Sky Sports’ Bianca Westwood on the return of the Pride of Essex Sports Awards
PUBLISHED: 13:38 06 March 2020
After winning over the audience last year, Sky Sports presenter Bianca Westwood can’t wait to put on her glad rags and host The Pride of Essex Sports Awards once again
Bianca Westwood calls herself a "busy bee", and it's true. When I speak to her over the telephone for our interview, she's already been at Tottenham Hotspur Football Club that day, interviewing new signing Steven Bergwijn. Soon after our call, she heads off to Kenilworth Road football stadium to report on Luton Town's Championship match against Sheffield Wednesday, her face beamed into countless homes just hours later via Sky Sports News' Soccer Special programme. She is, by her own admission, "working really hard. I'm always at matches, I'm always doing interviews," she reflects - but there's no doubt that her career is going great. The week before our chat, she interviewed Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, and she's interviewed Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp over the season, as well as speaking to Chelsea head coach and England legend Frank Lampard.
"I've been doing really well and really enjoying it," she says enthusiastically, after telling me about the famous faces she's been chatting to when I ask what's been happening in her world since West Essex Life spoke to her for the February 2019 edition. It's clear that Bianca continues to be one of the best in her field. At Sky Sports, she remains a regular fixture on Soccer Saturday (where she was the first female match reporter), covering games and bantering with host Jeff Stelling. She's also on talkSPORT, doing the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast show and paper review. She's an in-demand lady and known to many: her Twitter account, @beewestwood, has more than 145,000 followers, while her Instagram profile, @biancawestwood, has over 66,000.
Bianca might be a busy bee, but this Essex girl makes timefor her local area too. When West Essex Life spoke to her last, she was gearing up to host the first-ever ceremony for The Pride of Essex Sports Awards in Chigwell in May that year. The event, a celebration of the sporting achievements of Essex's teams, clubs, coaches and people, was one of glitz and glamour, attended by personalities including Mark Wright, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Ronnie Irani and Anne Wafula-Strike. Bianca, who also judged the awards, says the inaugural event was "a complete success" with a really enthusiastic audience and great atmosphere.
"As soon as the night was drawing to a close, [myself and award co-founders John Eagleton and Hayley Smith, from Pineapple Blue Events] all said: 'We're definitely, definitely doing this next year,'" she enthuses. Bianca admits that because the awards ceremony was the first of its kind, herself and those involved in its organisation had "no idea what to expect". However, she was "absolutely blown away" by the scale of talent on the night, as well as those in attendance.
"The level of talent that we have in Essex is incredible. There are so many kids out there who work so hard to try and make a success of themselves and to try and hopefully become professional athletes, and there's a lot of unsung heroes out there - not just the kids who are playing, but the coaches, the teachers, those involved in education and those involved in helping people with disabilities. So, it really was a humbling and amazing experience to meet these people and find out exactly the journey that they've taken to get them there."
Bianca thinks the event itself was "pretty seamless". She recalls: "I was really surprised, because I've hosted quite a few of these events, ones that have cost thousands and thousands of pounds, and I was surprised at how [the organisers] managed to pull it off - and to such a phenomenally high standard."
Now the Sky Sports figure is back as a judge and host for the 2020 awards, with categories for the gongs including Young Sports Person of the Year, the Disability Sports Award and Community Sports Personality of the Year, as well as a lifetime achievement award. "I'm really looking forward to meeting all the nominees, finding out what got them there and why they're there," she says. "They're all so well deserved, it's a shame that you have to pick [a winner] out." The 2020 awards will see more famous faces from the sporting world. "I know Joe Cole will be back," she tells me. "Matthew Porter [is] going to be on the judging panel, as is Frank Lampard Senior."
Bianca - who lost her father to multiple sclerosis in the early 2000s - also notes that there will be a special tribute to former Leyton Orient manager Justin Edinburgh and that she hopes his family will be in attendance. Justin, who won the Professional Sports Personality award at the 2019 event, tragically died just over a month after the ceremony following a cardiac arrest, aged just 49. "It was really moving last year, and I'm sure it'll be exactly the same this time round," she says of the awards.
I ask Bianca how she'll be getting ready for this year's event, which takes place on May 7 at Chigwell Hall. "I had a lot of sequins on last year, so I'm planning on a few more of those!" she laughs. "You know what it's like: it's Essex, so you've got to kind of have the hair done, the makeup, the nails... I like to glam it up every now and again - I mean tonight, for example, I'm at Kenilworth Road, so I'll have the thermals, jumper, scarf, gloves and Ugg boots on!" She adds: "It's really nice to get a night where I can put my glad rags on, get everything done, hopefully look great, feel great and present some awards with some top people from the sporting world."
Regardless of any big names in attendance, though, Bianca stresses that these glitzy awards are all about Essex. "It's a real community event," she notes. "Although we want it to be one of the go-to events of the year eventually, it's still local people who have done well, and that's what we want."
The Pride of Essex Sports Awards 2020 is powered by local Essex-based companies including RK Signature Living, Caplen Estates, Moss Electrical, Carebridge, The Placement Group, Orthosole and Campioni Soccer Academy. Tickets are on sale now for the ceremony on May 7, with nominations also open until March 31. To purchase tickets or to nominate a person or organisation, visit theprideofessexsportsawards.org