Blackpool’s Jenna Coleman to star in Winston Churchill-inspired TV drama The War Rooms

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The Doctor Who and Emmerdale actress will be playing a main role in the new show produced by Oscar-winner David Parfitt

Jenna, who hails from Blackpool, started her career in ITV soap Emmerdale and recently starred in The Serpent.
Jenna, who hails from Blackpool, started her career in ITV soap Emmerdale and recently starred in The Serpent. (Image: Ian West/PA Wire)

A Lancashire actor and former Doctor Who star is due to star in a Second World War drama.

Jenna Coleman will play the role of Joan Bright, who ran Winston Churchill’s Whitehall bunker during in the war and is believed to be the inspiration for Miss Moneypenny in Ian Fleming’s James Bond series.

Blackpool-born Coleman, who recently featured in BBC’s The Serpent, where she played a leading role, will be working with David Parfitt on the Churchill-inspired drama, called The War Rooms.

Oscar-winning producer Parfitt, who famously worked on the feature film Shakespeare in Love, is due to deliver The War Rooms through London-based Trademark Films and UK-US company Atlantic Nomad.

Based on Bright’s memoir The Inner Circle: A View of War at the Top, the drama will follow Bright as she works underground during the war.

Each series will cover some 12 to 18 months of the world war from inside Churchill’s major operations, from Dunkirk, to the Battle of Britain and D-Day.

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“Joan Bright was never going to live a conventional life a young woman who lived her war days under the official secrets act, undercover and underground in the war rooms,” Coleman told film publication Deadline.

“This story is so compelling not only because of her unique and liberal mind, wryness of spirit and curiosity to live, but because of the opportunity to examine this endlessly fascinating period of time through an intimate and human lens.

“The closeness and proximity of days and nights lived within this small space, the carriers of the truth amidst the oblivion of propaganda above.

“The beauty and fragility of human connection when living through a time when no one knows what tomorrow will bring.

“I’m so excited to unearth these hidden lives and at a time where it feels so shockingly relevant right now.”

Jenna Coleman appeared in Emmerdale as Jasmine Thomas and now you can see her in The Serpent
Jenna Coleman appeared in Emmerdale as Jasmine Thomas and now you can see her in The Serpent

Jenna-Louise Coleman (now more commonly known simply as Jenna Coleman) was born in Blackpool on April, 26, 1986, the daughter of Karen and Keith Coleman. She has an older brother named Ben.

She was actually given her name by her grandma who named her partially after Jenna Wade, a character in the popular American soap Dallas. It seems that, even at birth, Jenna was destined for stardom.

She attended Arnold School in Blackpool, where she was head girl and played an active role in the regional theatre company In Yer Space. When she was only 10 years old, Jenna played the role of Bridesmaid in the play Summer Holiday.

At 18, she had a starring role in the play Crystal Clear at the Edinburgh Festival for which she won an award.

It was then that her professional career began after producers approached her to take part in ITV soap Emmerdale. Jenna turned down a place at the University of York studying English to take up the role of Jasmine Thomas in 2005.

Jenna’s portrayal of the teen was well received by critics and she scooped several award nominations during her tenure on the soap.

The new drama is based on the war room of Sir Winston Churchill.
The new drama is based on the war room of Sir Winston Churchill. (Image: AP)

At the National Television Awards 2006, she was nominated for the Most Popular Newcomer award and received a nomination for Best Newcomer at the 2007 British Soap Awards.

At the 2009 British Soap Awards, Jenna was nominated for the Best Actress, Sexiest Female, and Best Dramatic Performance awards. She also received a nomination for the “Best Actress” award from the TV Choice Awards.

In the spring of 2009, joined Waterloo Road, as Lindsay James and subsequently left Emmerdale.

After several roles in BBC dramas, Jenna made her feature film debut in 2011 after she appeared briefly in the Marvel hit Captain America: The First Avenger as a woman called Connie.

Jenna’s big break came in 2012 when she was cast in Doctor Who. Then producer Steven Moffat confirmed at a press conference that the Blackpool actor would play the companion of the Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith, having previously appeared in a one-off role in the show.

Playing the role of Clara Oswald, Jenna was a regular feature on the BBC sci-fi show, acting alongside Matt Smith, and his successor Peter Capaldi.

Jenna left Doctor Who in 2015, ready to embark on her biggest role yet, that of Queen Victoria in an eight-part ITV drama.

