empty for many years.
Last month, the green light was given for funding to build Eden Project Morecambe on the site, which will rejuvenate the town's ailing fortunes in unheard of ways.
It was therefore really important to me to be able to walk the site before any building work begins.
It was a very poignant experience and one I'm thrilled to have done at last on this beautiful, blustery spring day.
Unfortunately the Winter Gardens, which hosted the contest from 1970, was closed to visitors on our trip, but we were at least able to marvel at the architecture and appreciate the fact that it is once again a working venue.
The next stop on our Miss Great Britain History Tour of Morecambe was a tiny but wonderful museum.
The Morecambe Heritage Centre houses a fabulous collection of documents and artefacts from the past, and the staff were delighted to receive a copy of my Miss Great Britain book for their display and to hear of my adventures as a Miss Great Britain judge.
They were also thrilled to learn that the pageant is still thriving in Leicester.
But here's the best bit. The very charming curator and local artist Linda Page led us upstairs to their storage room – where a treasure trove awaited us: row after row of boxes containing Miss Great Britain memorabilia, programmes, photos, cuttings – and Miss GB judges' rosettes.
These were donated largely by the estate of the longstanding Miss GB chaperone Dorothy Fisher and several former winners for safekeeping.
Linda told us to go through as much as we wanted and take photos, and left us to it. Who knew the heaven that was within the Arndale Centre, Morecambe?
I realise this privilege is offered to very few and I was incredibly honoured.
We didn't have time to look at everything but we will be back, and I can't thank Linda and her team enough for not only their generosity towards us, but for their wonderful efforts to keep the history of Miss Great Britain alive.
Part three of our Miss Great Britain odyssey took us to my birthday treat from Anthony – a stay at the Grade II listed Midland Hotel.
This iconic Art Deco building was built in 1933 and quickly became the place to see and be seen, with its magnificent spiral staircase, clean lines and fabulous views across Morecambe Bay.
After being sold in the 90s it fell into neglect and disrepair, boarded up and unloved, before being rescued by regeneration company Urban Splash.
After extensive refurbishment The Midland opened its doors again in 2009 and is now thriving once more.
During its heyday in the 60s, the hotel played host to the Miss Great Britain contestants, and even today proudly displays memorabilia from the pageant in the foyer.
And by coincidence the artwork on show in the reception area is by none other than our lovely new friend Linda Page, the curator at Morecambe Heritage Centre.
Although only a very loose connection to Miss Great Britain, no trip to Morecambe is complete without a visit to see the one and only Eric Morecambe.
This wonderful statue, unveiled by the late Queen in 1999 and created by sculptor Graham Ibbeson reflects Eric’s characteristic ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ pose – and one glimpse of the superb likeness of one of the greatest entertainers of all time does just that. It is pure, pure joy.
Nobody can pass this tribute to the town's most famous son without stopping to pose with him against a backdrop of blue sky and Irish sea, and mimic his best known stance.
Eric and his comedy partner Ernie Wise judged several Miss Great Britain pageants at the Super Swimming Stadium, and helped crown the 1965 winner Diane Westbury.
I can't express my joy at being given the opportunity to visit the sites of one of Morecambe's most famous and popular events, run by the council for 50 years from 1945-1990, and still the biggest and oldest beauty pageant in the country. I was too young to ever visit the Super Swimming Stadium myself so to stand on the exact spot of all those women from across five decades was a privilege.‘Miss Great Britain 1945-2020: The Official History’ is available from Amazon, Blackwells and Waterstones.