2007's next big things

Who will be the bright young stars of 2007? Our experts introduce the hottest new talents from the worlds of art, music, books, fashion, food, politics and sport

Saturday 30 December 2006 01:00 GMT

The pop star: Mika

Mika is that rare thing - a singer-songwriter with charisma and talent. Add to that a penchant for grandiose Technicolor pop and you have a proper star-in-waiting. The son of a Lebanese father and an American mother, Mika was born in Beirut in the mid-Eighties and grew up listening to everything from folk to flamenco. A series of traumatic childhood experiences, including the kidnapping of his father at the American embassy in Kuwait in 1993, did nothing to dampen his enthusiasm for singing and performing. When he was nine the family relocated to Paris and then to London where, under the tutelage of a Russian voice coach, Mika began to hone his craft. At 11, he made his stage debut in Richard Strauss's Die Frau ohne Schatten. This was followed by a stint at the Royal College of Music, though he dropped out deciding he was better suited to pop.

There was a false start with a record company who wanted to turn Mika into the next Craig David. Undeterred, he pursued his signature sound - a glorious collision of shiny pop and pomp rock. His début album, Life in Cartoon Motion, released next February and containing the single "Grace Kelly", is a masterpiece in pop melodrama. One part Rufus Wainwright to two parts Queen, the album finds Mika extolling the virtues of generously proportioned women ("Big Girl") and simply celebrating being alive ("Love Today"). With a recent appearance on Later With Jools Holland, a Radio 1 Record of the Week and a gushing endorsement on Popbitch, Mika's time has clearly come. Bright lights and degeneracy beckon.

Chosen by Fiona Sturges

The film director: Paul Andrew Williams

It is not every year, or even every five years, that one can claim to have seen a great British film, but Paul Andrew Williams has made just that in his début feature, London to Brighton. Swift, intense and as brutal as a sawn-off shotgun, it tells the story of a prostitute and an 11-year-old girl on the run from a pimp whose gang boss has murderous revenge in mind. Williams, a 33-year-old film-maker, was born in Portsmouth but moved with his family to Liverpool aged three. After drama school, he made a series of pop promos and short films, including Royalty, which provided the basis of London to Brighton. He wrote the script over a weekend at his parents' house, eventually found producers to help him raise some money and shot the film over 19 days. The budget was £80,000. How did he manage it? " By not paying anyone," he laughs. "The actors and crew did it for deferred fees, and most of the real locations cost us nothing."

It helped that his script was a belter - the only reason why an actor would work for free. The film had gathered momentum even before its release, clinching awards at the Edinburgh and Dinard Film Festivals and then winning Best UK Feature at London's Raindance Festival. When the reviews began to appear, things became emotional: a five-star rave in The Independent brought tears to his eyes. "The press reaction has been so totally beyond our expectations," he says; adequate compensation, it seems, for the disappointment he went through trying to make a film in Hollywood.

He says that his next outing, a genre piece called The Cottage, might provoke a rather different reaction from his first: "I might have tears in my eyes for all the wrong reasons," he admits. For now, he deserves every plaudit coming his way.

Chosen by Anthony Quinn

The politician: Ed Miliband

As a member of Gordon Brown's small inner circle, Ed Miliband looks certain to move quickly up the political ladder when the Chancellor moves into No 10 in 2007. Miliband, 37, is the lesser known of two double acts. His brother David, the Environment Secretary, is a "Blairite for Brown". Their late father, Ralph, was the Marxist theorist.

Ed Miliband is one of the Chancellor's "two Eds" - the other is Ed Balls, the Treasury Minister. He was a Treasury special adviser from 1997 to 2002, when he left to teach economics at Harvard University to broaden his experience. He returned to the Treasury in 2004 and was tipped to enter Downing Street as head of policy if Mr Brown had become Prime Minister before the last general election.

In the event, Miliband moved to frontline politics in 2005 by becoming MP for Doncaster North. A year later, he was promoted to junior minister in charge of voluntary groups and charities. At the Treasury, officials recall him as a clever strategic thinker and, unusually for a politician, a " genuinely nice guy".

