CROWDS gathered in Bolton town centre today to pay tribute to a much-loved pole fitness champion who died earlier this month aged just 27.

There was an outpouring of love and grief for Jessica Leanne Norris, as friends and colleagues read out poems, tributes and messages in the shadow of the Town Hall.

Those in attendance then released red balloons in tribute, with many featuring messages for Jessica.

Candles were also lit and those who gathered stayed to share their favourite memories of her.

Jessica was found unresponsive at a friend’s house on Alder Street on June 15.

An inquest opening has heard how she was found hanged.

Sandy Holt, who runs a Thai Boxing club and knew Jessica for over a decade, organised the event.

He said: "I first met her when she was a teenager after I read about her pole fitness.

"I was very impressed with her athleticism and how strong she was. Anyone who represents anything Bolton, I'm very big for.

"I knew her from pretty much when she first started and and she even got me into doing a little bit of pole!

"I did a couple of moves that she taught me to do - she was a great instructor. She was in my life for 12 years and we became close friends.

"She's been a big feature in this town and a big feature at Bolton Thai Boxing Club.

"The problem that is in the town and across the nation is - I don't call it mental health, I like to call it mind health.

"People should embrace their problems. She went downhill for a couple of years and then took her own life. For someone so full of life to suddenly let go of life is very sad and such a shame."

Jessica's funeral is set to take place sometime after mid-July, when her brothers are able to return to the UK from abroad.

Shirts were also sold at the event, featuring an image of Jessica and a tribute to her, with funds going to a wreath for her funeral.

Sandy added: "She's going to be a big loss to everyone - her friends, her family and everyone in the Thai boxing and pole community.

"I want to make people aware, while it is still strong in people's hearts, that there is help out there and we want to do something.

"It just shows that it can happen to anyone, even someone as strong as Jess."