Talent 2009: VV Brown heads our list of Britain's brightest young stars

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The pop star: VV Brown

by Fiona Sturges

On paper, 24-year-old VV Brown certainly has the makings of a star – beauty, a big voice and, crucially, the backing of a major record label. Add to that her penchant for retro-soul and success on a huge scale seems a foregone conclusion.

Yet Vanessa, as VV was once known, is no mere Winehouse-a-like. Where the past few years have heralded the rise of bee-hived girls singing Dusty torch songs, Brown takes the glamour and pizzazz of Sixties girl groups (check out the retro flat-top!) and imbues it with an indie-punk edge, a sound that she has artfully described as "musical mashed potatoes". And confounding the norm of soul singers backed by expensive writing and production teams, Brown can take credit for writing, producing and performing songs on her forthcoming debut album Travelling Like the Light.

One of six siblings born and raised in Northampton, Vanessa was weaned on a diet of Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie. She studied piano from the age of five, sang in the church choir and turned down a place at the London School of Economics in order to sign her first record deal. She upped sticks and moved to LA in the process but was ill at ease with the R&B diva role the record company had carved out for her.

Two years later, after stints singing backing vocals for Madonna and the Pussycat Dolls, she returned to London to start over. She rented a flat, bought a one-stringed guitar from a second-hand shop and wrote "Crying Blood", a cheerful confection that blends the bluesy croon of La Winehouse with the barmy spirit of Bobby Pickett's novelty hit "Monster Mash".

The song is just one in a collection of deliriously upbeat, doo-wop numbers to be found on Travelling Like the Light. It is, VV says, the album she wanted to make all along. This is her second stab at success, and this time around she's taking no prisoners.

The broadcaster: Rachel Riley

by Ian Burrell

Fresh out of Oriel College, Oxford, with a masters in mathematics, 22-year-old Rachel Riley is the new Carol Vorderman, taking on the role of human calculator in the revamped Channel 4 afternoon quiz Countdown. Riley was planning on a career in marketing but beat 1,000 rival applicants to the Countdown job where she will work alongside the dry-witted Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling.

If she really can get her consonants in a line and follow Vorderman's career path, then the potential rewards are immense. Vorderman was on £1m per annum, though she quit the job earlier this year after being asked to take a 90 per cent pay cut. Riley's starting salary of £100,000 a year is hefty enough for someone straight out of university. "This is the best graduate job in the world," she says. "There's only one cool maths job around and I was lucky enough to get it."

For the Countdown auditions, Rachel and other applicants were tested on their maths skills, having to answer complex sums within 30 seconds – with the Countdown clock music in the background to add to the pressure. She was then shortlisted alongside five other candidates who took part in screen tests in Leeds.

Expect Riley to become a cult figure with undergraduates – a key Countdown demographic – next year. Like most students she was an obsessive watcher of the show, formerly hosted by Richard Whiteley, Des Lynam and Des O'Connor. "I've had the Countdown theme as my mobile-phone ringtone for years," she says. "Prior to my audition I bought five Countdown puzzle books and tackled over 500 different numbers games in order to hone my skills."

If the new series is a success, expect Channel 4 to explore further television projects with Riley to broaden her profile.

The novelist: Richard Milward

by Boyd Tonkin

From the heyday of Hockney to the age of Emin, art-school mavericks have made waves in British culture that break far beyond the world of galleries and dealers. Since the 1950s, the art tribe has taught other fearless spirits – in pop, fiction or film – that the weary distinctions between "high" and "low" culture can fall down with a single well-aimed shove. Richard Milward, a 24-year-old graduate of Central St Martins college, belongs in this anti-tradition of fence-smashing provocateurs whose aesthetics mix trash and transcendence.

Milward's debut novel, Apples, won praise from Irvine Welsh for its sink-estate Garden of Eden peopled by temptation-prone teenagers. He is now at work on the screenplay – and in February, Faber & Faber publishes his second book, a novel whose profane but touching cocktail of anarchy and artistry will surely brand it the Trainspotting of modern Middlesborough.

