Sadness at loss of Jean

Jean Preston and Coun David Owen were the first couple to marry at Blackpool Town Hall

Jean Preston and Coun David Owen were the first couple to marry at Blackpool Town Hall

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A former Mayoress of Blackpool who was also a well-known dance teacher and choreographer in the town has died.

Jean Preston, who moved to Blackpool from Manchester just before the Second World War broke out in 1939, died on Sunday, aged 78, in Preston Royal Infirmary following an accident at home.

Jean Preston, dance teacher and former Blackpool Mayoress

Jean Preston, dance teacher and former Blackpool Mayoress

She had been suffering from ill health, including Parkinson’s Disease, for a number of years.

Ms Preston was Mayoress in 1995/96 when her husband Coun David Owen was appointed Mayor.

The same year saw the couple become the first to marry in Blackpool Town Hall.

More recently they served as the borough’s Deputy Mayor and Mayoress in 2013/14, during which time they met Princess Anne as part of a Royal visit to the Streetlife homeless charity.

Ms Preston, a former guide leader at St Stephens-on-the-Cliffs, was for many years associated with musical comedy societies along the Fylde coast as a producer and choreographer.

She organised masterclasses for her dance students which were supported by stars such as former Royal Ballet principals Maryon Lane and Peter Clegg, Ballet Rambert principal and Israeli dancer Yair Vardi, and Modern Jazz choreographer Linda Crockett.

Her school presented annual shows at the Grand Theatre which broke box office records for amateur musicals there.

She was involved in helping to save the Grand Theatre when it was under threat and her pupils were among the first fund-raisers to help buy the theatre for the £350,000 purchase price. They raised their first £350 in 1978 in a buy-a-seat campaign. As a full member of Blackpool Grand Theatre Trust, Ms Preston also met the Queen.

When the IRA exploded the bomb which killed officers and horses in Hyde Park ins 1982, she raised more than £5,000 for forces’ charities in a single night at the Grand.

Coun Owen said: “Her pupils danced to the accompaniment of the regimental band based at Weeton Camp where she taught dancing to the children of soldiers.

“Afterwards they held a regimental lunch for her in the Officers Mess, an honour which they had never previously bestowed on a woman.

“Right across the board she was well thought of.”

In 1983 she was appointed a Justice of the Peace on the Blackpool Bench.

Funeral details have yet to be announced for Ms Preston, who also leaves two children, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren from a previous marriage.