The IoS Happy List 2009 - the 100

Sharon Thiruchelvam presents profiles of 100 people who make Britain a better and a happier place to live. If you would like to nominate someone for The Happy List click on the link below for the nomination form



Click here to make a nomination

Sudarshan Abrol

Founder of the UK Asian Women's Centre

As a young Punjabi with an abusive husband in 1960s England, this teacher felt ashamed and alone. She found refuge in friends and work, and became a headteacher in 1983. Meetings at friends' homes grew into the UK Asian Women's Centre, based in Birmingham. It helps women find economic and social independence and provides counselling, language courses, career advice, and support over domestic violence.

Rebecca Adlington

Swimmer

In 2006, Rebecca was dismissed as little more than a good club swimmer. Two years later, the 5ft 11in Nottinghamshire girl became Britain's most successful Olympic swimmer for 100 years, winning two gold medals at the Beijing Games. Her victories, and the dedication she showed to achieve them, lifted the whole nation, as well as her hometown of Mansfield.

Ashuk Ahmed

Community worker

In Luton, where a third of the population is from ethnic minorities, this council worker founded the 24-hour radio station Diverse FM (102.8 fm): a platform to promote community cohesion. The station is part of the 20-year-old Mitalee centre, which Ahmed co-founded to keep kids off the street. It offers youths accredited broadcasting courses and the chance to run their own show.

Saeeda Ahmed

Founder of Trescom, a social enterprise company

The first woman in her Bradford Pashtun community to attend university, six years ago, aged 26, she founded Trescom, a regeneration project involved in training the unemployed to set up businesses. It also works with mosques on social issues within their congregations and its proposed website, Ethical Everyone, will advise consumers on firms' social responsibility records.

Sir David Attenborough

Natural historian

As a TV executive he set the standard of quality that BBC2 still tries to maintain. For more than 50 years, his name on a wildlife documentary has guaranteed it will have been made with an intelligent quest for learning. He turns 83 next month, but Sir David's credibility forms a compelling argument for using proper intellects to front such programmes, rather than TV 'faces'.

Tunde Banjoko

Co-founder of Leap

Demoralised by being unemployed himself, Banjoko founded Leap (Local Employment Access Project) in London 16 years ago. It has now helped 4,000 people, largely from ethnic minorities, into work through teaching and advice on attitudes and behaviour. Students of Leap have a 70 per cent chance of gaining a job compared to 30 per cent on the New Deal. The project is under threat as government funding falters.

Nina Barough

Founder of Moonwalk

This fashion stylist had the idea of power-walking the 1996 New York Marathon with friends dressed in blinged-up bras to raise money for breast cancer. Nina had never even known anyone with the disease. Then, eight months later, she found she had a breast tumour. That walk grew into her charity Walk the Walk. Last year 15,000 bra-clad women walked 26 miles through London.

Camila Batmanghelidjh

Kids Company founder/director

Born into immense wealth in Iran, this psychotherapist founded "Place to Be", an in-school advice service, in her mid-twenties. In 1996, she started the legendary "Kids Company" which provides support, therapy and training to neglected children in Peckham, south London. Independent observers say Kids Company has saved more than 3,000 children from prison.

Ed Baxter

Controller and co-founder of Resonance 104.4 FM

Baxter heads a team of two full-time staff and more than 150 volunteers, including schoolchildren, professors, reformed bank robbers, refugees, fine artists and piano tuners. He has been an installation artist, concert producer and independent publisher. Resonance rarely achieves commercial listening figures but is listened to by up to 250,000 people.

L/Cpl Johnson Beharry

Victoria Cross holder

Born in Grenada, he emigrated to Britain in 1999 and worked as a painter and decorator until enlisting in the British Army in 2001. At 25, he was awarded the Victoria Cross (one of 12 since 1945) for acts of bravery which saved 30 soldiers' lives in two ambushes in Iraq in 2004. He suffered serious head injuries in the second ambush and has been outspoken about care for war veterans.

Dr William Bird

Oxfordshire GP

Creator of the "green gym" concept, taken up by British Conservation Trust Volunteers; and founder of "Walking Your Way to Health" run by Natural England. This GP's initiatives have introduced more than 200,000 people to the natural environment and its health benefits. Moreover, outdoor exercise has been officially credited as a treatment that GPs can prescribe as an alternative to drugs.

Quentin Blake

Illustrator

Blake ignites a childish spark in adults and is beloved of generations of kids. He understands the brilliant and naughty sides of children which he captures in his idiosyncratic, erratic style. He has exhibited at Somerset House; curated shows at the National Gallery and the British Library; and has founded an illustration project for hospitals in which his work can be seen in some wards.