Apart from a brief, nightmarish trip to London, Ten Storey Love Song mostly unfolds in and around a cosmetically renovated high-rise. Here, the wasted young painter Bobby struggles to pursue his outsider art, and to rekindle his passion for girlfriend Georgie in the face of endless drug-related distractions. His mates in Peach House, Johnnie and Ellen, struggle to keep their love alive as bad sex as well as substances and suspicions pull them apart. Elsewhere in the tower, the unsavoury truck driver Alan repels his neighbours as a sad – and maybe bad – loner but nurses secrets no one else can share. Not since Georges Perec's eccentric classic Life: A User's Manual has a block of flats given cult fiction such an engagingly offbeat home.

Comic, erotic, candid but charming, Ten Storey Love Song unspools over 280 pages in a single virtuoso paragraph. Milward gleefully slathers drugs, sex and rock'n'roll all over his canvas but a sort of innocence prevails. Repelled by the creepy London art and media scene, Bobby flees back to Middlesbrough and reflects that fame is all about "getting lots of initial success and then a slow decline into mediocrity and backlash and paranoia". He will speak for readers whose heads may be lost in creative space but whose feet remain happily stuck on planet Earth.

The opera singer: Vuyani Mlinde

by Michael Church

When Vuyani Mlinde is on stage, you don't take your eyes off him: the timbre of voice and vividness of performance demand attention. Now recognised as a rising star among bass-baritones, this unassuming 28-year-old South African is making his mark with all the big baritone roles, from Leporello and the Commendatore in Don Giovanni to the philosopher Colline in La Bohème.

His beginnings in Bloemfontein were musically inauspicious. "When I was 12, the teacher in charge of the choir made us all stand up," he recalls. "And when she came to me, she suddenly said, 'You are in my choir, come at 2.30 this afternoon'. I was surprised, because football was what interested me, but for some reason she knew I would be a bass." He turned up, sang hymns and traditional songs "and when my voice broke at 15 I knew I already had a nice instrument, though I didn't know how to use it, and it never occurred to me that I could make a career from it".

An astute voice-coach offered him free lessons, after which he sang the evil Sparafucile in Rigoletto, went on a tour of Australia, landed a scholarship at London's Royal College of Music, and the rest is history.

He's still passionately involved with his roots: he's just come back from Pretoria, where his community choir had invited him to join them as soloist for a new Zulu Mass. And he agrees that African voices are special: "They have a lot of strength. The musical talent in South Africa is huge, but most of the time people don't know they have talent – as I didn't. They can bring something different to European music." As he is doing. "I just wish that what I am doing here could be seen in my country." Hopefully one day it will.

The environmentalist: Matt Shardlow

by Michael McCarthy

The environmentalist with the most conspicuous rising reputation in Britain looks after the lowliest of wildlife. Matt Shardlow is Britain's champion of invertebrates – insects, spiders, worms, snails and the rest of "the little things that rule the world". Although Britain has a long and noble tradition of entomologists and other specialists in mini-beasts, Matt is director of a pioneering body that looks out for the interests of all of them – Buglife, the invertebrate conservation charity.

His voice is increasingly being heard, not least as concern is growing nationally about the alarming declines in populations of insects such as butterflies, moths and bees, and this year Buglife has figured in two prominent High Court challenges to the development of an insect-rich brownfield site in the Thames Estuary, West Thurrock Marshes. This appears to be the first-ever High Court case fought out over insect welfare; it is a test case of the duty of public bodies to have regard to wildlife, but also an indication of how our view of what is important in the natural world has broadened from pandas and tigers (final judgment was still awaited at the time of our going to press).

Matt, 37, has loved all invertebrates, from ladybirds to slugs, since he was a child in Sussex. An environmental science graduate, he formerly looked after wildlife other than birds for the RSPB, but since 2004 has concentrated full time on invertebrate campaigning at Buglife's head. As he points out, they are worth fighting for as they make up the majority of living things in Britain – there are about 40,000 invertebrate species (including 28,000 insects) in the full roll-call of 70,000 species in this country. He is recognised by his peers as one of the strongest green campaigning voices to emerge in years.

