Here is a page of a few inspirational people. This is a real pick and mix – musicians and politicians – broadcasters – writers. They are not in any order and, on the surface, not all of them appear to have a tremendous amount in common. See also Good Stuff and The Pits.
Without a doubt our greatest politician in modern times. “Clement Attlee was born in Putney in 1883. Educated at Haileybury and University College, Oxford he became a barrister in 1906. Attlee developed an interest in social problems while doing voluntary work at a boy’s club in Stepney. Converted to socialism by reading the works of John Ruskin and William Morris, in 1913 Attlee became a tutor at the London School of Economics.
In 1914 Attlee joined the British Army and served in Gallipoli and Mesopotamia , where he was badly wounded at El Hanna. After recovering back in England, Attlee was sent to France in 1918 and served on the Western Front for the last few months of the war. By the end of the First World War Attlee reached the rank of major.
In the 1922 General Election he was elected Labour MP for Limehouse in London. Ramsay MacDonald, the leader of the party in the House of Commons, recruited Attlee as his parliamentary secretary (1922-24). In the 1924 Labour Government Attlee was appointed as Under Secretary of State for War.
After the Labour Party victory in the 1929 General Election, MacDonald appointed Attlee as postmaster-general. However, like most ministers, Attlee refused to serve in the National Government formed by MacDonald in 1931. Attlee was one of the few Labour MPs to win his seat in the 1931 General Election and became deputy leader of the party under George Lansbury.
When George Lansbury retired in 1935 Attlee became the new leader of the Labour Party. At that time the Conservative government feared the spread of communism from the Soviet Union to the rest of Europe. Stanley Baldwin, the British prime minister, shared this concern and was fairly sympathetic to the military uprising in Spain against the left-wing Popular Front government.
Leon Blum, the prime minister of the Popular Front government in France, initially agreed to send aircraft and artillery to help the Republican Army in Spain. However, after coming under pressure from Stanley Baldwin and Anthony Eden in Britain, and the more right-wing members of his own cabinet, he changed his mind.
In the House of Commons on 29th October 1936, Attlee, Philip Noel-Baker and Arthur Greenwood argued against the government policy of Non-Intervention. As Noel-Baker pointed out: “We protest with all our power against the sham, the hypocritical sham, that it now appears to be.”
In 1940 Attlee joined the coalition government headed by Winston Churchill. He was virtually deputy Prime Minister although this post did not formally become his until 1942. It was afterwards claimed that during the Second World War Attlee worked as a restraining influence on some of Churchill’s more wilder schemes.
During the Second World War some some MPs believed that Herbert Morrison should replace Clement Attlee as leader of the Labour Party. The leader of the plot was his mistress, Ellen Wilkinson. A fellow Cabinet Minister, Hugh Dalton wrote in his diary on 28th October, 1942. “Ellen Wilkinson came to dine with me…. She is still a most devoted worshipper of Herbert Morrison, and puts me second. What she would like would be Morrison to lead the Party and me to be his deputy. She would like us two to go into the War Cabinet, putting out Attlee and Cripps. The difficulty about all such plans is that the right moment never arrives to put them into execution!” Emanuel Shinwell warned Attlee about this plot when he promoted Wilkinson to the post of Minister of Education: ” I mentioned to Attlee that a number of plotters had been given jobs. He laughed, perfectly well aware of what had been going on. It is not bad tactics to make one’s enemies one’s servants.”
In 1945 Herert Morrison was given responsibility for drafting the Labour Party manifesto that included the blueprints for the nationalization and welfare programmes. “The Labour Party is a socialist party and proud of it. Its ultimate purpose at home is the establishment of the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain – free, democratic, efficient, progressive, public-spirited, its material resources organized in the service of the British people.” Morrison explained in An Autobiography (1960): “We had not been afraid to be frank about our plans. There would be public ownership of fuel and power, transport, the Bank of England, civil aviation, and iron and steel. We proposed a housing programme dealt with in relation to good town planning. We promised to put the 1944 Education Act into practical operation. We said that wealth would no longer be the passport to the best health treatment. We promised that a Labour Government would extend social insurance over the widest field.”