David Bouch

Head gardener, Cotehele

Representative of that happy and worthwhile breed: the National Trust gardener. His patch is the Tudor estate of Cotehele, Cornwall. He teaches gardening skills to troubled youngsters in conjunction with the Prince's Trust. Cotehele's "traditional breeds" Mother Orchard, propagating Tamar Valley apple and cherry varieties, was also developed under his direction.

Hilary Bradt

Founder of Bradt travel guides

Still hitchhiking in her sixties, this travel writing pioneer has published more than 100 socially responsible and eco-friendly travel guides over 36 years. She quit as an occupational therapist in order to travel, and to develop the company which specialises in such uncommon destinations as Afghanistan, Rwanda and North Korea, to help local economies and people.

Lorraine Brown

Director, Amelia Trust Farm

This Methodist deacon runs a 160-acre farm in the Vale of Glamorgan that provides accredited classes for troubled youngsters in anything from guitar to stone masonry. A former community nurse, she joined the ministry five years ago and applies a practical attitude to religion and spirituality, perceiving greater benefit from good works than church attendance.

Fabio Capello

England football team coach

The appointment of this art-collecting, opera-loving Italian in December 2007 lifted the spirits. The way he has conducted himself since then has made all intelligent England followers even happier. England are winning and here, at last, is a manager who will have no truck with the silly demands of his over-paid players or their even sillier wives and hangers-on.

Shami Chakrabarti

Civil liberties campaigner

This former Home Office barrister joined Liberty (previously known as the National Council for Civil Liberties) in 2001. She has become the country's leading agitator against repressive, intrusive legislation, defending ancient English liberties more effectively than anyone else. And, unlike many "serious" campaigners, she has retained a lively sense of humour.

Sir Iain Chalmers

Champion of medical evidence

According to physician-philosopher Raymond Tallis, he has "saved more lives than any other [doctor] I have met". He founded the Cochrane Collaboration to review medical evidence, and has devoted 30 years to winning free access to unbiased evidence on effects of drugs. To him, withholding drug safety trials (50 per cent of which go unpublished in the US) is "scientific misconduct".

Christopher Charlton

Heritage conservationist

Director of the Arkwright Society, this former Nottingham University lecturer who has been involved for the past 30 years in the rescue of the world's first water-powered cotton mill in Cromford village, Derbyshire, and other buildings on this World Heritage site. The mill now provides young offenders with work experience and houses a hostel for disadvantaged youths.

Frank Connell

Fundraiser/volunteer

A barber by trade, he has been volunteering and fundraising in Lincoln for more than 25 years. Frank is a tireless supporter of the Lincoln homeless charity, the Nomad Trust. He was appointed Town Sheriff in 2008 in recognition of his achievements. A happy, ever-chatty example of Britain's army of caring local activists who do so much for their area.

Mark Criddle

RNLI volunteer

The Ice Prince, a 6,395 tonne Greek freighter, had listed by 40 degrees and threatened to capsize with its crew of 20 off the Devon coast in January 2008. But all hands were saved thanks to lifeboat captain Criddle, of Torbay, and his six-man crew. He received three national bravery awards for a particularly difficult and courageous rescue that highlights the 10,000 rescues that RNLI volunteers carry out each year.

Peter Cruddas

Philanthropist/businessman

Born in east London, the son of a cleaner and a Smithfield meat porter, Cruddas left school aged 15. He went on to found online trading group, CMC Markets. This financial trader is now said to be worth about £1.2bn and has donated £100m to youth programmes including The Prince's Trust, the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme and Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Bobby Cummines

Chief Executive, Unlock

"I'd done so much bad I wanted to level the scales up," says this former London gang leader who now runs Unlock, a support charity for ex-offenders trying to go straight. Immersed in crime from the age of 16, he didn't know a straight job, and has served time for manslaughter and bank robbery. "Education was my liberation," he explains, it "humanised me".

Teresa D'Arcy

Events co-ordinator

A former office worker, she fulfils the wishes of residents at Liverpool's Mossley Manor care home by organising an "in-home" band, weekly trips out, visits from old Everton players, and belly dancers. She also puts on garden parties and Grandmother's Day celebrations. She is an example of the thousands of people who bring happiness to the elderly in residential care homes.

