75 years of Miss Great Britain: New book by Scarborough author Sally-Ann Fawcett reveals the triumphs and disasters

The Miss Great Britain pageant celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2020, and a new book has been published by a Scarborough author to celebrate the life and times of what was one of the biggest events in the country.

By News Reporter
Friday, 1st January 2021, 5:30 pm

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 (2QT Publishing) 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.

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The book celebrates 75 years of the Miss Great Britain contest

“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.

Sally-Ann Fawcett with her new book.

It was first screened on TV in 1970, but a growing movement of opposition towards beauty pageants saw it being banned from the screen in 1985.

“The television executives got scared of the politically-correct brigade,” Sally-Ann explained, “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 TV, and a resignation following the publication of topless photos – all of which are documented in Sally-Ann’s book, as well as the tragedy of Sophie Gradon (2009) following her appearance on ITV’s Love Island.

Leila Reid, left, and Anne Heywood.

Lancaster Council sold the title in 1989 and it underwent various transformations and ownership over the next two decades.

It 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. This year will see the addition of a new Classic division for ladies aged 40+.

Miss Great Britain 1945-2020: The Official History (2QT Publishing) can be ordered from Amazon, Foyles, Waterstones and Blackwell’s.

Danielle Lloyd.
Jen Atkin, left, and April Banbury.