Jenna Coleman stars as Queen Victoria I.
Jenna Coleman stars as Queen Victoria I. (Image: ITV)

For Jenna this was a turning point in her career. When interviewed for BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, Coleman argued that this role meant she was able to break out of her supposed ‘box’ as a northern working-class character that Emmerdale put her in.

In 2016 Jenna played a major role in Me Before You, acting alongside Game of Thrones stars Emilia Clarke and Charles Dance.

She has since featured in four series of the ITV drama about Queen Victoria and was most recently involved in the Netflix and BBC drama The Serpent, a dramatisation of the life of convicted serial killer Charles Sobhraj.

She is currently on set for an upcoming feature film called Klokkenluider (Dutch for whistleblower) after filming began in late February.

The War Rooms will be penned by Moving On’s David Chidlow and produced by Parfitt, who just won two Oscars for The Father.

Bright, who was the former girlfriend of James Bond author Ian Fleming, was awarded an OBE in 1946 for her work during the war and died in 2008.

Shocking photos show inside dangerous Blackpool hotel where guests lives were ‘clearly put at risk’

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Aheed Sultan was fined £7,700 and ordered to pay £7,300 costs after an inspection revealed the fire regulation safety breaches

Several fire regulation safety breaches were discovered during an inspection of Plaza Beach Hotel in BlackpoolSeveral fire regulation safety breaches were discovered during an inspection of Plaza Beach Hotel in Blackpool (Image: Lancashire Fire & Rescue Service)

Firefighters have released pictures showing the extent of safety breaches at a Blackpool hotel which led to the owner being prosecuted.

On Thursday Aheed Sultan was fined £7,700 and ordered to pay £7,300 costs after pleading guilty to fire regulation safety breaches.

Preston Crown Court heard the now 77-year-old had put guests’ lives at risk by allowing the Plaza Beach Hotel to go to ‘rack and ruin’ in 2017.

Sultan, who now lives with his son in Loughton, Essex, did not attend the hearing because of his worsening health and since the offences has been diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

During an inspection of the Albert Road hotel in September 2017 firefighters found fire doors had been wedged open, other self-closing doors didn’t work and one fire door could not be opened.

Fire doors were found wedged open with combustible material stacked in the basement
Fire doors were found wedged open with combustible material stacked in the basement (Image: Lancashire Fire & Rescue Service)

Inspectors also found the basement area of the hotel was being used to store bed bases, mattresses and other combustible materials.

The staircase leading from the flat to the basement was ‘stacked full’ of combustible materials and Blue Tac had been wedged into a fire alarm panel to stop the alarm from sounding.

Some of the emergency lighting in the hotel, formerly called the Silver Beach Hotel, did not have power and locks on some doors meant they could not be easily and quickly opened if a fire started.

After the sentencing Lancashire Fire & Rescue Service released some of the images they had taken during the inspection in 2017.

Fire officials say lives were put at risk at the Plaza Beach Hotel in Blackpool
Fire officials say lives were put at risk at the Plaza Beach Hotel in Blackpool (Image: Lancashire Fire & Rescue Service)

Head of Prevention and Protection at LFRS, Area Manager Mark Hutton, said: “The importance of fire safety in buildings which provide sleeping accommodation should never be underestimated.

“Unless the risks are taken seriously, and managed appropriately, fire is an ever-present danger. In this case the former owner left too much to chance and failed in his legal duties.

“If a fire had occurred residents and staff would have been at risk of serious injury or death.

“Most hoteliers and business owners recognise fire safety as a legitimate business expense and see the importance of protecting the lives of the people who visit, work and sleep in their premises. We will work hard to support such businesses to comply.

“In cases like this however, where lives have clearly been put at risk, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service Inspectors will take evidence to the courts.”

Mattresses were stored in front of escape routes at Plaza Beach Hotel in Blackpool
Mattresses were stored in front of escape routes at Plaza Beach Hotel in Blackpool (Image: Lancashire Fire & Rescue Service)

He added: “This sentencing comes at a time when hoteliers are looking forward to re-opening after a long period of lock-down and will be juggling the challenges of re-opening and managing the ongoing Covid risk.

“I fully recognise the challenges this brings but fire remains an ongoing risk and must remain a business priority.

“Any business owner who has any concerns about complying with the Fire Safety Order can contact our business fire safety advisors or visit our website for more information.”