When Mr Brown forms his first administration, he is likely to put Mr Miliband into a frontline job just below Cabinet rank, such as Schools Minister or Health Minister. But if he decides to make dramatic changes by promoting Labour's rising stars, then Mr Miliband could enter the Cabinet, perhaps in charge of international development, work and pensions or communities and local government. If Mr Brown wins the next election, then Mr Miliband looks a good bet to become Foreign Secretary.

Chosen by Andrew Grice

The artist: Aisling Hedgecock

The most recent graduate sculpture show at London's Royal College of Art was as much an exploration of space as of materials. There was object-making, video, part of a house to walk around, and even a boxing ring. The work that looked strongest was a mixture of object-making and drawing made by a young sculptor called Aisling Hedgecock.

The sculptural forms fascinated. They sprawled across the floor, spilled massings of tree or plant shapes in cartoonishly fantastical colours, and all created from tiny individual beads, I discovered. What was even better were the drawings on the wall behind the objects. These were the most meticulous of line drawings: sinuous, flowing shapes of varying densities. The drawings and objects feel part replications of organic forms, and part fantastical, made things loosely based on ideas of molecular structures. She is both a meticulous craftswoman and someone whose work seems to indulge in flights of Baroque fantasy. It's both ingenious and lovely.

Her family has a long history of hand-crafting. Her grandmother was a tailor, her great-grandfather a blacksmith. Both her parents are artists. "As a child, I spent a lot of time running around the hills of Donegal, playing with mud and plants," she says. She's still doing so, but now she is pressing thousands of polystyrene beads into service.

At the moment Aisling is studying at the British School at Rome, having won the Sainsbury Scholarship in Drawing and Sculpture, which continues until September 2007. Her work will be on show next year (aislinghedgecock.co.uk for details). She's on her way.

Chosen by Michael Glover

The playwright: Nina Raine

Nina Raine deservedly won this year's Evening Standard award for Most Promising Playwright for her début play, Rabbit. Given that her father is the poet Craig Raine, there was inevitably speculation that the piece - in which a female PR executive defiantly holds her 29th birthday party in a Groucho-like club rather than sort out her problems with her father - is autobiographical. Envious folk like to point out that, being a Raine, she is not short of powerful literary connections, but they lack the imagination to realise that this might be a burden as well as a blessing.

After a double First at Oxford, Nina Raine became a trainee director at the Royal Court in London where she assisted luminaries such as Stephen Daldry, Katie Mitchell and Ian Rickson on work by top writers such as Harold Pinter, Caryl Churchill and David Hare. It's an apprenticeship that has made her one of those rare dramatists who can double as the ideal director of their own plays. Her production of Rabbit was perfectly attuned to the exhilarating comic honesty with which it explores the double-standards in male-female relationships, and the bruised sensitivity of smart professionals who are old enough to have several relationships under their belt and young enough to resent losing the illusion of unconditional happiness.

In the past year, she has also directed and helped shape the script of Unprotected, an award-winning and now desolatingly topical verbatim piece about two Liverpool prostitutes who in 2003 were chopped up by murderous clients and left in bin bags.

The £30,000 cash bonus that comes with her Evening Standard award will not be wasted on this highly talented author who has recently completed a play about why women find it hard to become surgeons, and is planning a new drama that looks at fundamentalism from the perspective of deaf people who have a crusading antipathy to lip-reading. For once, pouring Raine is a happy forecast.

Chosen by Paul Taylor

The entrepreneur: Emily Cummins

If greening your life will feature among your New Year resolutions then Emily Cummins is one to watch. The 19-year-old university student with a keen business eye is brimming with ideas. Her latest brainchild is a solar-powered fridge. "I wanted to take a product that people use every day and make it so that it didn't use electricity," she says.

She started out thinking the fridge had potential in the UK, but after a trip to South Africa and Namibia realised it could be a lifesaver for millions of Africans. The design, which she came up with during her A levels, was modified so that the fridge could keep drugs cool where electricity is scarce.

