Lancashire's Health and Community Champions celebrated at Active Lancashire Awards

Individuals, community groups, schools and businesses from across Lancashire were celebrated at this year’s Active Lancashire Awards, which took part at Ewood Park in Blackburn on 17th November.

The 21st instalment of the event, run by charity Active Lancashire, was attended by over 300 people from across the county. The event - previously named the Lancashire Sports Awards - celebrated the hard-work and dedication displayed by the nominees towards local health, inclusion, community cohesion and sporting achievements.

There were over 100 nominees in the running to win an award across nine categories. Alongside the nine winners, judges decided to award seven other nominees with Highly Commended runner-up trophies due to the high calibre of nominees.

Most attendees were finalists, having already won local events run by district partners in Blackburn, Blackpool, Burnley, Fylde, Hyndburn, Rossendale and South Ribble, whereas people from other boroughs applied directly.

The event was made possible with the support of a number of businesses, including headline sponsor Interfloor.

Several other Lancashire-based organisations sponsored categories within the awards ceremony, with representatives from each business attending to present winners with their awards. In addition, sports apparel company Icon hosted a drinks reception with a complimentary glass of prosecco and free Holdens ice-cream voucher for every guest.

Half way through the event, attendees enjoyed a Q&A session with special guest Rachel Brown-Finnis, former Everton, Liverpool and England goalkeeper and TV pundit, originally from Burnley. Rising singer-songwriter Jemma Johnson and award-winning magician Zanda Magic also provided entertainment to guests during the event.

In addition, guests also enjoyed games such as indoor archery and mini golf on arrival courtesy of Rossendale Works, an employment service run by Active Lancashire on behalf of Rossendale Council with UKSPF Government Funding.

One of the event's big winners was Sami Smithson from Burnley, who won the Jimmy Armfield Lifetime Achievement Award. Sami is the current chair of Accrington Stanley Womens FC and has previously played for the team alongside Blackburn Rovers. Sami won her award for her work of footballl alongside a lifetime of success in judo, becoming a British champion at 14 and coaching the sport within Afganistan during her time in the Royal Air Force.

Sami said, "A massive thank you for my nomination and recognised by the panel. You get a lot of gain out of volunteering. Whilst I enjoyed being a competitor, I've really enjoyed being a coach, volunteer and supporter a lot more in different ways. The power of sport - don't ever underestimate it!" 

Great Harwood St. John's CE Primary School in Hyndburn won the award for Primary School of the Year, their celebrating their efforts to be inclusive in their physical education provision. Tracey Parker, Headteacher, said, "We were thrilled to win the award. It has made us so very proud. Putting children at the centre of everything, promoting and protecting their health and well-being is what we do naturally at St John's but it is lovely to have the hard work and dedication of the staff recognised. Thank you so much, we enjoyed the whole evening and it was lovely to see so many other inspirational people and worthy winners."

Preston Pirates BMX Club picked up the Club of the Year Accolade. Jon Powell, a volunteer at the club and Head of Enterprise and Innovation Services at Lancaster University, said, “I was absolutely delighted for Preston Pirates BMX Club to win club of the year at the glitzy Active Lancashire awards last week. It’s testament to all the amazing committee members, volunteers, and of course the riders, that come together to make Preston Pirates such an amazing inclusive and fun community. We need to create opportunities for people to connect and engage with sport, and Preston Pirates are leading the way with their evening and weekend sessions for riders of all ages and abilities. And that increased pipeline of talent is leading to success on and off the track. It is fantastic to get this recognition for the club from our community. I couldn’t be prouder to be part of the Preston Pirates crew.”

Bob and Dianne Russell jointly won the Coach of the Year award for Lytham Tae Kwon-Do. The duo has led students to achieving 119 medals and lead by example, competing internationally.  Dianne said, “We were totally shocked and speechless when we were announced as the winner as there were so many deserving and high-calibre coaches in the category. There are no secrets to success, it comes in many shapes and forms, however, there are two essential ingredients; hard work and passion. Every club, coach, instructor and teacher at the AL Awards has both of these by the bucketload.

“This recognition means a lot to us. We are truly thankful to Active Lancashire, all the sponsors, and everyone involved in making these awards happen.”

Adrian Leather, Chief Executive of Active Lancashire, opened the event alongside Gary McEwan, HR and Business Improvement Director from Interfloor, who also sponsored the Primary School of the Year category.

Adrian said in his speech, “Through these awards, we take immense pride in championing individuals and groups from diverse backgrounds and abilities, all bound together by their unwavering dedication to physical activity. Each nominee is, in their own unique way, an ambassador for the positive impacts of an active lifestyle."

Gary McEwan spoke about the Interfloor’s work championing local young people through community initiatives and about the firm’s active colleagues, including triathlete Dave Smith, who later presented the Primary School trophy.

Gary also welcomed Jess Swinfield, from the Outdoor Play and Learn Initiative, on stage to talk about how Interfloor have been providing schools with recycled materials from their factory including cardboard boxes and tubes to encourage creative play and activity. Gary said, “Let's continue to support these young athletes, inspire them to strive for greatness, and show them that sports is not just a game but a way of life.”

As well as celebrating the efforts of finalists, the awards raised over £1,000 for the British Red Cross Gaza appeal through a raffle, with prizes donated by Booths, Active Cycles and Active Images.

A full gallery of photos is available to view on Active Lancashire’s Facebook page.


1. Club of the Year, sponsored by Designidge
Morecambe Community Runners (Highly Commended)
Preston Pirates BMX Club (Winner)

2. Coach of the Year, presented by Rachel Brown-Finnis
Sharon Bolton, Preston (Highly Commended)
Bob and Dianne Russell, Fylde (Winner)

3. Contribution to Active Communities, sponsored by Better
Canalside Activity Centre, Blackburn (Winner)

4. Health and Wellbeing Award, sponsored by Business Health Matters
1st Call Accrington (Highly Commended)
Graham Sims and Team Kickabout CIC (Highly Commended)
Let's Live Life (Winner)

5. Primary School of the Year, sponsored by Interfloor
Great Harwood St John’s Primary School, Hyndburn (Winner)

6. Secondary School of the Year, Presented by Jess Swinfield (Outdoor Play and Learning scheme)
Park Community Academy, Blackpool (Winner)

7. Volunteer of the Year, sponsored by Red Rose Recovery
Stephen Perry, Lancaster (Highly Commended)
Fred Stewart, Hyndburn (Winner)

8. Young Achiever of the Year, sponsored by the Cardboard Box Company
Oliwia Kaczmarek, Burnley (Highly Commended)
Erin Devine, Wyre (Winner)

9. Jimmy Armfield Lifetime Achievement Award, Sponsored by the University of Central Lancashire
Stuart Nicolson, Burnley (Special Recognition)
Sami Smithson, Hyndburn (Winner)

Active Partnerships
Lancashire and South Cumbria Health and Care Partnership
Funded by UK Government Levelling Up