In the 1945 General Election Attlee lead the Labour Party to its largest victory at the polls. During his six years in office he carried through a vigorous programme of reform. The Bank of England, the coal mines, civil aviation, cable and wireless services, gas, electricity, railways, road transport and steel were nationalized. The National Health Service was introduced and independence was granted to India (1947) and Burma.
After being narrowly defeated in the 1951 General Election, Attlee led the Labour Party until resigning in 1955. He was granted a peerage and was active in the House of Lords until his death in 1967″. (source: here)
John Smith was the UK’s brilliant Labour Prime Minister we never had. It was during his time as opposition leader that the Labour party gained a significant lead in the polls over the Conservatives (UK right-wing political party) after their rule from Downing Street since 1979. John Smith committed a future Labour government to establishing a Scottish Parliament, a policy which was followed through by his successors after his death. He is also understood to have laid much of the foundation for the Labour Party’s victory at the 1997 General Election.
His sudden and untimely death made way for young hopeful Shadow Home Secretary Tony Blair. Following Smith’s death, the Labour Party renamed its then party headquarters in Walworth Road to John Smith House in his memory.
Smith was a traditional figure of the Labour right and, as such, was seen by many as a conventional leader. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were, under Smith’s leadership, restless and anxious in private that the party had adopted a “one more heave” approach and was overly cautious in tackling the legacy of “tax and spend”.
Since Blair became leader Smith has become an icon of Labour’s hard left because of his traditionalist approach and the contrast between his leadership and that of Blair. I firmly believe we would most definitely have been celebrating John Smith today as Britain’s foremost no-nonsense, no-spin, no-flash Labour Prime Minister. A man I think who would have befriended the current Republican US leadership without the apparent lap-dog relationship or a commitment to arms in Iraq. My view is that whist reform would have been top of the agenda, the ‘nanny state’ political landscape we have today would have been non-existent under John Smith’s real Labour.
Dirk Bogarde was one of our greatest and most interesting actors. He was actually Derek Van den Bogaerde. His mother was a former actress and his father was the editor of the newspaper The Times. In the late 1930′s he joined the army as an officer in Air Photographic Intelligence. After posts abroad he returned to the UK and joined a small theatre group and he was soon noticed and given a few small parts in films. This experience lead to him signing to the Rank Organisation.
In the late 40′s Dirk Bogarde famously appeared in Basil Dearden’s The Blue Lamp, where he portrayed a small-time crook. It was then that he began to get noticed by the media. In the early 50′s he continued his film work in So Long at the Fair, The Woman in Questionand Hunted. His breakthrough role came in a comedy with Doctor in the House, where he played Simon Sparrow. The Doctor roles kept coming in Doctor at Seaand Doctor at Large. By now Dirk Bogarde had become a matinee idol, with blaring audiences at his appearances and fan mail in large numbers. He dealt with his fame with grace and detachment. By about 1960, he was getting restless. He began to search for more challenging and interesting roles – the outstanding Victim which dealt with the controversial subject of homosexuality. Other roles like Damn the Defiant, The Singer not the Song, the Mind Benders, and I Could go on Singingfollowed. In 1963 he worked with director Joseph Losey – it was a perfect match. Films with Losey in the 1960′s included The Servant, King and Country, Modesty Blaise and The Accident. In the later 60′s Dirk worked with another well-known director, Luchino Visconti, on The Damned and (my personal favourite film ever) Death in Venice. In the seventies Dirk semi-retired in France but continued to choose interesting roles in films like The Night Porter, Providence, Permission to Killand Despairin 1977. He began to write books. Dirk would write several biographies and also many fiction books. Sir Dirk Bogarde the British film legend died on May 8th 1999 at the age of 78 after suffering a heart attack at his home in London. His ashes were scattered in France. His nephew has this fascinating Official website here.