Her thinking saw her scoop the technology prize at the recent Women of the Future Awards and secure £12,000 in sponsorship from Nesta, a Government-backed body that nurtures creative talent, to fine-tune her design.

Cummins' big hope for 2007 is that she can do the requisite scientific tests to get the fridge manufactured. She reckons it chills drugs to 7C, but 6C is her Holy Grail. "That's the temperature that keeps milk cold." The fridge, made from two cylinders, works on the principle of evaporation. The gap between the tubes is packed with wool. Water percolates from a reservoir into the wool, slowly evaporates, and takes heat out of the inner tube.

She first dabbled in design in her grandfather's shed, where as a child she spent hours with him tinkering with machinery. Doing her technology GCSE, she realised "you could find a problem and solve it with design, which was ace". Her first success was a toothpaste dispenser for old people because her arthritic grandfather "couldn't squeeze the tube without hurting his hand".

Chosen by Susie Mesure

The fashion designer: Christopher Kane

Not every fledgling designer can claim Donatella Versace as a "fairy godmother" but when Italy's most famous female fashion icon first saw Christopher Kane's work and discovered that he was in dire need of her signature chain mail (as well one might be) she swiftly sent him some in the post.

"I received this parcel. It was like liquid against skin," the younger designer says. "She's really caring, generous - family-oriented. She has beautiful eyes." Ms Versace was not Kane's only admirer. He went on to capture the attention of American Vogue's Anna Wintour, presenting her with a private viewing of his MA collection at London's Connaught Hotel. And all this before he had even staged his debut London Fashion Week collection in September this year.

With its dazzling neon colour palette, delicate, ruffled lace finish and ultra-short skin-tight silhouette, this was the most energetic and clear-sighted statement the British fashion capital had witnessed for years. "It's over-the-top and flamboyant," the designer says, "but also quite formulated."

Kane was born in Newarthill, outside Glasgow in 1982. He came to London when he was 18 and enrolled on the fine art foundation course at Central Saint Martin's. He went on to complete a BA there and then an MA before setting up as a designer in his own right. Today, he is based in the East End of London and is, officially, that city's Next Big Thing - a dubious honour perhaps but a well-deserved one none the less.

Chosen by Susannah Frankel

The writer: Xiaolu Guo

It hardly takes a Confucian seer to prophesy that writers of Chinese origin will attract keen attention from the global book biz over coming years. And Xiaolu Guo, born 1973, is not quite a newcomer. She works in fiction and in film, which she studied at the Beijing Film School and on a scholarship to London. In 1999, she directed the award-winning Love in the Internet Age, and her screenplay, La Chinoise, is being developed by the Sundance Institution. As a writer, she started young and moved fast. Village of Stone, her haunting and lyrical novel of Chinese country kids living the big-city life, reached the shortlist of The Independent's Foreign Fiction Prize. Her next work of fiction will not be eligible for the award, for one rather revealing reason. Xiaolu Guo, who lives in London, is now writing in English.

Indeed, with A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers (Chatto & Windus, February), she writes not only in English but about it. Inspired by the diaries she kept as a bewildered student in Britain, it traces the heroine's halting steps in the land of "Spicy Girls" and "Big Stupid Clock". Gradually, the initial blunders and pitfalls yield to insight, comedy and romance as "Z" (no one can pronounce her name) falls for a Hackney beau. Meanwhile, key words (from "homesick" to "contradiction") mark her progress in language and in love. It's more acute than cute: small things can make huge differences, as Z discovers. It's also funny, touching and ingenious in its witty lexicon of cultural and verbal breakdowns - and breakthroughs. Charm can conceal harm; Xiaolu Guo's tale has a tougher, more troubling core than its ditsy surface at first suggests.