The artist: Petros Chrisostomou

by Michael Glover

The giant, full-colour photographs of Petros Chrisostomou put you in mind of the magical world of Alice in Wonderland as it was realised by Sir John Tenniel, the first and still the greatest of Lewis Carroll's illustrators. Tenniel plays with scale in order to alarm and amuse us, simultaneously – the Red Queen's face looms horribly out at us, disproportionately large; Alice herself drinks a potion that causes her to grow and grow until her body is squeezed up against the ceilings. Chrisostomou, who graduated with an MA in Fine Art from London's Royal Academy schools last summer after a first degree at Central St Martins, does something similar in his photographs.

He takes objects with which we are all too familiar – a high-heeled shoe or two; some eggs; a head of blonde hair – and he plays with scale to such an extent that they look monstrously large in their contexts. The consequence of this is that they turn into the stuff of dreams – sometimes playful ones, at other times nightmarish. The perfectly ordinary object becomes wholly extraordinary. The known world, with all its paraphernalia, becomes an unreal construction, a kind of bizarre still-life. As in Alice, the objects he concentrates on – a buckled frankfurter; scraps of doner-kebab meat – suddenly seem to take on a reality of their own. Too small for the spaces they occupy, they want to disrupt them, burst out of them, shoulder them aside.

"I started making things as a child in north Finchley during the 1980s," he tells me. His mother had come to England from Cyprus in the 1970s; his father was born in Swindon. "That was before the world of computer games. It was a time when you had to invent your own imaginative worlds by putting a blanket over a couple of chairs, simple things like that." Next year already promises to be a busy one. Several group shows are under discussion, and in November he has his first solo exhibition at the Ceri Hand Gallery in Liverpool. He has also won the Royal Academy/Land Securities award for 2009, which will give him free studio space at 48 Oxford Street for a year, a bursary and an exhibition in June.

The playwright: Lucy Kirkwood

by Alice Jones

Meet Lucy Kirkwood, a young playwright with a singular – and just a little bit dark – dramatic vision. Her first play, Tinderbox, was described as "Joe Orton's Entertaining Mr Sloane as rewritten by the League of Gentleman" while her bold, rip-roaring take on Hedda Gabler, at the Gate Theatre, transposed Ibsen's classic drama to 21st-century Notting Hill where, instead of flinging Lovborg's manuscript on the fire, in a thrilling coup de théâtre, Hedda gulped down the memory chip containing his life's work.

Kirkwood was midway through a degree in English at Edinburgh when she took a surprise call from Caryl Churchill's agent, Mel Kenyon, requesting a meeting. It turned out that her short play Grady Hot Potato, having been rejected by the National Student Drama Festival, had been passed to the jury of the prestigious PMA award – and Kenyon and her fellow judges had deemed it a worthy winner. From there she received her first two professional commissions, from the National Theatre studio (a work still in progress) and the Bush, where Tinderbox opened in April.

It was while holed away "like a hermit" in Northumberland, writing the dystopian fairytale Tinderbox, that she took another surprising call, this time from the producers of Skins, asking her to join their writing team. Kirkwood didn't have a TV at the time and had never heard of the hit teen soap. "My sister, who is much younger and trendier than me, couldn't believe it ..."

For now she's hard at work on a couple of new theatre commissions, a new episode of Skins and a TV script for Kudos. Who's her inspiration? "I like playwrights who deal with big ideas," she says. "Caryl Churchill does it with humour and delicacy but she's also kind of cut-throat. If I were to aspire to one thing, it's that quality."

