A HAIRDRESSER-turned children’s author has won the top prize in an annual literary awards competition.

Blackburn salon owner Nigel Womack walked away the winner in the 11th annual People’s Book Awards for his second children’s book, Bea.

Mr Womack, 65, who has run Nigel’s Cutting Shop in Town Hall Street since 1974, has been writing since he was a teenager and released his first book, The Angry Giant, in February 2019, for which he received the runner-up prize at last year's awards ceremony.

The Darwen-born hairdresser then published his second children’s book, Bea, in September and says it was the stories' poignant message that bagged him this year's top accolade, presented to him by best-selling author Frederick Forsyth.

Speaking about the awards ceremony, which took place via the online meeting platform Zoom, he said: “It was a fantastic event on Zoom.

“And I’ve just gone and bloomin’ won it with Bea.

“And you know why - Bea is a story of being different and it being OK.”

Bea, which features illustrations by Ursula Hurst, is about a Bee who is born without a black and white striped jumper.

Mr Womack said: “Throughout the story you read about how Bea looks everywhere for her stripes as she wants to be the same colour as everyone else.

“She even goes to the Queen Bee for help.”

“But the Queen has run out of the colours black and white to knit, so offers her other colours to choose from.

“Well, I did my research and found that bumblebees don’t see quite like us - they don’t see the colour red, for instance, so colour is not so important to them, they go by their sense of smell.

“And after a fair bit of good old playful storytelling, Bea ends up wearing a multicoloured woolly jumper and loves it.

“It’s a story for our times - it’s OK to be different."

Mr Womack said he’s extremely proud of his book and the award, and promises there’s more tales to come – for both adults and children.