It’s always nice to read about ordinary local people among those recognised in the New Year’s Honours list alongside the requisite celebrities, sporting stars and captains of industry.
By ordinary I simply mean they don’t get paid a fortune, they’re not in the public eye and they don’t do what they do for power or glory.
This time I was delighted to see that one of The Sentinel’s Our Heroes Awards winners – Maureen Upton, of Meir Heath – earned an OBE for services to the voluntary sector after racking up more than 45 years working for the St John Ambulance.
I was also pleased to see Penkhull historian Richard Talbot had made the cut.
Richard’s MBE is a reward not only for the pivotal role he played in kick-starting Hanley’s Cultural Quarter but also an acknowledgement of his fund-raising for worthy local causes and his work in the community over many years.
The publication of the honours lists always makes me think of other worthy individuals who get precious little recognition.
That being the case, I humbly offer up the names of half a dozen locals who I believe help to enrich our communities and who will continue to do so throughout 2014.
First up I’d like to doff my cap to a couple of blokes who may never have met for all I know but who have a shared passion for film-making.
The first is the superbly-talented Chris Stone who, over the past few years, has produced some sparkling movies – the scenes for many of which were shot in his native North Staffordshire.
If you’ve never seen it, search out his vampire web series Blood And Bone China which has been viewed by more than 300,000 people online.
Or if you pop in to the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery to view the new Staffordshire Hoard exhibition, he’s the man behind the epic movie The Last Dragonhunter which is playing in the background and includes eye-popping animation by another of my local heroes – artist Rob Pointon, of Burslem.
His kindred spirit is a film-maker who I think deserves huge recognition for his artistic endeavour.
John Williams, of Wolstanton, is currently putting the finishing touches to The Mothertown – a zombie apocalypse movie based in Burslem and involving literally hundreds of extras which is helping to raise funds for three-year-old leukaemia sufferer Frankie Allen.
Anyone who has seen John’s posts on social media and viewed his special effects handiwork can’t fail to be impressed.
But it’s his passion for the medium which inspires people and, like Chris, he’s a terrific, creative ambassador for the Potteries.
Speaking of which, I’d like to mention two other people who work tirelessly to promote their community and our city.
Alan and Cheryl Gerrard, of Fenton, were responsible for rekindling this area’s remarkable links with the Czech town of Lidice – destroyed by the Nazis during the Second World War and rebuilt with the help of the people of North Staffordshire.
I first met them a few years ago when they asked for The Sentinel’s help in planning a debate to mark the 25th anniversary of the Miners’ Strike. Alan and Cheryl are both passionate advocates for the people of the Potteries which often means they aren’t popular with the powers-that-be.
However, their honest and forthright approach to campaigns such as the battle to save Fenton Town Hall and its Great War memorial have won them far more friends than enemies and I count myself among the former.
Another friend of mine whose work enhances our reputation is local sculptor Andy Edwards whose work you can see on display at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery.
Andy produced the nine foot statue of a Saxon warrior which takes pride of place in the foyer.
It was commissioned to celebrate the acquisition of the priceless Staffordshire Hoard and Andy is currently working on a 15 foot version, to be unveiled soon, which will stand guard outside the county council HQ in Stafford.
Andy’s other works have included statues which have been presented to Barack Obama, Muhammad Ali and Desmond Tutu.
However, a more proud and passionate Stokie you could not meet and we should be incredibly proud to call him one of our own.
Please indulge me as I mention two other people who actually work alongside me here at The Sentinel.
The first is our award-winning health reporter Dave Blackhurst who has been with this newspaper for 35 years and who is planning to retire in March.
He may not have been honoured by Her Majesty but Dave’s work has won the admiration of readers, colleagues and health professionals over three decades during which he has been an unflinching champion of his patch and its people.
Finally, a quick mention for the legend that is Dianne Gibbons – our court reporter who has been with The Sentinel for 51 years and who laid on a spread, as we call it in these parts, for her colleagues unlucky enough to be working on New Year’s Day.
If only we could bottle Dianne’s enthusiasm and pride in her job and this newspaper.
I consider it a privilege to work with both Dave and Dianne.
They may not have a gong (yet) but, like the others on my little list, they remain an inspiration to me and, I’m sure, many others.
Read my Personally Speaking columns every Friday in The Sentinel