A Blackpool beauty queen who has dedicated ten years of her life to the pageant scene is in the running to represent her country in the world-famous Miss Universe competition.
Joanna Johnson, 28, will compete in the Miss Great Britain competition next month
Joanna Johnson, 28, will compete in the Miss Universe Great Britain pageant in South Wales next month, where she hopes to become the first Blackpool woman to represent Great Britain at the international competition.
Joanna said: “Pageants have given me a purpose, they have given me the confidence I never thought I would have to be able to go for and achieve my dreams. I want to prove to every little girl out there that has ever doubted themselves that they can do anything and to never ever give up.”
The hair stylist, of North Shore, has competed in pageants since she was 18. She was named Miss Galaxy North England in 2018 and won the international Miss Galaxy competition later that year.
Joanna was crowned Miss Galaxy in 2018
The 2021 Miss Universe pageant is her last chance to earn the title and win the crown – because women aged over 28 aren’t allowed to compete.
She said: “This is my last chance, and I’m ready.
“I first entered pageantry just to gain confidence. I absolutely loved my experience and I continued on, and it has shaped me into the person I am today. I wouldn’t be who I am without pageants.
“I’m not sure whether I will continue after this. I don’t know if I want to leave my pageant career on a high note. This competition is always one I have wanted to do, and to be crowned Miss Universe would be an incredible final achievement.”
As part of her pageant campaign, Joanna is also raising money for A-Sisterhood, a charity supporting disadvantaged women worldwide, and Stop Acid Attacks in India which helps survivors of acid assaults.
The Miss Great Britain final, which involves an interview with a judging panel, followed by swimwear and eveningwear rounds onstage, will include a ‘Bring A Bra Ball’, with guests donating bras to Smalls for All, a charity which collects underwear to give to adults and children in need in Africa and the UK.
Joanna said: “I am really excited to have been chosen as a finalist for Miss Universe Great Britain this year and am looking forward to supporting A-Sisterhood as part of the process. Miss Universe is one of the biggest pageants in the world and I think it’s going to be a huge adventure as well as a lot of fun.”
Blackpool Transport states that these changes are ‘a better alternative than the current situation that is resulting in a number of cancelled journeys’
Changes are being made to a number of Blackpool bus services indefinitely due a shortage of bus drivers.
Yesterday (September 16), Blackpool Transport announced it has had to make the adjustments as a result of the county experiencing a shortage of drivers with vacancy rates of up to 20%.
The changes will go live on Blackpool’s bus timetable commencing from Sunday, September 19.
A Blackpool Transport spokesperson said: At the moment we have a shortage of bus drivers, which means we are unable to provide the frequency of services we would like to. This is because the logistics and transport industry across the UK is experiencing a shortage of drivers and has driver vacancy rates of up to 20%.
“From Sunday 19 September, there will be some changes to our bus timetables. Many of our services will not change but we need to make some adjustments due to the challenges we are facing.
“These changes mean that we should be able to run a reliable transport network for you, which is a better alternative than the current situation that is resulting in a number of cancelled journeys.
“We have summarised the bus services which will run differently below. Any bus services not listed will not change and our trams will continue to run to their current timetable.”
Please see below bus services with changes below.
Any route not listed is unaffected for now.
Timetable changes from Sunday, September 19:
Service number 1 will see a slight tweak to its timetable but will run to the same frequency as now.
Service number 5 will see a change in frequency and run up to every 20 minutes Monday to Friday and every 30 minutes on Saturday and Sunday.
Service number 6 will continue to run up to every 20 minutes Monday to Friday and from 19 September, up to 30 minutes on Saturday and Sunday.
Service number 7 will see a timetable change meaning it will run up to every 30 minutes Monday to Sunday.
Service number 9 will change, running up to every 20 minutes Monday to Friday and every 30 minutes on Saturday and Sunday.
Service number 11 will continue to run up to every 20 minutes Monday to Friday and will begin running every 30 minutes on Saturday and Sunday.
Service number 14 will begin to run every 15 minutes Monday to Friday and has a slight change to its Saturday timetable. Service 14 will run every 20 minutes on Sundays.
