Champions of Wolverhampton etched into city history
They are the great champions of the city and now their names have been literally etched into Wolverhampton’s history.
Jacqui Oatley MBE, Willard Wigan MBE and Richard Westwood are three of the city’s heroes who were recognised in the 2017 Famous Sons and Daughters Awards.
And yesterday, the proud trio gathered in their home city to see their names added to the Famous Sons and Daughters roll of honour plaque outside the University of Wolverhampton Gateway Building, in Wulfruna Street.
The awards recognise notable Wulfrunians for outstanding achievements across the arts, business, media and sport, who have made significant contributions to the city’s reputation.
It has been running bi-annually since 2011 and was created by the Wolverhampton Partners in Progress.
Willard Wigan has caught the attention of people across the globe with his breathtaking microscopic art.
Creating sculptures within the eye of a needle, his work has featured at multiple exhibitions, as well as on US programme The Tonight Show.
The Wednesfield artist, who was made an MBE in 2007, was also commissioned to create a replica Coronation Crown as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
Mr Wigan said: “It is a great honour – coming from Wolverhampton and being respected and honoured for what I do. Wolverhampton is an up and coming city and there are a lot of people here with hidden talents that they don’t know about.
“It’s great for me to be honoured to continue to be associated with Wolverhampton as that’s where I was born.
“Wolverhampton means my childhood, beginning my career. It means my frontier where I came from.
"It means my mother telling me ‘start smaller and your work will get bigger’.
"My work has taken me all over the world – but I have never forgotten where I came from.
"If I can continue to inspire others to come and make a success, then that’s a pleasure.”
Born in Wolverhampton and raised in Codsall, Jacqui Oatley became a sports presenter in 2015 and this past summer presented ITV's World Cup coverage.
She covers football for the BBC, having previously covered women's football for the broadcaster, and also presents ITV's darts coverage.
The former Wolverhampton Grammar School student was made an MBE in the 2016 New Year Honours for services to broadcasting and diversity in sport.
Ms Oatley said: “It is such a huge honour. Wolverhampton is really going places and there is such a feel good factor about the city.
"I was really shocked, when you grow up in Wolverhampton you don’t expect to be honoured by your home city. It’s nice to be able to represent it in some way in the media.
“I tell everyone I am from Wolverhampton – I am very proud, it’s my identity.
“Wolverhampton will always be home and anything I can do to inspire people from the city, I will.”
Marston’s Richard Westwood began his career as a label technician at the Wolverhampton & Dudley Brewery more than 40 years ago.
He rose through the ranks as head brewer, playing a pivotal role in the commercial growth of the business in the 1990s as he took charge of multiple breweries and the acquisition of Marston’s.
Mr Westwood said: “It is an absolute great honour having lived here all my life, educated here and working for Banks’s for 42 years – it is an absolute fantastic honour.
“It recognises local people and local people working in business.
“Wolverhampton means everything to me. The only time I spent away from the city was when I went to university, then I came straight back and have worked in Wolverhampton ever since.
“We should really shout out about how great the city really is.”
As well as Jacqui, Willard and Richard – actress Frances Barber, Olympic gold-medallist Tessa Sanderson and former Wolves and England footballer Ron Flowers were recognised on the 2017 roll of honour.
Mayor of Wolverhampton, Councillor Phil Page, said: “I am extremely proud of Wolverhampton, it is a fantastic city with some really talented people. Those ambassadors going from Wolverhampton into their different fields.
"This award scheme really is something that recognises those talented people.
“We need to tell people what a fantastic place Wolverhampton is and about the people who live here, were born here and how talented they are.”
Graham Evans, chairman of of Partners in Progress, said: “Partners formed over 30 years ago with our main aim to promote the city.
"The awards were set up to highlight to the rest of the country and world that these people are from here and we should be proud of them and the city of Wolverhampton.
"Those who have been recognised are excellent role models of how to make something very positive for them and representing the city not only nationally, but internationally, and we should thank them.”
Previous Wulfrunians to have been honoured include sports stars Steve Bull, Hugh Porter MBE and Denise Lewis, the late Baroness Rachel Heyhoe-Flint, TV presenter Suzi Perry, and singers Liam Payne and Beverley Knight.
Mr Porter, who became a Famous Son in 2011, added: “Wolverhampton is my life, I was born and bred here. I think being very proud of Wolverhampton is an understatement.”