BEST friends of Manchester Arena bombing victim Alison Howe are planning a huge celebration to honour the life of the "caring and beautiful" Royton mum.

Still utterly devastated by the horrific atrocity that cruelly robbed them of their "amazing" friend almost a year ago, they have organised a special free event at Oldham St Annes ARLFC on May 26.

It will be a day to remember, reminisce and pay tribute to 45-year-old Alison who died in the blast as she waited to collect her daughter, Darcie, from the Ariana Grande concert, along with friend her Lisa Lees, who was also killed.

Led by Adele Taylor, landlady of the Blue Belle pub, in Rochdale Road, who knew for Alison for 30 years, the pals who described Alison as "the mum" of their close-knit group of "girls", have rallied to stage the "In Memory of Alison Howe" memorial, which has the blessing of Alison's husband Steve.

On the day there will be a minute's silence before a rugby match between St Annes and East Leigh followed by a symbolic balloon release to remember the devoted mum, wife, daughter and good friend to many.

Her daughters Sasha and Darcie, stepsons Jordan, Jack, Lewis and Harris and mum Susan Cann will all be at the event.

The day has been generously sponsored by Cheadle-based brick manufacturer Wienerberger, through employees Paul and Tracey Miller who are friends of Adele's.

As well as donating £2,000 to cover all expenses to ensure everyone can gather together for free, they have also sponsored special commemorative shirts for the players which will be auctioned off after the game.

There will be bouncy castles, sweets and a disco and light show with DJ Neil Aylett in the Saints Function Room at the Higginshaw Road club.

"Some of the Saints lads came in the pub one night and I was talking about wanting to do something for Alison and that's how it all began," said Adele.

"We wanted to do something to celebrate her life and bring everyone together and bring our children together," said Adele.

"We've been on holidays together, seen the children being born - we are a really close-knit group of girls.

"Alison was just lovely. She was funny, she was the mum of the group and told us all off when we were out of order. She had a heart of gold.

"She was a good mum and a really good friend to have. We miss her loads.

"The girls try to get together once a month but it's never the same and never will be the same without Alison. There's a massive hole in the middle of us now."

Alison, a sexual health nurse at Oldham's Integrated Care Centre, was one of 22 people who died alongside 120 who were maimed and injured when a bomb ripped through the arena on May 22 last year after terrorist Salman Abedi detonated a homemade device in the foyer.

Adele recalled the day she found out her close friend had tragically lost her life in the explosion, describing the utter disbelief and heartbreak.

"I was absolutely distraught and mortified," Adele told us.

"I remember watching TV after finding out about the bombing.

"One of our friends said Alison had been there picking up Darcy. Because we only saw each other every month or so you don't always know what each other is up to so I had no idea she was there.

"I stayed up watching the news until after midnight then when I got up in the morning I had about 25 missed calls.

"I rang my friend and said "what's up, what's going on?"

"My friend said "where have you been? Alison is one of the ones missing at the arena".

"I just constantly watched the news after that, waiting to hear. I finally got a call at 10pm off my friend telling me Alison was one of the fatalities.

"It absolutely broke my heart. I was totally devastated.

"I don't think it's properly sunk in for any of us.

"I can't believe I'm organising a memorial day for one of my best friends. I still expect her to walk through the door. "Everyone, including her family, is struggling to come to terms with it.

"It's very tough but we've been there for each other and all stuck together by Steve's side since it happened and I know he's grateful for that.

"This event is an opportunity for people to pay their respects - absolutely everyone is welcome to join us - release a balloon in her memory and then join us in the clubhouse for a disco to reminisce about the good times we've all shared and remember Alison for the amazing person she was."

Doors for the event open at 1pm, kick-off is 2.30pm and the disco will go on until late.

For more information call Mark Smith at St Annes Rugby Club on 0161 678 8660