Daniel Hooper had to work hard for his celebrity status. Imaginatively named “Swampy” because he claimed to live in a swamp (well, a boggy field), the 23-year-old became a star after he inhabited a small tunnel for seven nights in protest at the proposed construction of the A30 bypass in Fairmile, Devon. Described by one who saw it as a “death trap”, the tight space where Swampy stayed was 18 feet underground. Once Hooper emerged on 30 January 1997, he responded to journalists’ questions about why he did it by saying, “If I had written a letter to my MP, would you all be here now? I think not.”
Swampy was also involved in a high-profile demonstration against the building of a second runway at Manchester Airport in 1997. In the same year, he was invited on to the BBC quiz show Have I Got News For You?. But then the young eco-warrior seemed to vanish. Could it be that Daniel Hooper has given up the fight for humanity, thrown aside his mud-dwelling days and chopped his dreadlocks in favour of a better-paid, more anonymous, high-flying corporate life? Of course not. While Swampy has indeed cut his hair, he has now moved on to a new fight: recently he was spotted by a local photographer in Dorset, where he joined protesters last May to resist the planting of GM maize in a field in Littlemoor.
Probably best remembered as the pop singer distinguished by a rather large mole on the side of his mouth, Chesney shot to fame in 1991 with his unforgettable hit single “The One and Only”. The song became one of the top 20 bestselling singles of the decade. But two years after hitting fame and fortune, the fresh-faced young superstar, who had teens screaming his name and their mothers clambering to accompany them to gigs, suddenly disappeared. Today, Chesney admits that he did things the wrong way round, performing in immense stadiums to start with and later finding himself playing “in front of two men and a dog” at the local pub. He started writing music for others, including A1 and Hear’Say, and is due to release a host of new singles. None of this has been easy: as a teenager who hit the big time and was then plunged into oblivion, Chesney grew up fast: music, he confesses, “is really tough, no matter how talented and passionate you are”.
Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards
In 1988, a slightly chunky construction worker called Eddie Edwards from Gloucestershire, with gawky glasses and a cheeky wit, booked himself a place in the hearts of the nation. Edwards made history by becoming Britain’s first-ever participant in an Olympic ski-jumping event at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. His real achievement was to get there, simply by being the only Brit to apply. He came last in both the 70- and 90-metre jumps (unless you count the one disqualification) – but it was this disastrous record and bumbling manner that brought him fame and fortune. Aside from huge tabloid attention, he even entered the pop world with a number two hit in Finland in 1991 with “My name is Eddie”. But, like all great “flash in the pan” superstars, Eddie “the Eagle” soon spent his fortune and by 1992 had become bankrupt. Hollywood plans a film about his life. Meanwhile, he has enrolled on a law degree at De Montfort University in Leicester, where he is said to be enjoying student life. The 1988 experience taught Eddie a very important lesson: “You don’t have to be the best in the world to be popular.”
Starting from John O’Groats on the northernmost coast of Scotland in 1983, 16-year-old Ffyona Campbell set out on an epic walk that would take her around the world. Eleven years and 19,586 miles later, she returned to the starting point, having raised £120,000 for charity. Ffyona raised half this amount in one go by selling the advertising space on her forehead to Vaseline during her well-publicised return. Her great feat should have led the British press to hail the determined athlete a heroine. She had crossed four continents (Australasia, Europe, Africa and North America), walked through war zones and barely escaped numerous attacks. But Ffyona Campbell is remembered for cheating during her marathon. During her walk across the USA, when she was 18 years old, Campbell became pregnant by one of her support team, Brian Noel. It grew increasingly difficult to maintain the distances she had been walking daily. Tired and depressed, she decided to accept Noel’s offer of lifts in between cities to help her meet appointments with sponsors. Four months later, after 1,000 miles of deception, Campbell had her pregnancy terminated and resumed walking. On her return to Britain, she received a mixed reception; the press criticised her self-obsessed nature while John Major praised her as a role model. Consumed by guilt about the miles that she had skipped, Campbell turned to heroin and came close to suicide before she decided to confess in autumn 1996. She returned to America to complete her journey and asked that her achievement be removed from the next copy of the Guinness Book of World Records. Her request was rightfully refused as even without the 1,000 miles she had easily broken the record. Understandably, Ffyona has since kept a low profile – though we can reveal that she has become an art student.
Even if Aled Jones were to discover a cure for cancer, he’d always be remembered as the angelic Welsh chorister who sang “Walking in the Air” – the melodic theme tune to the classic Christmas cartoon The Snowman.
Released by Aled in 1985, “Walking in the Air” reached number two in the charts behind Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”. Aled, in fact, did not sing his hit in the Christmas cartoon itself. It was the lesser-known artist Peter Auty whose voice we hear. But pity poor Peter – he’ll never wrest the song away from Aled.
Certain physiological changes meant that Aled did not remain a soprano. After his voice broke he decided to “learn again” with three years at the Royal Academy of Music. Aled always liked singing around the house and in the shower, but he also enjoyed singing at the Barbican, the Hollywood Bowl and at the wedding of Bob Geldof and Paula Yates. He is particularly proud of singing Leonard Bernstein’s songs with Bernstein himself conducting in London and Rome.
Now 31, Aled is a regular presenter on Songs of Praise and will host a Remembrance Day service planned for the Falklands this September.
Can you be upstaged by a duck with a Mohican haircut? Remember Andy Crane and his puppet sidekick, Ed the Duck, stars of The Broom Cupboard? This duo presented the Children’s BBC anchor show when Andy replaced Philip Schofield as presenter in 1988. Ed the Duck replaced Gordon the Gopher.
“Ed came from a Hong Kong market stall,” says Andy, “but he didn’t have any green hair at first – the Mohican came later.”
Ed became so popular that he appeared on the top of tanks during the Gulf war, became the British Olympic team’s mascot and, as Andy reveals in a world exclusive to the New Statesman, when Ed did a parachute jump for Comic Relief in 1989, he was deemed so precious that they secretly used a stunt double duck. (Shocked letters of complaint, please, to the BBC.)
After Children’s BBC, Andy appeared on various TV programmes including Top of the Pops, What’s Up Doc? and as anchor for the Family Channel. Eventually, he decided to return to radio where his career began.
Today, Andy is 38 and plays “smooth jazz” on Jazz FM North West. Poor Ed, thinks Andy, is probably wrapped in a plastic bag somewhere deep in the bowels of the BBC.
Ruth Lawrence was the archetypal maths prodigy. She passed O-level maths aged eight and became the youngest Oxford graduate at 13 – first-class honours, of course. Professorship came at the tender age of 19.
As a young student, she was accompanied at university by her domineering father, Harry, who had pushed her to academic success in the first place. She later became estranged from him.
Today, Professor Lawrence-Naimark, as she is now known, is associate professor of mathematics at the Hebrew University in Israel. She lives with her husband, Ariyeh Naimark, 29 years her senior and also a mathematician. They have two young children, Yehuda and Sarah.
Ruth is pleased to have had a head start in life: “It makes bringing up a family easier,” she says, “as I already have an established career.” She doesn’t feel she has made any really big discoveries yet. But she has apparently contributed to important work on the mathematical structure of Jones-Witten invariants of three-dimensional manifolds, which is more than most people can say. Her advice to young geniuses: “Go for it!”