It’s quite possible that, if you don’t know me personally, you might have guessed that my political leanings tend to sit comfortably to the left. That does not necessarily mean I totally 100% agree with every proclamation by ‘The Labour Party’, but I can say that given the choice of being trapped in the lift with Margaret Thatcher, David Cameron or Gordon Brown I would probably choose the latter (although for masochistic reasons I would choose the the other two characters!). To me Barbara Castle represented a kind of hard-line British Socialism right up to her dying days. No sitting on the fence for this socialist, she was a champion of the ordinary person, Barbara Castle really was The Labour Party. If only we had a few more like her on the front benches today (dream on Ian, dream on!). http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/PRcastleB.htm
‘Prick Up Your Ears’ is one of my best reads and I cannot not stop re-reading ‘The Orton Diaries’. Between 1964 and 1967, Joe Orton contributed to a thrilling working class culture that swept through Britain. A promiscuous and openly gay man at a time when being gay was actively persecuted by the police. Joe Orton was the rising star of a new Britain. His first stage play, Entertaining Mr Sloane, was a massive success. His second, Loot, won the coveted Evening Standard award for Best Play. However, Orton’s success as a playwright and celebrity put a distance between himself and Kenneth Halliwell that the latter found increasingly difficult to cope with. Joe Orton’s life was cut short by his partner Kenneth Halliwell. Had it not been for Halliwell’s jealousy of Orton’s talent I think lot a lot more material would have come from the brilliant brain that Halliwell smashed. Attractive in so many respects, Joe Orton’s brilliance was in full flow. Clever, sharp, mischievous and, eventually, extremely successful – I wish I had a little of his gift and none of the hazardous resentment that slaughtered this great guy. Click here
“Sir Alan Michael Sugar (born 24 March 1947) is an English businessman with an estimated fortune of £700 million. He left school at the age of 16 and went on to found the electronics and computer company Amstrad (the name being taken from his initials – Alan Michael Sugar Trading), and was once the chairman of Tottenham Hotspur F.C. He is a donor to the British Labour Party. In 2005 he stepped into Donald Trump’s shoes in the BBC version of the hit American TV series, The Apprentice. Despite owning a football club, he once compared football players to thugs and suggested that if they weren’t playing professional football, most of them would be imprisoned. He is also notorious for his bad temper and lack of tolerance for mistakes”. Straight talking. to the point and much admired. Click here
Very interesting man who brings history alive in a way that very few manage. “Regular presenter on the BBC, best known for his popular series Britain’s Best Buildings, Around the World in 80 Treasures and for his appearances in The House Detectives and What the Industrial Revolution Did For Us. His books include Around the World in 80 Treasures; Life in the Georgian City; The Guide to the Georgian Buildings of Britain and Ireland; Invasion: Defending Britain from Attack; and The Story of Britain’s Best Buildings. He is an active member of the Georgian Group and a member of the Architectural Panel of the National Trust.” Click here
When I heard that Ken Williams had died I felt like I just fallen down a hole. Brilliant, clever and outrageously hilarious, Kenneth Williams was a master of his art. An actor foremost, Kenneth Williams learnt his craft in repertory theatre and later starred in many West End hits. His stage career was lavish, and he worked with such greats as Alec Guinness, Ingrid Bergman, Orson Welles and Maggie Smith. From early appearances in serious and comedic films, Kenneth Williams went on to achieve legendary status by starring in over twenty of the famous Carry On films. Listings include all his movie appearances, from cameo days to the Carry On years. tarring in immortal shows such as Hancock’s Half and Round The Horne, to panel programmes like Just A Minute, Kenneth Williams found mass fame through radio where his vocal dexterity and extravagant personality was always much in demand. An interesting and complex person – he was definitely one of a kind. http://www.kennethwilliams.org.uk/
“Specialising in satirical shows, he has worked extensively in film production and television, in 1962 being responsible for the first satirical television series That Was The Week That Was starring David Frost and Millicent Martin. His other shows and films have included Up Pompeii, The Virgin Soldiersand Up the Junction. In 1978, he also hosted We Interrupt This Week, a lively and humorous news events quiz featuring two teams of well-known journalists and columnists sparring against one another. Sherrin has produced and directed numerous theatre productions in London’s West End, including the landmark musical Side By Side By Sondheim. He received an Olivier Award for directing the Ratepayer Theatre’s production of Iolanthe. The many books he has written include Ned Sherrin’s Year and Scratch An Actor. In the earlier part of his career he often wrote in collaboration with Caryl Brahms. On BBC Radio 4, he currently presents a light entertainment show on Saturday evenings called Loose Ends, and Counterpointa lunchtime quiz show about all types of music.” Writer, broadcaster, satirist and all round good egg (although he would