The chef: Rachel Humphrey

by Madeleine Lim

There's a new face at the helm of the two-Michelin-starred French restaurant Le Gavroche in London's Mayfair – and she's a woman. Rachel Humphrey, 30, formerly senior sous chef at the restaurant, was recently named head chef; the first woman to gain such a position in the restaurant's 42-year history. But she's much too clever – and honest – to be lured into idle speculation on the subject of whether the small number of female chefs in the UK is due to a lack of talent or a shortage of opportunity. "I'm not really sure why Britain's restaurant industry is male-dominated," she says, "but there are certainly more and more opportunities for women chefs these days. As far as I'm concerned, what's most important is to prove yourself in the kitchen, whatever your sex. The kitchen environment can be aggressive, but I learnt that the best way to be respected in the kitchen was to make sure that I never gave the guys any ammunition against me."

Humphrey joined the restaurant as an apprentice straight out of school in 1996. "I got lucky with the timing. I wrote off to loads of restaurants and when I got an acceptance letter from Le Gavroche, I felt I was destined to work there." Encouraged by chef-patron Michel Roux, she quickly rose through the ranks, despite a three-year absence when she left the restaurant to work in the less rarefied atmosphere of the RAF catering corps – "I needed to gain confidence and experience and I had always wanted to work in the army."

She's treating her new post at Le Gavroche with typical understatement, and is winning new customers over with her subtle, warming dishes including a wintry creamy pheasant and lentil soup. "I'm just trying to keep up the same high standards." But she admits she is also deftly, subtly, lightening up the menu: "I'm trying to make the lunch menu a little less masculine, replacing some of the heavy butter sauces with delicate jus whippings." A woman's touch, perhaps? "Not really," she says. "It just depends on your personality – I know some guys who have a wonderfully delicate touch and other female chefs who are really heavy-handed. All I know is that I've got 40 years of tradition to live up to!"

The politician: Chuka Umunna

by Andrew Grice

Chuka Umunna is not a household name yet, even within his own party, but he is winning rave reviews as one of the next generation of Labour politicians. He is not an MP, but has a strong chance of becoming one at the next general election having been chosen as Labour's candidate in Streatham, south London, where he has lived all his life.

The highly articulate 30-year-old employment lawyer is even tipped by some senior Labour figures as the man who could be the next leader to take the party to an election victory. It is not a label he would welcome, since history is littered with ex-"future leaders".

Umunna will want to be known as a "Labour MP" rather than a "black MP". He does not want to be seen as "Labour's Barack Obama", even though party colleagues see him as an inspirational figure too. He was ecstatic about Obama's election victory, saying: "Words cannot express how happy I am." He has noted that they have one thing in common – a strange name. He will try to avoid the media limelight, and is anxious to avoid the fate of David Lammy, the black Skills Minister, who struggled to live up to his billing after being tipped as a future Labour leader.

Umunna is no fan of New Labour, a brand that might well be out of fashion after an election defeat. A free-thinker, he disliked the "on message" control-freakery of the Blair era. He is on the board of Compass, the left-wing pressure group, and has urged Gordon Brown to be bold by adopting policies such as a windfall tax on energy companies. Although untested at a high level, he is seen as charming and ambitious. Friends say he is on the party's soft or pragmatic left and will gravitate towards its mainstream as he rises up the political ladder.

The comedian: Barunka O'Shaughnessy

by James Rampton

Barunka O'Shaughnessy once worked in a jam factory in order to make ends meet. It was mind-numbing work. "My job was to pick up any jam-jars that had fallen over," she recollects, "but one only fell over every five hours. I was going mad there!"

Her professional career certainly started quietly. In 1999, she played a drugged-up girl in Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson's much-loved sitcom, Spaced, "for about a minute". She went on to take parts such as Checkout Girl in The Mighty Boosh, Woman Extra in Extras and Waitress in Absolute Power.

Such anonymity, however, seems unlikely to befall O'Shaughnessy in the future. The performer, whose unusual name reflects her Czech and Irish parentage, looks set to break through to the major leagues in the coming year.

A graduate of Cambridge University, where she was friends with the double act of David Mitchell and Robert Webb, O'Shaughnessy has penned material for Jonathan Ross, Matt Lucas, Sally Phillips, Phill Jupitus and John Thomson. She is now writing for School of Comedy, a new Channel 4 series in which grown-up sketches are performed by youngsters.

