1. Nick Sloane led the salvage operation that raised the Costa Concordia
After more than a year of sitting, half submerged, in the port of the Italian island of Giglio, the stricken cruise ship Costa Concordia was finally righted in September due, in no small part, to the mammoth efforts of salvage master Sloane, 52. He immediately became internationally recognised and was profiled in publications all over the world.
Working in such a dramatic business, Sloane isn't wholly unused to the presence of the media – salvaging wrecks often draws the attention of local press. But he had never experienced anything like the feeding frenzy that surrounded the Costa Concordia salvage operation. "I think that it was a lot tougher and more intense than I expected or had experienced before," says Sloane. "Normally, you get one or two days where there is interest in it, and then it dwindles off."
Luckily for him, the island's remoteness meant Sloane missed most of his appearances in the press. "I think the good thing for us was that we hardly got any TV or any of the newspapers on the island, so it was a lot easier to talk because you never had to watch yourself afterwards."
The salvage master, who works for Titan Salvage, felt comfortable talking about his plans once he knew the operation would unfold, although he found it difficult hearing the doubts expressed in the media. "A lot of people said, 'it's never going to happen and it's a waste of money and it will have to be broken into a thousand pieces and have to be cut up and taken away anyway'."
He credits his success and positivity almost entirely to the support of his family, wife Sandra and his three children who, despite only being able to visit him twice, helped Sloane through a tough 18 months. He says: "If your family doesn't support you, then you just can't do it, your whole world falls apart. It puts a lot of pressure on them."
2. Nick D'Aloisio is the south London schoolboy who sold his Summly app to Yahoo! for £18m
With investors such as Stephen Fry, Ashton Kutcher and Yoko Ono, D'Aloisio has been unfazed by being placed in the public eye – even if he did only turn 18 in November. He was simply pleased that attention was being given to his app – which offers multiple sources on news stories, each summarised into bite-size digests.
"I was happy to see the key attributes of the technology being showcased and people becoming accustomed to the power of text summarisation," he says. "It was fun to see Summly's algorithm being discussed globally and people suggesting future [uses] of the product."
He did the deal because he was "excited" by the "opportunity to expand the technology greatly with the resources and expertise Yahoo! had". He says the internet giant has embraced the growth of mobile devices and has a "mobile- first ethos" and "a real start-up mentality to try things and innovate". Since becoming a multimillionaire he has continued his A-level studies while "working on exciting new implementations of Summly".
He says: "I still live at home and attend school as I did previously. I fly to San Francisco to work at Yahoo! periodically and enjoy spending time out there. I still get to create and think up new products as I did at Summly and now have a great support group around me to implement these ideas."
3. Adam Pacitti spent his last £500 on a giant billboard to beg employers to give him a job
For some people, their 15 minutes of fame comes as a surprise. Not for viral-video producer Pacitti, 25. His time in the media's glare was pre-planned and came complete with a strategy. So when the graduate spent his "last" £500 on a billboard begging for a job at the start of the year, he knew he'd get a big reaction. He also knew the billboard cost £540 plus VAT but that wasn't as catchy for newspaper headlines as a round £500.
He couldn't have expected, however, that his youthful PR savvy and weeks of working on an accompanying video CV and website would lead to him getting "coverage in every British national newspaper" (including The Independent) and 200 emails from prospective employers as well as 60 "solid" job offers.
Pacitti is the first to admit it was a stunt, and a carefully planned one at that: "I was just very flattered that so many people saw how desperate I was and wanted to help me, but some of the jobs offered were ludicrous," he says. "They sent me contracts without evening meeting me."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Pacitti got a job with a creative agency – after waiting a month to make sure it didn't hire him for the PR advantages – and now works on viral campaigns for names such as Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, doing, he says, what he loves. Though he admits the industry is perhaps "just as vacuous" as he expected.
"Looking back it's all a blur, really, as I spent the day it broke in the nationals touring a dozen television studios to talk about myself. And by the time I reached ITV, I was ready to faint and had to ask someone to fetch me a Mars bar."
Pacitti has a history of viral stunts and campaigns, including a trip to wrestle in Texas while a student at Winchester, but he's defensive about accusations that the billboard was just a PR stunt (some on Twitter didn't take to kindly to discovering he had form for this kind of thing).
"Of course it was meant to get attention, that's the whole point," he says. "It was a way of getting a job but also to being creative and showing I could work on a campaign."
4. Daniel Llewellyn Hall was briefly the nation's most derided artist after his portrait of the Queen was unveiled in May
It was a portrait that the 33-year-old Welsh-born artist had always wanted to paint, but he had no idea that his take on the Queen would create such strong feelings and see his work dissected by critics, armchair or otherwise.
Commissioned to hang at the Welsh National Stadium to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, it was the 133rd portrait of the Queen and Llewellyn Hall was to be the youngest painter to have the monarch sit for him, but critics were quick to label the resulting work everything from "ghastly" and "rotten" to an "an out and out disaster".
Tabloid headlines screamed and broadsheet art critics weighed in, as his fiercest critics said the painting had more of a likeness to a "drag impersonator" or a Spitting Image puppet than to Britain's sovereign. Llewellyn Hall says people should judge it for themselves, but had his doubts at first. "At first the strength of the media reaction made me question myself and wonder if there was something dreadfully amiss," he says.
"Then I came to realise that the 15 minutes of media attention wasn't really reality. At this point very few people had even seen the painting in the flesh. It was a knee-jerk reaction to a debate wholly being carried out in the pages of newspapers."