Chosen by Boyd Tonkin

The photographer: Simon Roberts

Russia has always fascinated Simon Roberts: "As a child it seemed vast and mysterious. It took up most of the wall map in my geography classroom and was the vital region to capture in order to win the board game Risk." In March 2007 the results of this early fascination will be published in his first book Motherland (Chris Boot Publishing, £25); a mixture of colour portraits and landscapes, both beautiful and sometimes bleak, taken all over Russia giving us a contemporary view of the country after the fall of communism. Roberts and his wife spent a year travelling the country, covering 75,000 kilometres and crossing 11 time zones.

Roberts studied photography at Sheffield University and recognition soon followed; winning The Ian Parry Scholarship, being identified by Photo District News as one of their "Emerging Artists" and studying at the World Press Photo Masterclass in Amsterdam. In Motherland, Roberts was looking to counter some of the photographs of Russia that he'd seen in the past few years which focused on collapse, emphasising its turbulent past rather than its future possibilities. Motherland has this month been exhibited at the Lianzhou Photo Festival in China and will be shown from next February at The Photographers' Gallery in London.

Chosen by Nick Hall

The designer: Patrick Watson

I think Big Brother has been fantastically imaginative in its presentation of high modern design - it's one of the main reasons I watch the programme. It was completely new in having en-masse telly with full-on "iconic designer" furniture and has been hugely influential in making those ideas acceptable to a wider public. Those layouts may not be comfortable to live in, but they're clever and unusual and make people think.

Patrick Watson, 34, the head production designer for the series, is an example of that good kind of designer who makes the whole thing happen. After graduating with a degree in product design from Bournemouth in 1994, he spent a year doing retail fitting, which he found altogether too boring, and so embarked on his TV design career via work experience at The Word and then work for The Big Breakfast building sets and props, before finding his niche in reality television.

"The way the Big Brother house works is very peculiar: it's a studio set that you have to make feel as if it's not a set," Patrick says. "Most design is about creatively solving problems - that's the challenge: we can all come up with a fantastic concept but if it costs the earth, or you can't shoot in it, it's no good to anyone." He hits the nail on the head when he says it's "about trying to innovate as much as you can within the constraints of the building".

The way they set out those room-scapes for the camera is consistently innovative. Do I want to live like that? Don't know - I doubt it - but no one else is doing design in that way, with such a level of huge mass influence.

Chosen by Peter York

The chef: Margot Henderson

My hot tip for the emerging new chef of 2007 is Margot Henderson. She runs Rochelle Canteen, a fantastic lunchtime restaurant set in the A-Foundation, a resource for artists in a lovely old Victorian school in London's East End.

It's is a sort of secret location, but rapidly becoming more and more well-known. At the front door of the building, you have to press the buzzer marked "Canteen". Inside you will find East End artists and fashion designers among the customers, drawn by her simple, seasonal and sensational cooking using great ingredients.

Although at the age of 42 she's not exactly a spring chicken, I chose Margot because after running the French House Dining Rooms a few years ago, she went into a "semi-retirement" while she brought up her children - and now she has re-emerged with what I think is one of London's best new restaurants.

She has an impressive pedigree. Born into a foodie family in New Zealand ("cooking was always a passion and at the age of 10 I was cooking snails at my mother's dinner parties," she says), she decided to learn the cooking trade. She furthered her skills after coming to London in the Eighties, working in such celebrated restaurants as 192 (alongside Maddelena Bonino), First Floor, the Quality Chop House and The Eagle in Farringdon.

She met her future husband Fergus (of St John fame) at The Eagle, and in 1992 they teamed up with John Spiteri to open the French House Dining Rooms. "It was an exciting time," she recalls. "Apart from all the romance, I also learnt to cook like Fergus!"

Chosen by Mark Hix

The classical musician: Wu Qian

Brilliant young pianists from Japan are 10-a-penny, but Chinese ones are rarities, so I was drawn to a Wigmore recital by 22-year-old Wu Qian out of curiosity. But after a couple of minutes of Prokofiev's thunderous Second Piano Sonata, my curiosity gave way to awe. Her Albeniz was richly coloured, her Rachmaninov majestic, and her Schumann encore had a dreamy lyricism. If I'd listened blind, I'd have said it was a male Western virtuoso.