But it's as a performer that O'Shaughnessy is really making her mark. After two well-received Edinburgh shows, she appeared on the Paramount Comedy Channel as an Eastern European prostitute and enjoyed a successful run in the much-lauded sketch troupe at Ealing Live!. She then landed a big break, appearing as Avid Merrion's (Leigh Francis) wife (and sister!), Sacha, on C4's cult-com Bo' Selecta.

O'Shaughnessy has since been a regular on C4's Bremner, Bird and Fortune and been reunited with her old university pals on BBC2's That Mitchell and Webb Look. In addition, she has starred as another Eastern European prostitute in Five's brothel-set sitcom, Respectable. "I was in danger of being typecast," she laughs.

Now she is one of four performers in E4's new all-female sketch show, Beehive, which has been compared to both Smack the Pony and French and Saunders. All in all, 2008 has been quite a year for O'Shaughnessy – and 2009 promises to be even better.

The designer: Tom Price

by Clare Dwyer Hogg

When Kanye West says he likes your chair on his blog – before you've even graduated – that's probably not a bad start to your career. Tom Price's Meltdown Chair was one of his final pieces before graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2007 – a month later, he landed his first major commission (he got the call when he was on the beach): the Metropolitan Works in east London wanted him to create a design around their new building.

He clad the building in 40 perforated panels – a symbol of old technology, perfectly stamped, very regimented – and liquefied them, so the holes melted. "I wanted to express the capacities of the centre, so they became swirling patterns – like a large abstract painting," he says. The project, Price says generously, was a "huge learning experience", thanks to public liability requirements: once the panels were produced, he was told the holes couldn't be larger than 10mm in diameter, with the bridges between the holes at 3mm. "Because the holes were organically produced, that meant I had to go back and change every line, every circle – hundreds and thousands of them," he laughs.

The building will finally be unveiled in February; after this sisyphusian task, what next? There's Oliver Sweeney's shop window that he's taking over in New Bond Street to display new pieces of furniture, also in February. "I see myself lying somewhere between art and design," he says. "I am very much dealing with the three-dimensional." Keep your eyes open for his work – something tells us it won't be long before his fan base is made up of rather more than a global hip-hop star.


The actress: Rebecca Hall

by Jonathan Romney

Last May, at the Cannes press conference for Woody Allen's new film, all the talk was of Penelope Cruz and Scarlett Johansson, until journalists started to ask, "Who's the English actress?" That actress is Rebecca Hall, and she comprehensively steals the show in Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona. She plays an uptight American abroad, and her spiky performance has earned her a nomination in the forthcoming Golden Globes. Cannes exposure was a heady experience for 26-year-old Hall, but it wasn't her first screen success. She made her film debut in the 2006 Britcom Starter for 10, then made a strong impression in The Prestige.

The daughter of Sir Peter Hall and the opera singer Maria Ewing, Hall is sceptical about being tipped as a face of 2009: "I've been on 'next' lists for the past five years." But it's hard to imagine Hall being anything other than extremely visible next year. She'll also be seen in Ron Howard's Frost/Nixon; in a new version of Dorian Gray; and in a Channel 4 adaptation of David Peace's brutal Red Riding murder novels.

Much of Hall's year will be spent on stage: she is taking part, with a company including Ethan Hawke and Simon Russell Beale, in the Bridge Project, a marathon initiative that will tour Sam Mendes' productions of The Cherry Orchard and A Winter's Tale. "It's kind of crazy but exciting, and illuminating – how the plays resonate with each other is endlessly fascinating."

Hall is taking a break from filming for a while: the Bridge Project will keep her busy up to August. How will she sustain her energies through all that? "Ask me in a couple of months," she laughs. "I've got no idea."

'Frost/Nixon' is released on 23 January; 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona' on 6 February. The Bridge Project opens at the Old Vic in May.