Anthony D'Offay

Arts patron

This art dealer gave £97m to education in the arts and heritage, and sacrificed £98.5m of the value of an art collection to make it affordable to the National Galleries of Scotland and the Tate. Explaining why he sold 725 works, valued at £125m, for just £26.5m, Sheffield-born D'Offay describes his student walks around Edinburgh's National Galleries as the "defining moments of my life".

Nicole Dryburgh

Fundraiser

Nicole's teenage years read like a catalogue of misfortune: afflicted with a spine tumour at 11, she also suffered a brain haemorrhage, Bell's palsy, a stroke and is now blind and nearly deaf. Aged 20, she lives with her mum and has so far raised more than £50,000 for charity and aims to collect £50,000 more for Teenage Cancer Trust. Her book The Way I See It, details her experiences.

Danny Boyle

Film director

He picked up eight Oscars for Slumdog Millionaire, which combined the optimism of Bollywood and gritty realism. Boyle is said to have revived British cinema with Shallow Grave (1994) and Trainspotting (1996), and he boosted the British horror genre with 28 Days Later (2002). When handed his Oscar last March, he bounced up and down with joy.

Lauren Child

Writer and illustrator

In her twenties, she waited tables and painted spots for Damien Hirst, but Child found success, aged 32, when her first children's book was published. She now has 26 to her name, and translations into 30 languages. her animated Charlie and Lola TV series is broadcast in 34 countries. She has recently worked with Unesco on "My Life is a Story" documenting the stories of children in developing countries.

Neil Chesebrough

Volunteer coastguard

A full-time postman, Neil became a Coastguard volunteer more than 21 years ago after his brother-in-law and a friend were drowned on a fishing trip. Now station officer for Bude, he leads 12 volunteers and is on call 24 hours a day. When Boscastle was flooded in 2004, his team stepped in, and in 2008 he was voted Postman of the Year. Here he is receiving his award from TV presenter Christine Bleakley.

Marcus du Sautoy

Professor for Public Understanding of Science, Oxford

Allaying the nation's fear of numbers, this surfer and mathematician has written popular mathematics books such as The Music of the Primes and presented the BBC4 series The Story of Maths, which covers topics from the invention of zero to the problems of infinity. The professor has, thus, elucidated a subject that Britain's average placing in international school league tables suggests still baffles many.

Emily Eavis

Co-organiser of the Glastonbury Festival

Taking the reins from her 73-year-old father, Mike, she has brought fresh blood to Glastonbury with artists such as Jay-Z. Raised on the 700-acre farm among the likes of Elvis Costello and The Smiths during festival time, she understands the festival intimately. A supporter of Oxfam, Water Aid and Amnesty International, Emily, 29, has organised political and charity concerts.

Ray Edensor

Fundraising paramedic

He has run 26 marathons in 26 days; run from the Eiffel Tower to Blackpool Tower; and, at 52 years of age this year, has now run 20 half marathons in 20 days wearing a two-stone decontamination suit and accompanied by 2,000 other local runners. His £250,000 fundraising efforts have made his toenails fall out through repeatedly pounding the ground: all in aid of the Dream Comes True charity.

Liam Fairhurst

Charity fundraiser

Now 14, this Cambridgeshire lad was just 10 when a tumour appeared in his left thigh. His fundraising began after his friend, Jack Wilkinson, died of cancer in 2006. He raised £150,000 for "Liam and Jack's Haven", a holiday home for families living with child cancer. Last year he was diagnosed with a second tumour, in his lung, that needs exhausting treatment. We wish him well.

Tony Fowler

Milkman and crimefighter

In addition to his daily duties in rural Leicestershire: bringing milk, groceries and the elderly's prescriptions to 600 customers on a 112.4 mile route, 365 days a year, Tony also foils robberies, drug deals and joyriders. He has helped in the arrest of 25 criminals. A community man who helps out anyone in need, he has been the recipient of local and national awards, and donated all proceeds to charity.

Teddy Goldsmith

Environmentalist

Founder of The Ecologist, brother of billionaire James Goldsmith, he is synonymous with romantic green thinking: the kind that celebrates pre-industrial times. He is anti-GM, and pro-organic farming. In the 1960s he served on the committee that founded the excellent Survival International and the Ecology Party, which was the first of its kind and a precursor to the UK Green Party.

Dr Charmian Goldwyn

Volunteer with Medical Justice

Dr Goldwyn is a retired GP from London who provides voluntary care to immigrants in detention centres. She recently treated, and acted as advocate for, a disabled athlete who, despite winning five Paralympic golds for Britain, faced deportation for a driving offence, and was assaulted while he was in detention. With the help of Dr Goldwyn's testimony he was eventually released.

