News at the weekend that Fulwood lass Laura Donaghey was pursuing her dream of becoming Miss England revived memories of beauty pageants past and Lancashire’s perhaps surprisingly rich heritage in this regard.
Marketing and PR executive Laura, 25, reached the semi-final of the contest after winning the Miss Popularity section of Miss Preston 2015.
Miss England is one of many national beauty contest events to begin following the success of Miss Great Britain, with which Lancashire has a history way back to when the competition began in the mid-1940s.
The county has produced a number of winners and Morecambe was the home of the main event between 1956 and 1989.
The first person to receive the Miss Great Britain accolade was 18-year-old Lydia Reid from Morecambe.
This was one of several beauty contests introduced in seaside resorts around the country but the main focus was to reach out to the the Lancashire and North Wales coast, to places such as Blackpool, Southport and Morecambe.
With seaside resorts booming in the summer and families taking to the beach for their yearly holidays particularly in the ‘50s and ‘60s, the contest regularly held at Morecambe’s Super Swimming Stadium was a new kind of entertainment of holidaymakers.
Organisers hoped that the men would enjoy watching pretty young women, the ladies would enjoy picking their favourites and the little girls would dream of following in the footsteps of the models showcasing their beauty.
The 1950s and 60s would see the contest at its peak and seaside towns like Morecambe seeing Miss GB as an important tool to gain publicity and recognition for the town.
In Morecambe, beauty contests came second only to the Illuminations as the major tourist attraction.
The official 1962 Miss Great Britain programme stated “when the Morecambe Corporation started the contest in 1945, they introduced to the attractions of the seaside holiday, a new form of entertainment which has now become a big part of show business.
“As the years go by, the size of our audiences shows no signs of diminishing, the standard of our beautiful competitors improves steadily and the contest remains as popular as ever.”
But the attraction of foreign holidays saw a decline of families choosing to stay at home during the summer break and the 1980s saw the likes of Rhyl and Morecambe end their seaside beauty contests. By the start of the millennium, Southport preferred to focus on its afternoon events on the Promenade and Blackpool decided to prioritise its night life scene.
However the truth is, today’s aspiring beauties still see them as an opportunity to put themselves out there and showcase their looks. For example, Amy Carrier from Churchtown in Southport achieved the honour of being Miss GB in 2010
The Miss Great Britain contest has helped to inspire contests all over Britain in a bid to help towns and cities find their own ‘Miss’ and it has gone off the scale in Blackpool where Little Miss Teen, Junior Teen and Miss Teen GB will all be crowned at The Globe near Blackpool Pleasure Beach this October.