no-doubt hate that description!). My admiration for Ned Sherrin goes back to when I was quite young to TW3. Ned Sherrin was born into a farming family in Somerset in 1931 and became involved in the theatre whilst reading law at Oxford University. He was called to the bar in 1955 but a fortuitous meeting with a floor manager from the TV revue the next day led him to a job at ATV. Two years later, he moved to the BBC where he directed the Tonight programme and later a range of variety shows, panel games and musicals. His work in broadcasting, theatre and film, saw him fulfil roles as an actor, producer, director, author and presenter. He hosted Loose Ends, a weekly show of comedy, talk and music from its beginning in 1986, but was forced to step down in December 2006 after cancer was diagnosed. Ned Sherrin also presented the music quiz Counterpoint on BBC Radio 4, which he once described as “the most entertaining revision course in popular and classical music that I could imagine”. He was made a CBE in the 1997 New Year’s Honours list. His manager Deke Arlon said Sherrin had died with friends and his doctor at his bedside on Monday. He added that he had been “one of the great bon viveurs of the world, with a tremendous ability to enjoy”. Mark Damazer, controller of Radio 4, said: “Ned brought to Radio 4 a fabulous cocktail of wit, zest, curiosity and mischief – all based on an extraordinary knowledge of stage, screen and writing. “He was an impresario as well as a great raconteur. He was a natural broadcaster – and got the best out of others. He sparkled and made us all smile and laugh. And for all his fame – he was considerate and kind. He will be hugely missed.” Ned Sherrin died on the 2nd October 2007.
Cheung Kwok-wing was one of the most talented artists to come from the much acclaimed range of creative flair from Hong Kong. Deeply loved in his own country and much appreciated for his music and acting capabilities. To the horror of his vast number of loving fans worldwide, Leslie sadly committed suicide on 1st April 2003. His films and music are highly recommended – his life story quite extraordinary. Leslie Cheung had it all – but sadly it wasn’t enough for this truly brilliant artist. http://www.lesliecheung.cc/
When I was boy, back in the 1960′s, Muhammad Ali was a man I truly believed was the greatest! I believed it because he said so! At the time (and even today) I still believe that he has been a true inspiration to my generation. “In 1999, Ali was crowned “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated. He won the World Heavyweight Boxing championship three times, and won the North American Boxing Federation championship as well as an Olympic gold medal.” I am so saddened at his deterioration through health, but even so he remains a very powerful character in this feeble age. http://www.ali.com/
He is by far one of the most influential British broadcasters. “Served as captain in Devonshire Regiment during World War II; director, Army Film and Photo Section with British 8th Army and U.S. 5th Army. Newspaper war correspondent in Korea; foreign correspondent, novelist, writer and radio broadcaster; joined BBC television, 1957, and presented nightly film reports from around the world for Tonight”. From Tonightcame the Alan Whicker we all know, admire and (very occasionally) smile at as the man who brought every corner of the world to British television sets nationwide – a world that was Whicker’s of course. I admire him professionally and look up to him as a giant in the industry. I would never question his authority because he has had such an amazing career. Click here
“He was a Cabinet minister in the Wilson and Callaghan governments from 1964 – 79, as Minister of Technology, Secretary of State for both Industry and Energy and President of the Council of European Energy ministers in 1977. An elected member of the National Executive Committee of the Labour party from 1959 – 1994, he was Chairman of the Party in 1971/2″. Tony Benn is on this page because I believe he represents a voice of reason in the Labour movement – many of my fellow party members (a few who still linger around Islington’s Upper Street dreaming a dream) would disagree – but that’s their problem. http://www.tonybenn.com/
Charles Arrigo spent 59 years working with the national broadcasting service in Malta and rose through the ranks of Rediffusion and Xandir Malta to become it’s deputy Head of Broadcasting in 1987. Charles was a good friend to many and I am extremely proud to include myself amongst them. He was a trusted adviser, ally and mentor. Charles Arrigo was a man of standards both as a Maltese and English language broadcaster who commanded respect by virtue of the quality of his art. I remember he was nervous of the future of broadcasting and was desperate that the standards in Malta (especially use of the language) would not deteriorate with the onslaught of ‘pluralism’ and ‘deregulation’ in radio and television. Apart from our common devotion to broadcasting, we both shared good times over a drink or at dinner. We frequently used to laugh and joke at the daily annoying matters we had in common that sometimes used to harass life in Malta. Charles Arrigo was not a person who who enjoyed the company of fools – but he was a man who was socially and professionally generous. It was with great shock that we learnt of the sudden death of on Monday 13th February 2006 of Charles Arrigo. Charles was taken ill at Broadcasting House, Guardamangia and died soon after at nearby St. Lukes Hospital (see here).