David Gow

Inventor

This pioneering medical engineer who works for NHS Lothian developed the technology behind the prosthetic i-Limb, and established the first offshoot company from NHS in Scotland (Touch Bionics). His product, the world's first commercially available bionic multi-articulating hand (each finger has its own motor), allows unprecedented dexterity. A happy example of how technology improves people's lives.

John Gray

Philosopher

One of a few public intellectuals to have predicted the collapse of free-market globalisation in False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism. This former Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics has consistently challenged received thinking on "-isms", from terrorism to humanism, for 30 years – shaking the complacent from dogmatic slumber.

David Gustave

Educational motivator, Kids Company

Once he filled his days with violence, stealing and smoking weed, now he encourages troubled youths to reject crime and enrol in university. Half Irish, half West Indian, raised in destitution, he turned his life around in his thirties and won a place to read history at Oxford. When a top career at the Bar beckoned, he declined, choosing instead to inspire, by example, kids from poor homes.

Zaha Hadid

Architect

The Aquatic Centre for the 2012 London Olympics will be just her second British building. Yet Iraq-born, London-based Hadid is considered the greatest female architect around. She is the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize, and has won through in a notoriously macho environment, widening both architectural theory and the boundaries of structural engineering.

Jackie Hall

Manx Wildlife Trust

Here as the representative of the tens of thousands of conservation volunteers who work tirelessly around Britain. The Wildlife Trusts say: "She set up the Manx Basking Shark Watch in 2004, and her dedication has never wavered, even when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006." She learnt how to tag the sharks, and her project has discovered much about these large, gentle creatures.

Phil Harding

Field archaeologist

The real star of Channel 4's long-running Time Team. He is, with his battered, feathered hat, Wessex accent, and chuckling nature, the sort who exudes happiness from every pore. He knows his stuff too, Harding is one of the country's foremost experts on flints, and is, possibly, the smiliest person on television. He is also said to be a keen guitarist and excellent banjo player.

Jimmy Heselden

Entrepreneur

A coalminer made redundant after the 1984 strikes, this reclusive entrepreneur earned £205m from the invention of metal-caging supports for motorway embankments, flood defences and barricades in war zones. He gave £10m to hospitals, children's charities and community projects, and set up the Hesco Bastion Fund in 2008 to distribute grants to groups in the Leeds area.

Stephanie Hilborne

The Wildlife Trusts

The Trusts do so much to nurture our nature, and now have 2,256 reserves around Britain, many on land rescued from industrial oblivion. Stephanie, the youngest chief executive and the first woman, has been particularly involved in the Trusts' Living Landscape campaign which features more than 100 clean-up projects, including the River Wandle in London.

Sandra Horley

Refuge CEO

One in four British women experiences domestic violence, which is behind two murders and 10 suicides a week. This social psychologist has run Refuge for more than 20 years and has been integral in highlighting the issue. A 2009 Home Office poll suggests there's much still to do: one in seven thought it OK for a woman to be hit by a partner for wearing "inappropriate" clothing.

Jonathan Ive

Product designer

Former Essex boy, now of San Francisco, he is the main designer and creative genius behind the iMac, MacBook, PowerBook, iPod and iPhone. Apple's standard-setting aestheticism now allows consumers to demand technology that looks as slick as it processes, and saves us from a ubiquity of black plastic. Known for sharing the credit, he strongly emphasises teamwork.

Madhur Jaffrey

Actress and Indian chef

Rada-trained actress, who was good enough to win the Best Actress award at the 1965 Berlin Film Festival for Shakespeare Wallah, she is the person said to have introduced film producers Ismail Merchant and James Ivory. Her popular cookery books make her the writer who has done more than anyone else to popularise true Indian cuisine.

Steve Johnstone

Black Country Touring, rural arts programme

Here as an example of the vitality of local arts initiatives, this art director brings some of the best British and international touring theatre and dance to the West Midlands. With programming in schools, community centres and art galleries, he also runs projects with local people such as The Corner Shop, which collects stories and images of vanishing grocery stores and newsagents.

Donna Jones

Youth worker and charity founder

The Sheffield Manor estate, backdrop to such films as Kes and The Fully Monty, was tarred by Roy Hattersley's label "the worst estate in Britain". Donna "Jonny woman" Jones (so-called for doling out condoms) strives to change perceptions of Manor's youth, many of whom have won awards for charity. She set up the Manor Young People's Health and Training Project in 1997.

