He has entertained American troops during WWII, prime time television audiences in the 1980s and students at Glastonbury. During a career that has spanned more than 70 years, successive generations have grown up with Sir Bruce at the heart of British television. The length of Sir Bruce’s career is well documented, less well-known is the story behind his rise to prominence in the 1940s and 50s.
Sir Bruce had no contacts and very little in the way of funding when he started performing dance routines in theatres around the country. To practice his acts he would have to tear up his parent’s carpets so he could use their floorboards and the pay from his first professional act didn’t even cover his transport home. He played second fiddle to major stage acts for 16 years before he hit the “big time” at the London Palladium in 1958. By the mid-Sixties Sir Bruce was the best paid entertainer on British television.
During a refurbishment of her boyfriend’s home Chrissie found it was impossible to find white home-wares in national retailers that were both affordable and good quality. After extensive market research she found that white bed linen, table covers, towels and china, were generally either poor quality and cheap or luxury items that were too expensive for the majority of consumers.
Chrissie launched The White Company as a mail order business in 1993 with the aim of providing excellent quality white products at an affordable price. She left her job as a beauty journalist on Harpers & Queen and started to build the business from scratch.
“We want it go be a great experience the minute you walk through the door. To be inspiring and exciting, inviting and welcoming, yet calm and serene. Some of our customers actually tell us they love it so much they often pop in just to calm down if they are having a bad day! We want it to be somewhere you love to spend time in, a bit like home really and somewhere you know you can trust the quality, advice and service.”
“I think this notion that it’s the individual and the cult of the entrepreneur troubles me somewhat. I don’t know many entrepreneurs that don’t have an amazing team around them and I was incredibly lucky that I have always had a great team around me. Brent is a really remarkable person, my family is really remarkable, my boyfriend has been extraordinary. I really mean that very profoundly, it’s made life a lot more fulfilling and I have been a lot more successful than if I had been alone. Obviously it is hard to praise yourself but I hope I have a not-totally-self-aware optimism so what I like to think is I believe in the possible”.
Born to a Welsh-speaking family in Swansea, Rowan Williams went to a nearby state-school where he proved himself to be a relentlessly studious child. By his early-teens he was not only reading extensively but also writing poetry and essays on history and religion. He went on to study and teach theology at both Oxford and Cambridge.
In 1986 he became the youngest professor at Oxford, a year after having been arrested for protesting against nuclear proliferation at RAF Alconbury. Following a series of academic appointments he was elected and consecrated as Bishop of Monmouth, in a “calling he could not refuse”, giving him an opportunity to return to the Church in his home country. He later became Archbishop of Wales before taking up the See of Canterbury. Rowan was the 105th Archbishop in a line that goes back more than 1500 years to Augustine of Canterbury in 597.
Over the last 15 years, Peter Bazalgette has brought some of the best known television formats to our screens. He founded his own production company, Bazal, in the early 90s, making the most of the experience he built up at the BBC as a producer.
He is responsible for the creation of some of the most important entertainment shows in recent television history, including Ready Steady Cook, Changing Rooms and Ground Force.
Crucially, these programmes were not only popular in the UK, but many were sold abroad, in as many as 30 countries. Peter is perhaps best known as the man that brought Big Brother to the UK, starting a ten year long craze that dominated the news as much as it dominated Channel 4’s evening schedule.
The popularity of the series has been a major factor in the success of Endemol, the international production company that absorbed Bazal in the early 90s. During his time as the Chair of Endemol UK and Creative Director of the Endemol Group, the value of the firm trebled to €3.2 billion.
When Julian Fellowes started work on Gosford Park he had hardly expected it to be made into a film, let alone win the Best Original Screenplay category at the 2002 Oscars. On the face of it, that was an extremely improbable outcome, Gosford was Julian’s first screenplay that had been made into a film and it was competing against both Amélie and Memento. As he said in his acceptance speech: “I feel as if I am in A Star is Born and any moment now Norman Maine is going to come out and whack me in the mouth.”
The Oscar win was the reward for a lifetime of hard work and the pursuit of success in the entertainment industry that had started when Julian was a student. The theatre scene at Cambridge allowed him to explore both his interest in acting and his interest in the British class system. Away from the idyllic life he had enjoyed as a child, university introduced Julian to the full spectrum of human society, stimulating a fascination with class that has inspired many of his scripts.
In February 1971, Iceland became Malcolm’s full-time occupation after his employer, Woolworths, discovered he and his business partner were operating a frozen food business “on the side”. Malcolm and another trainee from Woolworths had started a small business of their own in the previous year. In January 2009, Woolworths Group went into liquidation and two months later Malcolm’s frozen foods venture reported record sales of just over £2 billion. It’s an extraordinary journey for the former Woolies employee who started out sweeping the floor and weighing potatoes in the stock room. Today he is thought to be worth in the region of £215 million.
Today Nick’s feature films have multi-million pound budgets backed by some of the biggest names in Hollywood but his first characters were made of a product called Fuzzy Felt and inhabited a world based in his parents’ backgarden. He began making films aged 13, mostly short sketches involving comedy duos such as Walter the Rat and a friendly worm, or Murphy and Bongo, a caveman and a dinosaur. Many filmmakers have had their first experiments in film at a young age but with Nick’s work there is a noticeable continuity between some of the thinking behind the films he made in his teens and what became Wallace & Gromit. His father was the first to note the trademark humour in his short films and encouraged him to go to film school. A real lightbulb moment happened at a film festival where Nick had the idea of combining the kind of humour found in Looney Tunes, Tom & Jerry and Disney cartoons with plasticine animation.
On the night of 18th June 1970, when most eight-year-olds were fast asleep, the young Gerard Baker was wide awake watching the live results of that year’s general election in the UK. He was, in his own words, “a bit of an odd creature in that respect”, with an advanced interest in and understanding of history, politics and current affairs. Born and raised in Britain, a combination of intellectual curiosity and a drive to be the best at school meant that Gerry secured a position to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford, where he developed his fascination with markets and finance. Thinking the best outlet for his interests would be banking, his first jobs after university were working as an economic analyst at the Bank of England and Lloyds.
It is hard to believe now but finding out what was going on in the nation’s capital was a difficult business in 1968. There were no dedicated listings magazines and getting to grips with the cultural scene in the city meant going through what was then called the “underground press” with such titles as International Times, Oz and Gandalf’s Garden. At this time, Tony Elliott was about to go into his final year at Keele University. Seeing a gap in the market, he decided to use a £75 birthday gift from his aunt to start his own listings magazine.
“If people have got a strong idea that is well executed, and clearly it has to be something that fulfills some kind of a need, the last thing the world needs is 150 new music magazines for example, so you’ve got to pick your spot, really work hard and execute it as well as possible. I think people often think they can’t start small, you have to be of some size. I’ve always advised people to aim for a niche and establish yourself in that niche and then build from there. I think the era is over really where people have an idea that goes national and becomes enormous. It’s more a question of small and good.”