How did she begin? "Quite late, when I was six, and saw a piano in a relative's house. I said I wanted one. My father said he'd get me an electric keyboard, but my mum said no and got me a proper piano. I was told, as all Chinese children are, that I must focus on just one thing. So I chose the piano." By nine she was a Shanghai conservatory star, practising seven hours a day, and playing some of Chopin's daunting Etudes.

She was spotted at 11 by a visiting British professor and invited to audition for a scholarship at the Menuhin School in Surrey, where she spent five years before progressing to the Royal Academy. Having arrived with almost no English, she adapted fast, and by her mid-teens had embarked on a concert career both in Britain and Germany.

Now on the verge of a brilliant career - her next London recital is at the Blackheath Halls on 28 January - she's determined not to be listened to as a Chinese pianist, but as a pianist tout court. "My aim is to bring people joy through my playing." She will.

Chosen by Michael Church

The actor: Lorraine Stanley

Even for actors who appear in award-winning films, it's not all flashbulbs and limos to the premiere. Having read the reviews acclaiming her performance in the film London to Brighton, the next week Lorraine Stanley was back putting in the hours as a waitress - her day job.

"I call it posh waitressing," she says cheerfully. "My friend does the catering at big houses in Notting Hill and I do the serving."

Last night Lorraine was doing a corporate gig at Chelsea Royal Hospital, and she spotted that one of the guests was Patricia Routledge, with whom she had once worked. But she didn't say hello, out of shyness. "I wasn't sure whether she'd remember me," she says.

Everyone will remember Lorraine Stanley after seeing her in London to Brighton. She plays Kelly, a streetwalker who is desperate to save an 11-year-old innocent from the vicious hands of her pimp, and she spends most of the movie wearing a painfully swollen black eye. She didn't mind spending all the hours in make-up, so convinced was she of the film's quality: " I would have done it for free, because Paul Andrew Williams [see "The film director"] had written such a brilliant script."

Born, like her director, in Portsmouth, 30-year-old Stanley went to drama school in Chiswick, had a wonderful time and then waited seven years to get her first proper job.

On stage she has worked with Fiona Shaw in Widower's House at the National; on screen she had a glimpse-only part in the Brit-crim picture Gangster No.1 and then in Antonia Bird's TV drama Rehab ("I looked really rough in that, too"). Now, on the strength of London to Brighton, she's been signed up by a top agent and she is looking forward to a career beyond waiting tables.

If Lorraine Stanley maintains the blazing standard of her first starring role then she won't have to worry about re-introducing herself to Patricia Routledge when she next bumps into her; Ms Routledge will come to her.

Chosen by Anthony Quinn

The comedian: Chris Addison

In 2002, the stand-up Chris Addison performed a sell-out show at the Edinburgh Festival entitled The Ape That Got Lucky. With a fair wind, by the end of 2007, he may well be known as The Comic That Got Lucky (And Made The Breakthrough He So Richly Deserved).

Addison has been threatening to hit it big for a number of years now. He has guested on Have I Got News For You, presented several Radio 4 series; made a splash as Olly, in Armando Iannucci's Bafta-winning political satire, The Thick of It; and been nominated for the Perrier Award three times.

The 34-year-old, from Didsbury in Manchester, has been cutting swathes through the live arena, too. Melding wit and wisdom, Addison's shows generate a fizz of electricity. But 2007 looks set to be the year when he finally crosses over into the mainstream: he has recorded a New Year special of The Thick of It (BBC4, Tuesday 2 Jan, 10.30pm); he's writing and starring in his own BBC sitcom, Lab Rats; he is fronting a feature-length BBC documentary, The Hunt For Middle England, and has published a best-selling book, Cautionary Tales for Grown-Ups.

Addison's last three stand-up shows have covered evolution, the development of civilisation and our atomic make-up, but he feels sufficiently confident to laugh off the "boffin" tag. "People have tried to attach the word 'cerebral' to me, but I've fought against that," he says. "How would I describe my act? Dumb jokes about big subjects."

Chosen by James Rampton

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