Wasfi Kani

Director Pimlico Opera/ founder of Extraordinary Pimlico Opera

Since 1990, her organisation has brought professional musicians into prisons to train and rehearse with inmates on productions such as Sweeney Todd, Les Miserables and West Side Story, which are then performed to the public. One prisoner said his involvement was the high point of his life; another described how the experience had rebuilt his self-esteem from nothing.

Peter Kay

Comic

Blessed with a face like a slightly dissolute cherub, Peter Kay has become the court jester of ordinary England, observing our silliest behaviour and turning it into the truest-to-life stand-up material around. With such TV shows as Pheonix Nights, and live shows like the "Mum Wants A Bungalow" tour, Kay is now simply Britain's best comedian.

Tim Keirman

Former NatWest cashier

This Cambridge bank clerk clandestinely helped customers navigate bank bureaucracy to reclaim bank charges. For more than two years he gave targeted advice and leaked internal guideline documents to help those for whom "charges were ruining lives". While the full scale of big bank CEOs' negligence came to light, Kiernan was sacked in January 2009 for "gross misconduct".

Simon King

Wildlife documentary maker

Springwatch and Autumnwatch viewers know that, however dumbed down the rest of the programme might be, when the action switches to King, you get quality footage and information. This Nairobi-born cameraman has worked on many of David Attenborough's series and survived an attack by a rabid cheetah. He is one of the best things about British television.

Kane Kramer

Inventor

This visionary left school at 15 but eight years later, in 1979, he developed the technology behind MP3. Unable to renew a global patent, he lost out on millions. His invention, however, would change our relationship with music. Kramer, founder and director of the British Inventors Society, is now working on a gizmo that he claims will be greater than the iPod.

Richard Mabey

Natural history writer

Here for two reasons. First, his poetic and intelligent nature books, from the early Food For Free, through to The Flowering of Britain, and The Unofficial Countryside, to his masterpiece, Flora Britannica, one of the most important books published in the past 50 years. Second, his re-emergence from depressive illness, a renewal as uplifting to readers as any spring.

Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow

Charity founder

From an Argyll shed, this self-effacing former fish farmer founded two international charities. He was compelled by images of the Bosnian war to drive a van of aid there. This became Scottish International Relief which now helps 55,000 abandoned "children" in Romania. His second charity, Mary's Meals, provides schoolchildren in 13 developing countries with a midday meal.

Ricky McCalla

Music training project designer for young people

As a dancer and choreographer, he worked with artists such as Ashanti and Mis-Teeq. But, at 22, he was shot by a car-jacker and his career was ruined. After three months of depression, he founded Frosted Ice Inc, which offers courses on music production to gang victims. More than 300 teenagers have participated and in 2008 he received a Mobo award.

Sir Ian McKellen

Actor

A classically-trained actor, like a latter-day Alec Guinness, he has reached younger wider audiences through his performances in such films as Lord of the Rings and X-Men and in panto as Widow Twanky at the Old Vic. He has campaigned against the UK's antiquated blasphemy laws and works to promote tolerance of, and discussion about, homosexuality.

Helen Marriage

Creative director of Artichoke

A former director of Canary Wharf Arts and the Salisbury Festival, she now specialises in grand spectacle. She and co-director Nicky Webb brought a 43-ton sultan's elephant and 20ft puppet girl to London's streets. She oversaw the 50ft Spider for Liverpool's year as Capital of Culture, and Artichoke is now collaborating with Antony Gormley on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square.

James Martin

IT guru and patron

Largest ever single donor to a British university, he bequeathed £100m to his alma mater Oxford, founding the ground-breaking "21st Century School" in 2005. The centre's 15 institutes are devoted to a range of scientific and social areas and provide inter-disciplinary solutions to global problems. The centre boasts such intellectual luminaries as Craig Venter and Joseph Stiglitz.

Frances Mayhew

Director, Wilton's Music Hall

At 24, she fell in love with Wilton's, in Tower Hamlets, east London, the world's oldest and last surviving grand music hall. She has been involved with the building ever since and, without funding and between shows, she struggles to raise the £5m for its full restoration. Her efforts secured devoted actors, Prince Charles as its patron, and a listing with the World Monument Fund.

Josie Long

Comedian

At just 27, Long is a comedy circuit veteran of 13 years, eliciting laughs from cheerful skits, refreshingly free of cynicism and ennui. Straight after graduating in English from Oxford, she supported Stewart Lee on his 2005 spring tour. She won the Edinburgh Fringe Best Comedy Newcomer a year later and has since worked with the BBC, the New Humanist and Comic Relief.

