Student groups have been very much at the forefront of the popular uprisings currently spreading across the Middle East. Simon Panek was a student leader in Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution in 1989, and his role in changing the course of his country's future had a lasting impact on his life. Following the downfall of Czechoslovakia's Communist leadership he established People In Need, one of the largest non-governmental organisations in Central-Eastern Europe, that provides aid and works to defend democratic freedom in countries around the world.
15 years ago Juan Holgado was doing an extra shift at the petrol station where he worked in Jerez de la Frontera in southern Spain, when a robbery attempt went badly wrong. Juan was stabbed 30 times and was left dying in a pool of blood. Four suspects have been tried twice and all have been acquitted both times after judges said there was not enough evidence. Through all of these years his father Francisco Holgado, frustrated by the police's failure to bring anyone to book, launched his own investigation into what happened. He went to extraordinary lengths, going deep undercover, for years to see if he could gather the crucial evidence.
Most people who make it in the competitive world of the concert pianist have been hot-housed as children and schooled in the best academies. But 36-year-old James Rhodes has followed a very different path. He only started formal piano lessons in his teens, turned down a place at a music academy, was in drugs rehab at 19 and had a mental breakdown in his early 30s that saw him sectioned in mental health institutions. He survived various attempts at suicide, and just a few weeks after leaving hospital a chance meeting with a music agent turned his life around.
James Rhodes is playing at The Ambassadors Theatre in London on the 2nd and 16th of March.