I love to be inspired. I’m sure you do too. 

So, I’ve particularly enjoyed the last few weeks as I’ve had the chance to interview three stunningly inspiring people who lifted my spirits, stimulated my brain cells and made me want to be more like them. They were Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason, Lady Glenconner and Gary Avis.

Interestingly, these successful and accomplished individuals have several characteristics in common. One is energy. Another is the ability to seize the moment. And the third is that they’re all marvellous at giving their all to any task they undertake, no matter what difficulties they have to surmount. This is something very special.

I remember when I worked in the theatre, I was inspired by something a much older actor told a group of us who were all new to the profession. It was a wet, dark, Wednesday afternoon during a hectic run, and we’d all come into the theatre somewhat lacking in enthusiasm for the performance ahead of us.

He said, “This may be a routine matinee for us, and we may be tired and feel like there are a hell of lot of shows before payday, but in our audience today, there’ll be folk who are feeling very low or who have debilitating illnesses, men and women who were recently bereaved or who have a sick partner at home, and pensioners who are lonely. 

All of them are looking to us to provide much-needed cheer and sparkle. So, let’s get out there and jolly well give it to them!”


Norwich Evening News:

I never forgot that advice. It was an inspirational lesson for life, not just for the stage. To return to my interviewees, I worked with Dr Kanneh-Mason at the opening night of the Hostry Festival, which was a wonderful occasion.

She is not only an academic in her own right, and the author of a fascinating book called House of Music, but also mum to seven children – five of whom are embarked on celebrated concert careers. 

She has had to overcome so much – poverty and racial prejudice for starters – yet she approaches everything she does with generous enthusiasm. Also, during the event, we were really lucky to hear performances by three of her children, Braimah, Konya and Jeneba, who were not just super-talented, but the most unspoiled, humble and gracious young people you could ever wish to meet.

Did I get an injection of inspiration that night? You bet your life I did. And I wasn’t alone. The audience went off afterwards, visibly uplifted, with huge smiles on their faces.

The next interviewee, who was also appearing at the Hostry Festival, was the amazing Lady Glenconner. On the day, her journey in from North Norfolk was quite problematic. Many people half her age would have been stressed and rattled by the difficulties she encountered, but nothing dents her determination and professionalism, even though she’s now 90.

She was brilliant. So entertaining. And she discussed the triumphs and disasters of her life with verve and spirit. Also, it became apparent how many of her readers have sought her help and been guided by her. 

Among them are people who have relatives in a coma, which is something she experienced for months when her youngest son had a terrible accident. Some of those she’d been in contact with were in our audience and were thrilled and grateful to meet her in person. 

It’s obvious that no matter what she may be feeling inside, Lady Glenconner never does things by half. If she embarks on a task, she gives it one hundred per cent. What a joy she is.


Norwich Evening News:

The same is true of my great friend, ballet star Gary Avis.

I interviewed him last week at a fundraising event at Diss Corn Hall. He was on magical form and thoroughly engaged the audience with his dynamism, humour and attention to detail. He would never, ever, do what he calls “phoning in a performance”. For him, every appearance has to be exceptional.

But, like my other interviewees, he has had more than his fair share of setbacks. Imagine, for example, what it was like to grow up as a boy who wanted a career in dance in pre-Billy Elliot days. 

Other children would spit at him in the playground and on the journey to and from school. How dreadful that must have been. And his poor mum used to have to take his coat off him when he reached home and put it straight in the washing machine.

Despite everything, he refused to let the bullies win. He pursued his dream – and today he is renowned, as one of the greatest character artists in the world. Without question, he is also a huge inspiration to me, and of course to many others.

So, can the rest of us learn from Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason, Lady Glenconner and Gary Avis? Can we put more effort into our days and our dealings with others? And can we even, maybe, inspire them a little? We can certainly try.