The fashion designer: Nasir Mazhar

by Harriet Walker

I try to create a world for myself, but I know real life subconsciously seeps in and has its effect," declares Nasir Mazhar, currently the brightest star in London's galaxy of young designer talent, and the creator of the spiked headguard that Madonna sported on her recent Dazed & Confused cover shot. The 25-year-old headgear designer started out as a hair-stylist with Vidal Sassoon before turning to theatrical design to fulfil his desire to work in a more highly conceptualised way.

His work ethic is as idiosyncratic as his personal aesthetic, and was evident in his spring/summer 2009 collection, showcased in an atmospheric presentation during September's London Fashion Week. Mazhar claims his main inspiration is the city he lives and works in, but he likes to weave stories for his pieces.

Mazhar's blurring of the arcane and the modern comes together in a collection that swoops from dramatically draped medieval hennins and crimson cardinal hats, to Hannibal Lecter-esque muzzle masks and nuclear decontamination hoods and visors. That presentation marked him out as part of an upsurge of creativity and methodology on the East End design scene that has eschewed the "street style" and "hipster" mentality, which has been so prominent on the Hoxton circuit, for something more fundamentally artisanal.

Mazhar rather quaintly refers to himself as a hatter – not a milliner, who would traditionally trims hats, rather than designing or creating them. As such, any form of headgear is within his remit, and he has a passion for exploring not only the worn form, but also the space and shape surrounding the head. This is especially true of one of his most recognisable pieces, the sequinned and face-obscuring cube headdress that topped off the opening look at Gareth Pugh's spring/summer 2008 show. The piece had become famous before most of the style press even knew Mazhar's name.

It is Mazhar's innate hybridisation and re-interpretation of ideas that last season won him coveted Topshop New Generation sponsorship, a financial support that will enable him to show again at Fashion Week in February.

The photographer: Michael Grieve

by Nick Hall

A brothel in Slough, a porn-film shoot in Peterborough, a swingers' club in Sheffield – unlikely locations for some beautiful and tender photographs, but these are the sort of places featured in the 41-year-old photographer Michael Grieve's first book No Love Lost, which will be published by Images En Manoeuvres Editions next year.

Newcastle-born Grieve started working as a photographer for the music press in the 1980s before studying for an MA in photography at the University of Westminster. Among his influences he cites the American William Eggleston and the Briton Chris Killip – whose 1980s book In Flagrante, which documented the effects of the de-industrialisation of the North East, had a particularly powerful effect on him. "It's simply one of the best books ever."

"Sex is a great motivator," Grieve says. He's interested in how people can engage in something so intimate which at the same time can mean absolutely nothing – as well as how this reflects on how we as "outsiders" (presumably!) behave and "perform" in our own private lives. He has spent the past six years travelling Britain photographing sex and the industry that surrounds it in its many forms. As well as the tender portraits, there are unsettling photographs too – disturbing in their sense of the ugliness, the emptiness and banality of some of the situations. "I wanted each photograph to be a different experience, as you go through the book you move from tender to cruel moments."

He prefers film over digital – "I can't deal with all that". Although he is a contributing editor to the online contemporary photography magazine 1,000 Words, he believes that the book is the natural home for photography. "It's the whole experience, a place to contemplate".

The film-makers: Christine Molloy & Joe Lawlor

by Jonathan Romney

The words "British cinema" and "art film" don't usually go together. But 2008 brought a surprise renaissance for idiosyncratic, highly crafted, defiantly non-mainstream UK-made films, from such names as Terence Davies (Of Time and the City), the artist Steve McQueen (Hunger) and the newcomers Joanna Hogg (Unrelated) and Duane Hopkins (Better Things). Next in line is the duo of Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor.

Their debut feature, Helen, is a mystery thriller of sorts, about a young woman who volunteers to impersonate a missing girl in a police reconstruction. Eerie and psychologically insightful, the film echoes TV cop dramas on one hand, and Antonioni's glacial 1960s riddler Blow-Up on the other.