To find out more information, please visit Blackpool Transport Website here.
Red Pandas are endangered , with only 10,000 left in the wild
Blackpool Zoo has welcomed two new adorable babies, the first of their kind at the site in more than 10 years.
On June 18, keepers found the Red Panda newborns nestled in with their parents Alina and Tao.
With only 10,000 red pandas left in the wild, these cubs are cause for extra celebration.
After their first health checks it has been confirmed that the duo are a boy and a girl.
Alina, who is two years old arrived at Blackpool Zoo during the first national lockdown and settled in very well with eight-year-old Tao Tao. The cubs are Alina’s first offspring.
Red Pandas breed in spring and summer and cubs are born following a three-month gestation period.
Luke Forster, Section Head of Birds, reptiles and Small Mammals at Blackpool Zoo, was delighted when he first saw the babies. He said: “It is wonderful to see Alina and Tao Tao become parents for the first time together.
“Alina settled in really well after arriving during Spring 2020 and we were hoping that she would breed, so this is just brilliant news.
“The timing also couldn’t have been better, with Saturday 18th September being International Red Panda Day, which is dedicated to raising awareness of the plight of this species in the wild.
“They are classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List, with numbers still declining due to the loss of habitat from deforestation and the expansion of agriculture in their native Asian forests.
“These two tiny additions are a fantastic way to end what has been a great summer season here at Blackpool Zoo and we look forward to seeing them out and about in the coming months.”
To celebrate the birth, and to mark International Red Panda Day on Saturday (September 18), Blackpool Zoo is holding a competition on its social media pages to name the new babies and the two winners will each receive a pair of tickets to Blackpool Zoo.
Red pandas are native to the Eastern Himalayas and spend most of their lives in trees, including when sleeping. They are mostly nocturnal but they also forage for food at dusk and dawn.
The red panda had been previously classified in the families Procyonidae (raccoons) and Ursidae (bears), however recent research has placed it in its own family Ailuridae.
Often associated with the giant panda, they are smaller than people might expect – only the size of a typical house cat, with a long, bushy tail that adds up to 18 inches to their length.
International Red Panda Day is an awareness campaign that aims to teach people about this fascinating species by asking them to visit zoos that house red pandas, donate to thehttps://redpandanetwork.org/ or share social media posts that include #InternationalRedPandaDay.
Blackpool lap dance club owners say council plans to close down the seaside resort’s venues would put its workers – which include mums and students – at risk
Proposals to close down Blackpool’s lap dancing clubs will put its workers in danger, operators of the venues have warned.
It is feared dancers will be ‘forced underground’ to work behind closed doors in hotel rooms and at unregulated venues; practices associated with higher risks of sexual assault and exploitation due to a lack of security.
Blackpool Council announced in January this year it planned to phase out lap dancing clubs in order to enhance its reputation as a family resort.
A proposed new policy would permit only one sex shop to trade, and set a zero limit on lap dancing clubs.
The existing four clubs would be allowed to continue operating, but once those licences lapse for any reason they would not be renewed.
Operators have now hit out at the proposals after taking part in a recent consultation.
Ashley Sayers, whose family has operated Eden One on the Promenade for 14 years, said dancers ranged from single mums to women paying their way through university.
She warned: “The industry will be forced underground and girls will be tempted, if not forced, to work in places such as hotels for private bachelor parties where their risk of sexual assault and financial exploitation would be alarmingly high.”
In her submission to the council, she added the regulated clubs provided security including “a buddy system for girls going out for breaks, provided security walk outs to cars or cabs at the end of shifts”.
Ms Sayers said: “I have grave concerns that these proposed changes will change the nature of the industry and take away this safe working environment we have built over the years.
“If the council goes ahead with the proposed reduction to zero and the worst happens and all Blackpool SEVs (sexual entertainment venues) are closed these girls will no longer have these safe and regulated operating environments.”
Steve Smith is manager of Heaven and Sinless lap dancing clubs in the resort.
He also warned performers would turn to non-licensed venues that “in most instances do not provide security or CCTV for the protection of the public or dancers”.