Jekka McVicar

Horticulturalist

People who actually grow things in their gardens have been inspired far more by herb specialist Jekka than coachloads of television garden designers. Her herb farm has Britain's largest collection of culinary and medicinal plants and she has won 61 Royal Horticultural Society gold medals, including 13 at the Chelsea Flower Show. A happy pioneer of organic growing.

Pauline Mayson

Dreams co-ordinator

As a child, her conscience was pricked by doing paper rounds at Manchester Children's Hospital. Now, at 65, she has fulfilled more than 1,000 dreams over 16 years for children with terminal and debilitating illnesses. Through the charity Dreams Come True she has organised safaris in South Africa, bespoke play equipment for disabled children, trips in Bugatti sports cars, and snorkelling in the Philippines.

Ray Mears

Woodsman, bush-craft expert

Mears is an authentic advocate of nature. Raised in Surrey, he followed a stint in the City by opening a bush-craft school, aged 19. Sixteen years have passed since his first BBC programme, Tracks. Nine series and 10 books later, he still trains both ordinary people and Army units. He says: "My work is about nature, not surviving. Survival is the brutal end of a much more beautiful subject."

Alan Moore

Comic book writer, occultist

He transformed the comic book with Watchmen, felt by many to be the acme of the genre. An English eccentric, he eschews publicity, practices magic and worships (by his own admission) the fraudulent snake-god Glycon. In his home town, Northampton, he's known as "that bloke with the long hair" and helps with heritage and community projects with young artists.

Christopher Morgan

Literacy crusader

This Eton-educated farmer founded the Shannon Trust to improve literacy among prisoners. In his fifties, he began writing to lifer Tom Shannon after answering a request for volunteers by the Prison Reform Trust in The Independent. The correspondence taught him about prison life. The scheme has involved 15 to 20,000 better-educated prisoners teaching the lesser-educated.

Chris Morris

Satirist

Dark and irreverent, Morris has been sending up social mores, pack mentality and collective hysteria since the highly original and quite brilliant television spoof, Brass Eye, in 1997. Since then, he has sent up gun-loving rappers, suicide, columnists, Martin Amis, and, shortly, will give Islamic terrorists what he has described as the same treatment that 'Dad's Army' gave the Nazis.

Carole Pallant

Wish fulfiller

Over 20 years this former volunteer nurtured the Make-a-Wish Foundation from a local project into a national operation. She has been personally involved with most of the 5,000 wishes: from just four in 1986, to 600 last year. The charity grants wishes to children and young people fighting life-threatening illnesses: from meeting Manolo Blahnick to having poetry published.

Bryn Parry

Charity founder

An ex-soldier, this cartoonist set-up Help for Heroes in 2007 to raise money for veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. It raised more than £12.5m in its first year for such projects as a pool and gym complex at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre in Surrey; a convalescence centre in Edinburgh; and the modernisation of Tyrwhitt House, a centre that treats post-combat stress.

Grayson Perry

Artist

The Essex-born potter astonished the art world when, as an unrecognised 43 year old, he won the Turner Prize, and collected it in a schoolgirl's dress. He has become the art world's custodian of folk Britishness with shows inspired by rural Lincoln life and exhibitions featuring forgotten and "unpopular" post-war British painting. He cuts a fun and unpretentious figure in modern art.

Leslie Phillips

Actor

Once, the trainee lothario in a score of Fifties and Sixties comedy films, and gentleman caller on Caroline Mortimer, stepdaughter of the playwright, Sir John Mortimer. He graduated to more serious theatrical and film roles including a part in Steven Spielberg's Empire of The Sun, but, at 85 tomorrow, his wonderful good nature still shines through in everything he does. A national treasure.

Gopaldas Popat

Volunteer, fundraiser, patron of Asian Foundation for Help

A local character, known affectionately as "the carrier-bag man" for the leaflets he carries, this 85 year old has devoted 25 years to charity work since coming to Britain from Uganda in 1984. He founded the Asian Foundation for Help to raise funds for causes in Africa and Asia. It has donated 60 ambulances in India alone and has raised £2m for international projects and UK charities.

Terry Pratchett

Writer and campaigner

The best-selling author of the Discworld fantasy novels (second only to JK Rowling in hardcover sales) was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease in 2007. Now Patron of The Alzheimer's Research Trust, he has donated £500,000 to research and is raising awareness through a documentary TV series on a stigmatising condition that afflicts one in 20 people over 65.