One of my favourite actors. I have followed him through the years from Scum to Love, Honour and Obey to Sexy Beast and all the other brilliant performances in between and beyond. His performances are a guarantee of excellence. ”By the time Scum came up I’d made up my mind not to be an actor, I was leaving drama school. I’d lasted twelve months, no remission. They tried to get me out a couple of times and they were probably right, to be perfectly honest; I was a bit of a toe-rag. I was told I was a bit of a danger to the other kids ‘cos of my accent. So I sabotaged the headmistress’s car – I got a lolly stick and put all these tacks through it, put it under her front tyre and when she drove off, bang. But some straight kid turned grass – he lollied me up, as they say – and I was asked to leave the premises. And it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. They were having a casting and I was only supposed to be there saying goodbye to my mates. I got talking to the receptionist and she said, ‘You wanna go in and meet the director?’ I said, ‘Nah, not really, I’m off for a drink with the boys,’ I was flirting with her really, showing off, but I went in and met Clarkey [director of 'Scum' Alan Clarke]. And I got the job! I didn’t have a clue what it was, hadn’t seen the script, and I didn’t really care. I thought, ‘Yeah I’ll do it, bit of a laugh’. It was written for a Scotsman originally, he was a Glaswegian in the script, Carlin. But apparently Al gave me the part because he like the way I walked down a corridor.” ["Alan Clarke" edited by Richard Kelly, Faber & Faber 1998, p95]Click here
“On February 2, 1990, State President F.W. de Klerk unbanned the ANC and other anti-apartheid organisations, and announced that Mandela would shortly be released from prison. Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison in Paarl on February 11, 1990. On the day of his release, Mandela made a speech to the nation. He declared his commitment to peace and reconciliation with the country’s white minority, but made it clear that the ANC’s armed struggle was not yet over: “Our resort to the armed struggle in 1960 with the formation of the military wing of the ANC (Umkhonto we Sizwe) was a purely defensive action against the violence of apartheid. The factors which necessitated the armed struggle still exist today. We have no option but to continue. We express the hope that a climate conducive to a negotiated settlement would be created soon, so that there may no longer be the need for the armed struggle.” He also said his main focus was to bring peace to the black majority and give them the right to vote in both national and local elections.” The people and objects on this page are in no particular order of ‘inspirational importance’ (if there is such a thing). If they were in order then this man would be pretty near the top. One of his many greatest achievements is having the world love and look up to him. Recently I heard Nelson Mandela hint that despite the fact he is retired – he would actually like some space of his own – I can’t see it somehow! Click here
Human, passionate and sometimes quite funny. John Peel retained enormous credibility with Radio One whilst building a massive following at the other end of the BBC at Radio Four. To me a week without something presented by John Peel was a week in hell. I miss him and his presentation badly. http://www.vheissu.freeserve.co.uk/
Amazing versatility makes this dynamic actor one of the most sort-after artists in Asian and Western movies. ‘The Guardian’ said “When it comes to standing still and giving a dramatic performance, Tony Leung Chiu-wai is practically the only name on the list” (full story here). He is considered by many to be the finest actor of his generation in Hong Kong. Robert de Niro is an admirer of his work, and Leung has been called Asia’s answer to Clark Gable. His performances are, to say the least, indelible in memory. http://www.tonyleung.org/
Oh boy! I really felt so extremely sorry for Bill Clinton. Although he was accused of perjury and obstruction of justice, neither charge mustered a simple majority against the president as the Senate voted on whether he would be allowed to keep his job in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. I dreaded the 2001 US election results and thought the final showdown (the outcome for the Democrats) was truly ironic. Bill Clinton was and remains for me a good man. He was, as President, and still is, much admired here in the UK. The Monica Lewinsky scandal was pathetic in the extreme … we should remember his time in the White House for a great deal more. Click here