The National SEV Coalition has objected to the measures, warning regulated clubs will be replaced by “ad hoc stripping events” under temporary licences “whilst dancers will potentially have to work at private parties (either in hotel rooms or at the customers’ own properties), work in underground clubs or might have to get into more dangerous forms of sex work”.
The revised policy is due to be considered by the council’s licensing committee on Tuesday (September 21).
Councillors are recommended to agree the proposals which must then go before the executive for final approval.
A friend of the parents had contacted the council to show support for their loss
A grieving Blackpool mum has said that the council ‘should be ashamed of themselves’ after requesting more than £250 to light up the tower in memory of her son.
Afton Greatrex lost her son Alfyn on Friday September 10, when he was “born sleeping” at 24 weeks and six days.
The grieving mother and her friend had hoped to see the Blackpool Tower lit up on October 15 for the global ‘Wave of Light’ – when people light a candle at 7pm for a minimum of an hour in memory of a loved one.
Afton follows baby loss awareness pages on Twitter and Facebook and had called out to friends and family for a contact for Blackpool Tower.
One of Afton’s friends got back to her and told Afton she would contact the council on her behalf.
The council reportedly responded the Afton’s friend’s enquiry confirming that there was availability on October 15 to fulfil their request, with the private booking fee chargeable at £500.
In emails seen by LancsLive, the council wrote: “A charge of £250 would be applied to a booking of this nature and does represent a 50% discount over a private booking and will contribute to the upkeep and maintenance of the Tower Lights.”
“I was just devastated,” Afton said, “I think I was shocked, with all the emotions and everything, it was the fact they used to do it for free, apparently, that made it even worse.”
“I understand they have an electricity bill and that kind of thing, I really appreciate that but for something that’s so important.”
Afton said she could not understand why the authority couldn’t show their support of baby loss after having lit up the tower “throughout the year.”
Had the council agreed to showcase the lights, Afton said: “It would have been support from my home town, me and my husband are Blackpool born and raised. It doesn’t make my loss any easier, but it provides us with some kind of support.”
Afton has kept herself “distracted” since the loss of her son by looking to Baby Loss Awareness groups and charities like 4Louis and the Baby Loss Awareness Campaign.
After the council’s response, Afton has decided instead to put the money towards the charity 4Louis who provided them with a memory box in hospital. The box included an imprint kit, a candle, an angel and a teddy.
Afton said: “They also provide hospitals with cool cots, so our babies can stay with us for however long we like and camera’s etc. They are a non profit organisation and rely on donations.”
The Global Wave of Light takes place at 7pm on October 15 on International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
Families that take part will light a candle and leave it burning for at least one hour to join the global event and remember the children they have lost.
This year, families are also invited to take part in a digital Wave of Light on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #WaveOfLight at 7pm local time.
Since speaking to LancsLive, Blackpool Council has agreed to light up the tower free of charge.
A spokesperson for the authority said: ““In most circumstances, we are obliged to make a charge because of the cost of reprogramming the lighting although we do allow a significant number of national and local charities to promote awareness at a reduced rate or, in some instances, free of charge on key dates over the course of the year.
“During October, the lighting is programmed to be part of the illuminations and projection shows but given the sensitivity we have agreed that we will turn the lighting pink and blue for a period of time on October 15 to mark Baby Loss Awareness Month.”
Paul Barker was stabbed ‘almost all the way through his body’ in vicious attack in Blackpool
A man had to learn to walk, talk and breathe again after being lured to an alley and knifed through his stomach in an unprovoked attack in Blackpool.
Paul Barker, 37, suffered life threatening injuries when he was stabbed “almost all the way through his body” by Joshua Kenny on August 31 2020.
Kenny, 28, has been sentenced to 15 years after he knifed Mr Barker straight through his stomach to rob his mobile phone and £140 benefits money.
The woman who set up the robbery has been jailed for 11 years and two months.
Preston Crown Court heard at around 6pm, Mr Kenny approached a woman outside a shop who looked like a drug user – later identified as Suzanne Cleaver, 37.
He asked her if she knew where he could score and she told him to come back in 10 minutes and a man would be along.