The duo met in Dublin in the early 1980s, and soon began operating under the banner Desperate Optimists. Since then, they have worked in a range of media, including video, theatre, internet and radio. "It's been a meandering route," Lawlor says. "We were using any methods we could to explore ideas." Ten years ago, they moved away from the stage and started to concentrate on the camera. As film-makers, Molloy and Lawlor are best known for their Civic Life project, a series of shorts, each shot in one day, using casts from community groups – notably Who Killed Brown Owl, a nine-minute single take in which an idyllic English afternoon collapses into chaos.

The team's next project, Mister John, concerns a man who goes to Thailand to confront his brother's demons. "It's imagining what would happen if my brother died,"says Lawlor. "My name is Joe, I have a brother named John, he does live in Thailand ... It's just using some of our biography as a springboard." They plan to shoot Mister John this summer. "It'll be more ambitious [than Helen] – that or more excessive."

'Helen' is released on 17 April

The model: Amy Greenhaugh

by Harriet Walker

I've been bombarded with fey, young-looking models for the past couple of years," says Beth Dadswell, The Independent's senior stylist, "so Amy Greenhough's intriguing beauty really made her stand out from the crowd." Twenty-two-year-old Greenhough's look combines the two classic idioms of fashion modelling: she has a natural beauty and poise that women want to emulate, and a magnetism that ensures your total attention to any shoot you see her in.

Spotted by Select Model Management two years ago, Greenhough delayed her modelling career to concentrate on her studies. Now reading English literature and drama at Kingston University, her first shoot was with The Independent in October. "As soon as I saw the first polaroid of Amy," adds Dadswell, "I knew she had the potential to be really special." Her looks recall the quirky, gamine beauties of the Seventies, whose attractions lay in their idiosyncrasies and asymmetry; Greenhough's self-assured aesthetic chimes perfectly with the off-duty nonchalance floating around fashion right now, referenced in collections from the likes of Alexander Wang and Rick Owens, and perfected by French Vogue's edgy fashion director Emmanuelle Alt. Her kooky, indie girl-next-door features also tap into a resurgence on the catwalks of a sturdier and more unusual beauty, after seasons of doll-like cupid bows and arched eyebrows.

Alongside her university exams, she has been shooting recently in Milan for Italian Vogue and has worked with Steven Meisel in New York for the high-end American magazine, W. "I have no doubt she will be the face of at least one big European advertising campaign next year," predicts Dadswell. You saw her here first.

The athlete: Lisa Dobriskey

by James Lawton

For Lisa Dobriskey the Beijing Olympics might have been one of those breaking points which so regularly invite a young athlete to step back from the challenge that has consumed so much of their lives. She had had the opportunity to reach out for the kind of achievement that made Kelly Holmes a Dame and Rebecca Adlington the instant darling of the British sports public.

A drug bust had stripped the women's 1,500 metres of some of its most potent contenders, including the Russians Yelena Seboleva and Tatyana Tomashova. But Dobriskey, who won Commonwealth gold two years ago, finished one place out of the medals.

"At such a time," says Dobriskey, "it is hard to contain your disappointment. You think of all the work you have done and all the optimism you took to the track." Then, if you are determined enough, you realign your ambitions and swear that you will do the work all over again.

"After Beijing I had to ask myself how much I wanted to taste the kind of success enjoyed by Kelly Holmes in Athens and the other British women who stood at the top of the podium." There are not so many: Holmes, Mary Rand, Ann Packer, Mary Peters, Tessa Sanderson, Sally Gunnell, Denise Lewis and Christine Ohuruogu. Dobrisky saw Ohuruogu join the pantheon and realised the depth of her ambition.

You might think at the age of 24 Dobriskey has gone beyond the circle of gilded youth. But on the track she remains almost a baby. Holmes was 30 when she gained Olympic bronze at Sydney and she went to Athens under a shadow of persistent injury. Dobriskey argues that she will bounce back stronger from her disappointment. It is a resolve that will make her one of the most compelling stories of London 2012.