I’ve always liked Ewan Macgregor, not only as being an extremely fluid and relaxed actor but as a person. On ‘Parkinson’ he was asked why he hadn’t left the UK for Hollywood to which he explained that we have so much going for us in the UK in terms of film production. Ewan has in the past been outspoken against other celebrities, notably fellow Scottish actor Sean Connery about whom he is alleged to have said that he resented being told how to feel about Scotland by someone who hadn’t lived there in 25 years, and Minnie Driver whom he described as having “gone mad”. His whole attitude towards life and work is a genuine inspiration. http://www.ewanspotting.com/
“Over the years, Andy Lau Tak-Wah (b. Sept. 27, 1961; Hong Kong) has solidified his position as not only a superstar and Heavenly Sky King, but also as the hardest working entertainer in Hong Kong. In little more than twenty years, Lau has made over one hundred films and has maintained a successful singing career, to boot”. Actually that quote is an understatement of an actor you will want to see again and again. http://www.andylau.com/tc/
I met Hugh in the late 1970′s – early 1980′s when he was appearing at the now demolished Hoe Theatre in Plymouth. We struck up a friendship that lasted a while during which time I learnt a tremendous amount about his life as a ‘jobbing actor’, his connections with Ken Williams and also the real life of many, now dead, great British actors. My lasting memory of Hugh was one of a man who was happy with his lot and modest about his extensive career in theatre, radio, film and television. Hugh died in late 2000 some years after we’d lost contact – I read about his death in the papers and wished that we had stayed in touch – for me he was a one off and a real inspiration. Click here
BBC Director General from 2000 until 2004. In 1977 he joined London Weekend Television. Greg Dyke was appointed Editor-in Chief at TV-am in 1983. In 1984 joined TVS (Television South) as Director of Programmes. He rejoined LWT in 1987 as Director of Programmes. On 1 March 1990 he became LWT’s Managing Director and in 1991 Group Chief Executive. From 1990 to 1992 he was a non-executive Director of ITN. He was Chairman of the new breakfast television station, GMTV, 1993-1994. He became Chairman and Chief Executive of Pearson Television in January 1995 – that’s just for starters! He is a hard worker, not afraid of getting his hands dirty – it was good to have a BBC Director General for a change who knew the nuts and bolts of British broadcasting. Sadly he resigned from the BBC exactly four years after becoming DG on Thursday 29th January 2004 at 1345 amid the fallout from the Hutton Enquiry into the death of Dr. David Kelly. On Friday 23rd April 2004 Greg Dyke became a ‘Presenter’ after hosting an edition of ‘Have I Got News For You’ on BBC1 – it was a bitter sweet show! Click here
“Brought up in South Africa, she began her broadcasting career there on the SABC’s English language radio service. Initially joining the BBC in 1967 as a reporter for The World At One, she went on to host Woman’s Hour from 1972 until 1987. In 1984 she became one of the hosts of BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, a position she held until 2002. That same year she was appointed a CBE for her services to broadcasting”. Sue MacGregor notched up 40 years in live radio. I always look forward to listening to her. She has the voice of someone in complete control even in the still male dominated world of network broadcasting. I have nothing but admiration for her as a person and a professional and her biography is great too!
The inclusion of Justin Fashanu here is because I became acquainted with him during the latter part of his career. In the early 1990′s we were discussing business and his possible involvement in a plan we were developing. Justin is a ‘hero’ because long before his death I had an admiration for him because of his ‘bravery’, his great personality and his personal determination.
At the time he was being dogged by the press – but I found he outwardly didn’t care and privately took it on the chin.
I was of the opinion (rightly as it turned out) that allegations made against him which led to his suicide were completely baseless.
When it was reported that Justin had gone missing I for one feared something terrible had happened to him. Sadly the news was the worse.
For the record, I blame the media for misrepresenting the facts surrounding Justin, for the unnecessary guilt he felt and for the dreadful bullying he endured. It was shameful, nasty and in the end led to the death of a good and sensitive man.
I will personally remember Justin Fashanu as a good man who deserved a whole lot more.