When Mr Barker returned, he noticed a gate was open and Cleaver led him through.
Without saying a word, Kenny got Mr Barker in a headlock and started attacking him, as Cleaver watched on shouting orders.
Mr Barker managed to break free and handed over his money. As he stumbled from the alley he saw his intestines hanging out of the deep gash in his abdomen.
He staggered out to Egerton Road and collapsed on the pavement.
A man and woman came to his assistance using towels to stem the blood which was coming from wounds to his abdomen and neck, and calling for an ambulance.
The woman was afraid her children, who were nearby, may be about to witness a man bleeding to death in the street, the court heard.
Mr Barker was taken to Royal Preston Hospital where he was placed on the Critical Care Unit.
He had a 5-6cm stab wound which penetrated his stomach, causing the contents to spill into his abdomen, severed a major artery and caused damage to his liver.
Recorder Daniel Prowse, sentencing, said: “It was plainly a very, very deep stab wound which went almost all the way through that man.”
Mr Barker woke up in hospital with tubes attached to him.
He had to undergo rehabilitation to learn new breathing techniques as he was unable to open his mouth properly to eat, breathe or swallow.
In a victim statement he said he had realised the importance of life, after coming close to death.
He said he was thankful to wake up in hospital and grateful to the NHS for saving his life.
He said: “I continue to grow stronger and take nothing for granted as you never know what is hidden in an alley.”
Police found Kenny close to the scene of the attack, with a fresh bleeding injury to his hand. He told officers: “I don’t give a f*** bro. Whatever man. It’s not my fault he got slotted.”
Kenny pleaded guilty to Section 18 wounding with intent and robbery.
Cleaver pleaded guilty to robbery.
Recorder Prowse said: “This is an extremely violent and extremely serious offence. There was no preamble, no warning. There was simply launching into what could have been a fatal attack with a weapon. “
Cleaver’s role was “integral to the offence” luring Mr Barker to the alley and remaining present during the attack, he said.
The recorder added the knife was “a highly dangerous weapon” which passed right through the victim’s stomach causing the contents to spill out.
“There couldn’t be a more dangerous weapon”, he said.
Kenny, of Knowle Avenue, Blackpool, was sentenced to 11 years and two months in custody with an extra four years on licence following his release.
Cleaver, also of Knowle Avenue, Blackpool, was jailed for seven years and two months for her part in the robbery.
Sarah Ogborne received the letter through the post but no one has owned up to it
A Blackpool mum has been left “hurt” after receiving an anonymous letter was posted through her door by a ‘neighbour’ complaining about her dog.
Sarah Ogborne, 35, is a single mum living in Bispham.
She has recently shared her shock online after receiving a letter in the post from an anonymous neighbour complaining about her dog barking.
The letter, which was signed off by ‘Your Neighbours’ read: “Please can you SHUT your DOG up??? Bark bark bark……..
“Every time you leave it…. Not helped by you leaving your windows open.
“As your neighbours we will now be reporting this as a noise issue to Blackpool Council.
“If not, it will be reported to the RSPCA.”
Sarah told LancsLive that she felt the letter was “really horrible and really rude” especially as the writer went to the effort to stamp the letter and post it with a stamp through the Royal Mail.
“It makes it even worse because it means I don’t know who it was, nobody around here knows who it was and they’ve gone out of their way to put it in a post box and put a stamp on it.”
After opening the post and finding the letter, Sarah said at first she was shocked: “I was like ‘what? what is this?’, and then I read it again and again and then I got upset to be honest, because how can you defend yourself against someone, when you don’t even know who it is?”
The anonymous sender led Sarah to feeling like she had no way “to set the record straight” as she doesn’t know where it has come from.
In a post shared to Facebook, Sarah wrote: “Whoever my ‘neighbours’ are can you please come and knock on my door and talk to me face to face.
“I only go out at 12 noon to fetch my son with special needs from his school and to take him in at nine am. I go out to work once a week on one morning (volunteering!) Or I pop to the shops which takes me all or 20 minutes.
“The rest of the time I’m home as I have a disabled partner to look after too.