According to Llewellyn Hall, when the Duke of Cambridge came to Millennium Stadium recently, he described the painting as "fantastic".
"He's one of the very few people who has bothered to come to look at the picture to make a proper judgement, which is a shame, because too many people think they can just read about things in newspapers and don't really need to go and experience things for themselves."
Llewellyn Hall is now working on a series of portraits of writers to be displayed with their own take on his handiwork, but is still certain that we all need to make our own judgements: "We can't just react to second-hand news. Whether you like something or not, you've got to make your own judgements."
If I he could have his time again, he wouldn't change the portrait, but would have "liked to have said less to the media and stayed further away from the debate". He adds: "You get sucked down to the lowest common denominator when you engage. I can see why some artists isolate themselves from the public eye. At the same time, in a way, it was the best thing that could have happened."
5. Godfrey Bloom is the Ukip MP who caused outrage with remarks about "Bongo Bongo Land" and "sluts"
Bloom, 64, who was Ukip's best known character after Nigel Farage, made himself rather too well known during the party's annual conference in London.
He had already been ticked off by Ukip's leadership in August for a comment about overseas aid going to somewhere he called "Bongo Bongo Land". During a lunchtime reception, Bloom jokily told all the women in the room that they were "sluts", for not cleaning behind the fridge, and outside, he grumpily whacked the Channel 4 journalist Michael Crick around the head with a party document. That was too much for Nigel Farage, who accused him of "destroying" the conference, and took the whip away from him.
Bloom still represents Yorkshire in the Brussels Parliament, where he now sits as an independent MEP, though his political career will end with the 2014 euro elections.
2I'm still a member of Ukip," he says. "I have been pressured quite a lot to stand as an independent. I'm well enough known in Yorkshire to get in under proportional representation – but politics is a nasty business, there is no fundamental code of moral behaviour, and I shan't be sorry to get out of it.
"I don't feel I was badly treated by journalists, except for one or two who have been unnecessarily spiteful. I bear no grudges."
Nor is he sorry for the controversies he stirred up. His 2013 Christmas card has a picture of him holding bongo drums, and his wife, Katie, is dressed as a "slut", in curlers and gaudy red headscarf, with a cigarette hanging from her mouth. "The word 'unrepentant' will be on my gravestone," he says.
6. Philippa Langley hit the headlines after her emotional discovery of Richard III's body in a Leicester car park
She is an avowedly emotional screenwriter and Richard III fanatic, but Philippa Langley never expected to become the face of the hunt for the body of the last Plantagenet king. As chair of the Scottish branch of the Richard III Society, Langley, 51, had wanted to stay behind the scenes. It was her passion, but she didn't want the attention.
That didn't stop 3.7 million people tuning in to a Channel 4 documentary in January to watch her become a sort of Mrs Richard III and reveal that her "arduous journey" and seven-and-a-half-year quest had led to the discovery of the long-dead king's body in a council car park in Leicester,
The king had been killed 528 years before at Bosworth Field, but there was little time for Langley to adjust to the news her hero had been tracked down. She had to quickly adjust to the media spotlight and her emotional reaction to the discovery soon caught the public's imagination.
"The strange thing was that when I was first pitching the documentary, there was no way that I wanted to be on camera," says Langley. "I intended to stay behind the camera, but the production company wanted me in front, and to make it a personal story.
The resulting media attention was global and a shock to Langley – as were the numerous less-than-kind remarks on Twitter. One user even said she looked like she was so emotional she was preparing to "jump" the dead king's bones. Meanwhile, more traditional historians sniffed that she was focusing too much on the "celebrity" of the body, while others noted cynically that the "history of kings and queens, so criticised over the decades by historians, plays very well on TV".
To Langley, who is now working a on a cinema script on the king's life, the only real regret was that the Richard III Society, which funded and made the dig possible, never received enough recognition for its part in the discovery of the body. "There was a scene where I did explain how big a discovery it was for me personally and what it meant after seven years, but due to space constraints that was cut and the people at home and on Twitter didn't know that. To them it really did look like I was some idiot crying over bones and I can't get upset about it."
7. Chris Holmes made the news this year when he resigned his job using a message on a cake. It was the sweetest way to bid farewell
In April, Chris Holmes, a 31-year-old immigration officer at Stansted airport, handed in his notice with a cake, piping his resignation letter on to it with icing.
"Having recently become a father, I now realise how precious life is and how important it is to spend my time doing something that makes me, and other people, happy," it read. "For that reason, I hereby give notice of my resignation, in order that I may devote my time and energy to my family, and my cake business." A picture of the cake was posted on Twitter and it soon went viral. "It was surreal," he says now. "I was up late to talk to the Toronto Star, and then up early to do Australian TV. It was madness. I'm not really a limelight kind of person, though. It was fun, but I was also a bit out of my comfort zone. Although it was brilliant exposure for the new business."
The interest continued for two months before it began to die down. "The thing that blew me away most though was the thousands of emails from people saying good luck, or that they were inspired by me. It was humbling."
His business, Mr Cake, is thriving; Holmes is fully booked for the next few months and he hopes to expand into wedding afternoon tea services next year. He and his wife, who has now gone back to work part-time, share childcare duties. It would seem Holmes has proved you can indeed have your cake, and eat it too.
Interviews by Rosie Neve, Ian Burrell, Jamie Merrill, Andy McSmith and Gillian Orr