Best of Lancashire Awards: Emotions high as winners revealed at inaugural JPI Media event
There was not a dry eye in the house at the inaugural Best of Lancashire Awards, which proved to be a real Red Rose celebration of bravery and achievements.
More than 230 guests at the Crow Wood resort and spa in Burnley enjoyed an emotional evening packed full of tales of bravery, courage, caring and community involvement.
The glittering occasion, organised by sister newspapers the Lancashire Post, Blackpool Gazette and Burnley Express and sponsored by Marsden Building Society, saw an array of awards ranging from Community Champion, Act of Bravery and Young Person of Courage to Green Champion and Pride of Lancashire.
And top billing went to Speaker of the House of Commons and Chorley MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle who was named Lancashire’s Ambassador of the Year.
The first Best of Lancashire Lifetime Achievement Award was presented posthumously to Mrs Doreen Lofthouse, founder of the world-renowned Fisherman's Friends lozenges company in Fleetwood.
The award was picked up by her son Duncan who outlined the many community initiatives his mother had supported in the town as local employer and philanthropist.
The Pride of Lancashire honour, sponsored by Marsden Building Society, went to Strictly NHS – a group of NHS workers who were moulded into a ballroom dancing team whose performance at the world-famous Blackpool Tower ballroom enabled them to raise £25,000 to support NHS staff members affected by Covid.
The Community Champion award, sponsored by Progress Housing Group, went to Blackpool’s Amazing Graze, which never closed its doors during Covid, doling out a remarkable 2,500 meals a week to those in need.
The River Ribble Trust scooped the Environment Sustainability Award with its programme of planting trees across 500 hectares of new woodland in the county, improving water quality and reducing flood risk.
The 999 hero gong, sponsored by Spire Fylde Coast Hospital, went to Paul Markham, who bravely intercepted a firework heading for a group of children outside Blackpool FC’s Bloomfield Road.
He threw the firework away and it went off, taking Paul’s fingers and thumb, but saving the lives of the youngsters.
The Act of Bravery Award, sponsored by Alderson and Horan Funeral Services, went to Paula and Mark Bryan. After Mark was left for dead at the side of th road after being hit by a HGV, Paula gave up her full-time job to become his full-time carer and both time to raise money for charity.
The Grassroots sport award, sponsored by Burnley College, went to ‘legend’ John Pillling, a stalwart of Burnley Miners Football League.
And the Young Person of Courage sponsored by Greater Lancashire Hospital, went to Rachel Pownall, a young carer from Blackpool who has overcome many challenges to keep herself on track in life.
The Armed Forces award, sponsored by Daniel Thwaites, went to Corporal James Kirkby who has raised huge amounts for limbless charities.
The Inspirational Adult, sponsored by Excel Fostering, was Maddison Farrar, who runs Macmillan coffee mornings at school, after her grandma passed away.
The Charity Fund-raiser award went to ‘Mr Chorley’ Neil Hailwood, a charity heavyweight and volunteer in the town.
Let’s Grow Preston scooped the Green Champion award, sponsored by Panaz. The organisation touches lives by supporting and training an army of volunteers with an aim of improving and maintaining green spaces, with fresh food grown contributing to 570,000 meals for the people of Preston.
Entertainment for the evening was provided by singer Matt Philips, who soon got the dance floor bouncing. The event was presented expertly radio presenters and personalities Hayley Kay and Ged Mills.
Mr Rob Pheasey, chief executive of event sponsors Marsden Building Society, said: “After a challenging 18 months the awards was a great opportunity for people to come together and celebrate the people that make this county a fantastic place to call home.”
Blackpool Gazette Editor Nicola Adam said: “There must have been something in my eye all night – the evening really packed an emotional punch.
“Thanks to absolutely everyone involved – you are all winners and Lancashire’s very best.”
The shortlist: Who was shortlisted for the awards (list)