 

Blackpool market traders still in limbo during major Abingdon Street refurb

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Traders will be dislodged for up to 12 months while work is undertaken as part of a £3.6m investment by the council

Abingdon Street Market
Abingdon Street Market

Blackpool’s dislodged market traders are still waiting to move into temporary premises after being promised alternative accommodation by the council.

Stallholders who have been forced to leave Abingdon Street Market while it undergoes a major refurbishment had been due to relocate to the former Top Shop store on Victoria Street in April.

But a hold up with agreeing the lease on the premises has delayed the relocation of businesses.

A council spokesperson said: “Plans remain in place to relocate the traders and the team continues to work to finalise lease agreements as quickly as possible to get the market stallholders set up in their new locations so they can start trading again.”

Stallholders have been left frustrated by the delay which has left them unable to trade since the lockdown on non-essential retail was lifted on April 12.

Sameh Abdel Missih, joint owner of SMS Mobility, has found new premises on Abingdon Street after losing his stall in the market, and is now due to open at 9am on Tuesday May 18.

He said: “We should have opened when lockdown for retail finished, and everyone was so looking forward to it.

“But the council left us in the lurch. There would only have been room in the Top Shop unit for two mobility scooters, whereas we have about 30.

“So without any help from the council, we have found our own new premises. But they are more expensive and this has cost us thousands of pounds.”

Bernard Power, who owns Mr Smart Ltd menswear, said he would be moving into the former Top Shop unit but had been frustrated by the delays.

He said: “I would have loved to have opened on April 12 as there was quite a boom on the high street and that would have helped us.

“But it is what it is, and I’m pleased with what we have been offered.”

Traders will be dislodged for up to 12 months while work is undertaken as part of a £3.6m investment by the council which bought the market last October.

Convoy in Blackpool for 9-year-old Jordan Banks to take place on Sunday

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“I don’t think Blackpool is going to know what it’s hit when we all come out to pay tribute to this amazing boy.”


Jordan Banks was tragically killed after being struck by lightning

Organisers are in the process of arranging a convoy of cars to pay tribute to nine-year-old Jordan Banks who was tragically killed on Tuesday (May 11) when he was struck by lightning on a football field while training in Blackpool.

Jordan was an avid Liverpool supporter and played as an under-nine for Clifton Rangers Junior Football Club.

He was praised by his hero, Liverpool-vice captain James Milner, earlier this year for his relentless efforts to raise money for Blackpool-based charity Counselling in the Community on behalf of his uncle.

Since he was named on Wednesday May 12 tributes have come pouring in from all over the country.

In his home town a vehicle convoy is being arranged by Preston-based company Vehicle Custom Light Bars to go ahead on Sunday May 16 at 2pm.

The company has arranged many convoys to help charities, raise awareness and pay tribute all over the country.

Director Dave Haul said: “When I heard the news I was absolutely devastated. My seven-year-old boy was playing football on the same day and I just felt so helpless for the family.

“I knew I had to try and so something and this is what we do in our line of work so we got organising. So far over 100 people have said they’ll join which is fantastic.”

The convoy will meet at Queen’s Promenade outside Norbreck Castle and vehicles are asked to line up on the main road facing south so they are ready to leave.

A full statement about the convoy and its route will be released later on today on the Jordan Banks Memorial Vehicle Convoy Facebook page here.

Organisers have asked people not to park on the opposite side of the road to keep traffic moving on the promenade and not to park in the Norbreck Castle Hotel car park as you may be issued with a fine.


Norbreck Castle Hotel in Blackpool (Image: Google)

Dave added: “I have a friend Shaun who works for Road Safety Support (RSS) and he’s he helped massively with traffic issues so I’d like to thank him for that.

“We’ve also spoken to Blackpool Council and the police about possibly getting assistance or the roads closed off however they haven’t said yes or no yet and it might not be possible for them to arrange in time.

“The convoy can still go ahead however it just might be that the vehicles are a little more stretched out in places.

“We have special vehicles such as a mini wagon built for charity called Henry and there’s going to be air horns and salutes.

“There will be two vans that initially lead the convoy and then we will go past the playing fields where Jordan was and pay tribute.”

“It’s had a massive amount of support so far and I don’t think Blackpool is going to know what it’s hit when we all come out to pay tribute to this amazing boy.”

Organisers are trying to get hold of as much red ribbon as they can for the tribute. If you are able to help please message the Facebook page.