“My dog is 13 years old, I’ve had him since he was six weeks old. He is deaf and has massive separation anxiety which he is medicated for. He’s well looked after and a much loved family pet. How can you threaten to possibly have him put down or taken away from my children?
“All the work I’ve done recently for my community with distributing clothes, bedding, toys and uniforms for all the families in need, working all hours god sends for not one penny – and this is the thanks I get?
Sarah also wrote that her windows had been open recently due to the hot weather.
The letter made Sarah feel “upset” as she began to worry about what would happen to her dog, Max.
She said: “I was worried he might get taken away or reported, I’ve had him for 13 years, he’s part of the family so obviously you start worrying if they are actually going to report you, what are you gonna do.”
Sarah is known for her work in her local community. She told LancsLive she “doesn’t stop working, for free, for the community.”
“I don’t benefit from it myself other than the joy of actually helping people,” she said. “So it was a bit of a blow really because I don’t think that’s how I should be treated, everyone that knows me around here in the community, as you can see from the support I’ve got, they all know me and we’re all friendly – so it did hurt, the fact that someone could think about me like that, like I don’t care about my dog. I’m one of the most caring people you could possibly meet, I’d give someone my last penny if they needed it.”
Sarah is the founder of No Child Goes Hungry Blackpool and has been running the Facebook page ‘No child on the Fylde goes without’ since the beginning of the first lockdown in March 2020.
Sarah set up the page to help families who are in need of clothing or food. When free school meals were pulled last year, Sarah said she organised for businesses in Blackpool to give out free meals for children. After that, she moved onto clothing and uniform for children and women, now she is trying to collect toys for Christmas.
She said her volunteer work is “just to help all the families around here”, she explained: “there is a lot of families around here that need the help after the pandemic and having lost jobs, that who I have set it up for.”
Sarah said she was motivated to set up the charity due to her own experience as a single mum.
Sarah told LancsLive: “I’ve been in the situation so many times where I’ve had nothing and I’ve had to rely on other people to help me with food. I’ve got my mum who lives half hour away and she would bring food parcels for me, but there is some people who don’t even have that.
“The thought of anybody sat there, and a mum on her own with kids who doesn’t know what she’s going to do to feed them that night, it’s horrible that thought. That’s what made me want to do it, I don’t want any child to go to bed with a hungry tummy.”
Sarah said: “I know I can’t save the world, I know I can’t feed every child, but if I can do this for my community that’s a good start.”
Whilst Sarah took to Facebook to try and find out “who it was” in hope to get her own point across, she has heard nothing more than the original letter.
Blackpool Council is set to fund a new £8million health centre to treat patients who are ‘amongst the highest users of A&E services across the Fylde Coast’
An £8million health centre is set for construction in Blackpool town centre after council chiefs agreed to front up the cash for the project..
The scheme, which got planning permission back in February 2019, will see a three-storey medical centre constructed on Adelaide Street, replacing the Adelaide Street Surgery and South King Street Surgery.
The new facilities will serve around 20,000 patients in one of the most deprived areas of the resort where many residents end up in A&E when their health reaches crisis point.
The council will fund the investment through borrowing and has agreed a 32 year lease with the NHS.
Steve Thompson, director of resources at Blackpool Council, told a meeting of the executive that the Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) could not own assets.
He said: “So we have worked with them towards building this £8m scheme.”
A report to the executive, which agreed the recommendations, says it will serve an area with “some of the most deprived populations with extremely complex health needs”.
More space is needed to treat patients who are “amongst the highest users of A&E services across the Fylde Coast”.
The report adds: “A significant number of patients come into the area transiently and suffer with isolation, loneliness, mental health, drug and alcohol issues.
“It is an area with health inequalities where people suffer from premature death in comparison to other towns in the United Kingdom.”
Part of the site was previously occupied by the former Comrades Club which has been demolished.
The three-storey facility will have a ground-floor pharmacy, GP consulting rooms, treatment rooms, facilities for trainee consultants, staff offices, and change and meeting rooms.
It is also hoped it will help in the recruitment of GPs by offering better facilities.