“Justin Fashanu was the son of a Nigerian barrister living in England. When his parents split up he was sent, together with his younger brother John (who also became a professional footballer) to a Barnardo’s home. When he was six, he and his brother were fostered by a family and brought up in Attleborough, Norfolk.
He began his career as an apprentice with Norwich City, turning professional towards the end of December 1978. He made his league debut in January 1979 and settled into the Norwich side scoring regularly and occasionally spectacularly. In 1980, he won the BBC Goal of the Season award, for a very spectacular goal against Liverpool. He subsequently became Britain’s first £1m black footballer when he transferred to Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest in August 1981.
His career stalled as his professional relationship with Brian Clough deteriorated; Clough, it would appear, was disturbed by the rumours of Justin Fashanu’s visits to gay nightclubs and bars. His goals and then confidence dried up as he failed to fit in with the playing and lifestyle demands of Clough, especially after Clough had discovered his homosexuality and barred him from even training with the side.
In August 1982 he was loaned to Southampton (scoring 3 goals in 9 appearances), and then in December that year was sold to local rivals Notts County for only £150,000. He scored 20 times in 64 games for the Magpies before moving to Brighton & Hove Albion in June 1985 for a fee of £115,000, where a knee injury looked to have finished his career. He went to the United States for surgery and began playing again, firstly with Los Angeles Heat and then with Edmonton Brickmen.
He returned to the UK and tried to resurrect his playing career, joining Manchester City in October 1989. He moved to West Ham United in November, before a trial with Ipswich Town. He joined Leyton Orient in March 1990 and subsequently joined Southall as player-coach before moving to Leatherhead.
In 1990, he publicly came out as gay in an interview with the tabloid press, becoming the only prominent player in English football so far to do so. Many former colleagues spoke out in anger against him, stating that homosexuals had no place in a team sport, and his brother John publicly disowned him. Although he claimed that he was generally well accepted by his fellow players, he freely admitted that they would often joke maliciously about his sexual orientation, and he also became the target of constant crowd abuse because of it.
He began a trial with Newcastle United in October 1991. In November 1991 he left Leatherhead to join Torquay United, apparently one of the few league clubs willing to give him a real chance. He hogged the limelight while at Plainmoor, with his lifestyle, in particular his relationship with Coronation Street actress Julie Goodyear spread over the tabloids, but he still managed to impress on the pitch and was made player-coach.
In February 1993, with Torquay battling against a second successive relegation, Fashanu applied for the vacant post of manager, but was turned down. Fashanu left to play for Airdrieonians soon after.
He left Airdrie in 1993, playing in Sweden with Trelleborg, before returning to Scotland, joining Heart of Midlothian in July 1993, but was sacked in April 1994 for ‘unprofessional conduct’ (he had attempted to sell false stories regarding him and a number of cabinet ministers to the press) and returned to the United States to coach a boys team in Georgia. He later moved to Australia to play for Adelaide City and then to New Zealand to play for Miramar Rangers in 1997, before joining Atlanta Ruckus in the spring of the same year, but was suspended for the playoffs for failure to comply with the terms of his contract. He then moved to Ellicott City, Maryland to coach Maryland Mania Club, a new professional team, following his officially announced retirement from the professional game.
He admitted in an interview with Gay Times that he wasn’t fully prepared for the backlash that followed his coming out and that his career in football suffered ‘heavy damage’.
In 1998 in the United States a 17-year-old claimed to police that on 25 March he found himself in Justin Fashanu’s bed, after a drinking bout, being sexually assaulted. Justin Fashanu was questioned about this by the police on 3 April, but he was not held in custody. It was widely reported in the press that the police later arrived at his flat with a warrant to arrest him on charges of sexual assault. However, Justin Fashanu had already returned to England.
In May 1998, he hanged himself in a deserted lock-up garage he had broken into, in Shoreditch, London, after visiting Chariots Roman Spa (a gay sauna in the area). In his suicide note, he stated: ‘I realised that I had already been presumed guilty. I do not want to give any more embarrassment to my friends and family … I hope the Jesus I love welcomes me, I will at last find peace.’
An inquest in London held on 9 September, 1998, heard that there was in fact no warrant out for Justin Fashanu’s arrest and that the American police had already dropped the investigation because of lack of evidence.
Justin Fashanu is still the only professional player in British football to have come out as gay”