Gill Raikes

National Trust's director of fundraising

She hails from a family steeped in nature, and is integral to the raising of £80m each year to expand the land conserved for nature and public use by the NT. She made her name on the Neptune Campaign (which her father co-founded), the Trust's most successful fundraiser, supplying cash to protect Britain's coast – one sixth of which is now under Trust ownership. A deserving representative of a wonderful body.

Jane Ritchie

Philanthropist

The unwitting beneficiary of a £9m estate, this former careers advisor gave £5m to found the Industrial Learning Centre in Co Durham. She has sought to forge links between the classroom and industry and fought for 10 years to build the centre which provides vocational training. Other grants have gone to a local Citizen's Advice Bureau and the air ambulance service.

Sam Roddick

Founder, Coco de Mer

For revolutionising sex accessories from something bought in Soho to beautiful (even environmentally-friendly) items. Daughter of Anita Roddick, she founded the London female-friendly emporium in 2001, and with another branch just opened in Los Angeles and a successful online store, its wares are accessible to anyone who likes things risqué but tasteful.

Tessa Ross

Film4 controller and controller of Channel 4 Drama

Hailed as "the great enabler of British film" by Danny Boyle, she has brought some of Britain's most successful recent films to screen: Billy Elliot, This is England, The Last King of Scotland, Happy Go Lucky, Hunger and Slumdog Millionaire, as well as the television sensation Shameless. Respected, accomplished and Film4's best hope in its current funding mire.

Andrew Sachs

Actor

Creator of the timeless comic figure Manuel, the Spanish waiter so bullied by John Cleese's Basil in Fawlty Towers. Then, at the age of 78, he encountered bullying for real via the infamous yob phone calls from a leering Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand. He bore this, as did his character in Fawlty Towers, with grace and humour. A happy example to us all.

Henry Sandon

Antiques expert

The 80-year-old pin-up boy of the Antiques Roadshow, Henry is a former archaeologist who became one of the world's leading porcelain experts. It is impossible to look at his beaming face without smiling. He was honoured in 2008 for, among other things, his charity work. He was born in east London in 1928 and has written many books on the subject of Royal Worcester and other porcelains.

Frederick Sanger

Bio-chemist

Two times recipient of a Nobel Prize (only the fourth double winner). He received the first in 1958 after he mapped the structure of insulin which revolutionised diabetes treatment; his second, in 1980, was for a mode of sequencing genes. A Second World War conscientious objector, this modest 89-year-old agnostic declined a knighthood. He is a vocal critic of commercialisation of science.

Uanu Seshmi

Co-founder, Boyhood to Manhood Foundation

Love and respect can reform even the most hardened young men, says this practitioner of meditation and martial arts. His 12-week course teaches troubled young men to communicate, control their anger, and develop their own values in order to return to the education system. It has a 95 per cent success rate among more than 11,000 people who have been involved.

Jane Shepherdson

High-street wizard, CEO of Whistles

She transformed the high-street and how British women dress. As brand director of teenage Topshop she made it an edgy success with appeal across ages. UK Vogue editor, Alexander Shulman says she's "a visionary". After 20 years she left Topshop in 2006 for ethical stints at Oxfam and fair-trade brand People Tree, eventually moving to Whistles to focus on quality, cut and style.

Simba

Pets As Therapy (PAT) dog

This leonberger is one of 4,500 temperament-assessed dogs and 800 cats providing solace to residents of care centres. Simba was voted PAT dog of the year by health professionals for his work with stroke sufferers, the terminally ill, and children with severe dog phobias. His three to four days of weekly work provide companionship and occupational therapy.

Eleanor Simmonds

Champion Paralympic swimmer

Eleanor has distinguished herself with a series of firsts. She was the youngest Paralympic gold medallist (she won in the 100m and 400m freestyle events), and she subsequently became the youngest recipient of on a MBE in the last New Year's Honours. At just 13, Eleanor was the youngest British competitor at the last Paralympics and her beaming face represented the joys and successes of Team GB in Beijing.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Football coach

Former Manchester United player, now manager of the reserve side, he is that rare thing: a figure in professional football who takes an intelligent interest in world affairs – and cares. He donated all of the £2m proceeds from his Old Trafford testimonial to build schools in Angola, Mozambique, and Malawi. Solskjaer is also an ambassador for the United Nations Children's Fund.

Shane Sutton

Cycling track coach

An inspirational coach with an irrepressible character, this Aussie was essential to Team GB's eight gold medals in Beijing. A gold winner himself, in 1978, he has since put his energy (he sleeps just two or three hours nightly) into British success. His attention to detail is legendary and maddening to his athletes at times – even Chris Hoy bemoans the rigour of his training regime.

