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HomeDebrett’s 500 2017The Inspire List

The Inspire List

In an Olympic and Paralympic year, and with the scale of social and political changes in 2016, we inevitably had a longer list of nominees than our 500 list allowed us to publish.

The names on this list were all nominated by our panel of influencers for their extraordinary achievements, and we felt they deserved special mention for their accomplishments and especially for the inspiration they evoke. 

Wheelchair Racer24-year-old Hannah Cockcroft currently holds the Paralympic and world records in wheelchair racing over three distances: 100m, 200m and 400m. At Rio in 2016 she added three gold medals to the two she won at London in 2012, and her services to athletics were recognised in 2013 when she was appointed MBE. A star on the dancefloor as well as the track, in 2014 Cockroft won Sport Relief’s Strictly Come Dancing with partner Pasha Kovalev. Born with cerebal palsy, Cockroft suffered two cardiac arrests at birth, which caused brain damage. Her parents were told that she would be unlikely to walk, talk or live beyond her teenage years.
Paralympic AthleteParalympic medallist Dave Henson is a former British army captain and bomb disposal specialist who lost both his legs to an IED while serving in Afghanistan. Henson captained Britain in the inaugural Invictus Games in 2012 and last year won a bronze medal in the 200m T42 at the Rio Paralympics. A graduate in mechanical engineering, he took an MA in biomedical engineering after recovering from his injuries, focusing on amputee biomechanics with the aim of improving prosthetic limbs. Henson was appointed MBE in 2014.
CellistIn 2016 cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason was named the BBC’s Young Musician of the Year, with a winning performance of Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No 1 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican. Kanneh-Mason also appeared with five of his six siblings on Britain’s Got Talent in 2015, with Simon Cowell calling them ‘the most talented family in the world’. Now 18, he won a scholarship aged nine to the Royal Academy of Music and scored the highest marks in the country in his Grade 8 cello. Kanneh-Mason also performs with the Chineke! orchestra and names Bob Marley and Jacquelien du Pré amongst his musical heroes.
Trainee, Nabarro LLPJasleen Kaur came to the UK in 2005 as a refugee from Afghanistan. As Sikhs, her family had been persecuted and forced to flee the country, and Kaur spoke no English when she arrived in Huddersfield. She attended Moor End Academy and secured a place at the selective Greenhead College, one of the country's best sixth form colleges. In 2013, she graduated with a first-class law degree from Huddersfield University. Kaur moved to London after graduating and, after further study, applied for a vacation scheme at international firm Nabarro, securing a training contract. 
Editor-in-chief, Gal DemOlivia Simone 'Liv' Little is the 22-year-old editor-in-chief of Gal Dem, an online and print magazine now staffed by more than 70 women of colour. Little set up Gal Dem feeling frustrated with the lack of diversity at her university in Bristol and with the aim of addressing the same problem in the mainstream media. Gal Dem tackles social issues as wide-ranging as Hackney's housing and Kanye West's mental health, as well as music, arts and fashion. Little says her mother is her biggest inspiration, as well as 'my grandma... the sassiest lady you'll ever meet.'
Head of Physics, Simon Langton School, KentDescribed as ‘hugely inspirational’ by our panel, it has been estimated that physics teacher Becky Parker is responsible for some 1% of all physics undergraduates in the country, and 2% of female ones. The popularity of her subject at the Simon Langton Grammar School in Kent is testament to her innovative approach: she developed the Langton Star Centre, a specialist facility complete with astronomical observatory, which allows students to work on authentic research alongside scientists from Cern and NASA. Parker studied at the University of Sussex and the University of Chicago and was awarded an MBE in 2008 for services to science and education.
Para-swimmer15-year-old para-swimmer Ellie Robinson won a gold medal at Rio in 2016 in the S6 50m butterfly event, setting a new Paralympic record. Robinson, who is at school in Northampton, was born with achondroplasia and began swimming aged four, but only took it up ‘properly’ after the London 2012 games, where she was inspired by fellow swimmer Ellie Simmonds. She was appointed MBE in the 2017 New Year Honours and was the BBC’s 2016 Young Sports Personality of the Year.
Poet and BroadcasterPoet, author and broadcaster Lemn Sissay was nominated by our panel for his inspirational work with those who have left the care system. Sissay’s Ethiopian mother gave him up to be fostered when he was born, and he later entered care, moving through four children’s homes, an experience he describes as ‘being locked up without charge.’ He became a poet at 17 and released his first book at 21. Sissay’s Christmas Dinner project provides a lunch for care leavers in five UK cities on Christmas Days, and he established a PhD scholarship at the University of Huddersfield to enable those who have been in care to pursue a passion for literature. Sissay is also chancellor of the University of Manchester.
Trainee Solicitor, Ashurst LLPMike Smith was studying for a medical degree when he began to notice an irregularity in his left eye, and in 2010, he was diagnosed as officially blind. To help him adjust to his condition, Smith worked as an intern for professionals with physical impairments, including shadowing a blind lawyer. He became the first undergraduate to win the Principal’s Award at King’s College London for his work improving access for applicants with disabilities and is now a trainee at Ashurst, which he chose because it was the firm of blind Paralympic swimmer Lord Holmes, an organiser of the 2012 Paralympic Games.
Deputy Headteacher, Edgewood Primary SchoolMichael Tidd is an influential figure in the UK’s primary education sector, especially in relation to curriculum and assessment. Deputy head of Edgewood Primary School in Nottinghamshire, Tidd is an advocate of feedback as distinct from marking, and his blog ‘Ramblings of a Teacher’ provides advice and information to parents and teachers. He is an assessment advisor for educational publisher Rising Stars, a contributor to the Times Educational Supplement and previously taught in primary schools in West Sussex, his home county.
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