Thomas the Tank Engine

Train

Created more than 60 years ago by Birmingham vicar, the Reverend W V Awdry, to entertain his son, Christopher, while he was bedbound with the measles. The little train with a face first appeared in 1946 and has given pleasure to generations of children around the world. The tank engine is a steam locomotive with large rectangular tanks to carry water. Thomas is now a true British icon.

Andrew Thomson

Entrepreneur, director of Sign-now.com

He created a web-based video conferencing service that enables deaf people to communicate via a laptop. He also developed an equivalent translation service enabling the deaf to communicate with the hearing public. This former RBS manager, deaf from birth, also founded Sign-Tube a social networking and video-posting platform for the deaf community.

Sophi Tranchell

MD of Divine Chocolate Ltd

With brilliant business acumen honed at Metro-Tartan Films, she has turned the unique relationship between Divine and Kuapa Kokoo (the Ghanaian co-operative that owns 45 per cent of the company) into a profitable venture. It is the only cocoa co-operative in Ghana and has 45,000 farmer members. Over its first ten years Divine has delivered over $1m of Fairtrade premium to the farmers, and nearly £1m towards producer support and development. Kuapa Kokoo also receives its share of distributable profits.

Peter White

Broadcaster

A veteran broadcaster on local and national BBC and the Beeb's Disability Affairs Correspondent since 1995. He was the first blind person to produce reports for TV news and, over the past decade, has written acclaimed radio series and presented Radio 4 shows. He is also a Winchester pub landlord, a proud atheist, and has spoken frankly about his the difficulties of fostering.

Professor Gordon Williams

Medical director, Fistula Hospital, Addis Ababa

He has spent 21 years teaching Ethiopian gynaecologists to repair organ damage caused by fistula pregnancies, which are common in countries where women are poorly nourished and marry young. The consequences include incontinence and banishment. He became Dean of an Ethiopian medical school in 2007, where he strives to develop rural medical care structures.

Richard Williamson

Nature writer

Son of Henry, author of Tarka the Otter, for many years he was the warden of Kingley Vale National Nature Reserve in West Sussex, site of the world's largest yew forest. For decades Williamson has written Britain's best nature column, which appears in a regional newspaper group, using his immense knowledge to help Sussex residents and visitors appreciate their surroundings a little better.

Jacqueline Wilson

Children's books writer

Former Children's Laureate, the most "borrowed" writer in British libraries has written more than 90 books including Tracy Beaker, now CBBC's highest ratings show. Tackling topics teachers and parents avoid, her popularity – she has sold 20 million books in Britain alone – is based to a non-patronising style that liberates kids in a world they're part of but often excluded from.

Louise Wilson

Fashion design tutor, Central Saint Martin's College of Art and Design

Creative mentor of Britain's fashion talent and guarantor of London's fashion kudos. Acerbic, blunt and demanding, since 1992 she has been course director of St Martin's two-year Master's degree. She trained Luella Bartley, Jens Laugesen, Sophia Kokosalaki, and Alexander McQueen. More than 90 per cent of her small class start their own label or are taken up by big fashion houses.

Sir Ian Wood

Philanthropist

In the style of the great industrial benefactors, the second richest man in Scotland (worth about £890m), and charitable donor of £50m, has pledged a further £50m towards the development of Aberdeen, Europe's oil capital and his home town. He is also funding economic programmes in sub-Saharan Africa and has put money into civic youth projects within Scotland.

Barbara Wragg

Lottery winner

With her husband Ray, a construction-worker, this former auxiliary-nurse, 68, has given more than £5.5m of her £7.6m lottery jackpot away since her win nine years ago. The modest Sheffield couple have invested in some comforts, such as a bigger home, but most of their money goes to causes ranging from reimbursing conned pensioners to equipping children's hospitals.

Ralph Steadman

Cartoonist and caricaturist

Illustrator to Hunter S Thompson and the works of Ted Hughes, Lewis Carroll and George Orwell, this Welshman's eye-popping ink work gets under the skin with a style that betrays his engineering background. The violent satire of his caricatures impose modesty on the pompous: "I make sure nobody is allowed to run away with the idea that they are superior," he says.

Hayley Vendyback

Nurse

Stationed in Afghanistan, this 28-year-old emergency nurse and RAF sergeant is part of the 24-hour standby Medical Emergency Response Team which flies four-per-helicopter to collect the critically wounded on the frontline and take them to the station hospital. This Leicester-born woman is here as a representative of Britain's nurses, who bring smiles as well as care.

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