Sara Briggs attended John Willmott School from 1978 – 1982. She worked in a variety of jobs until she found her niche in the film industry. Originally she worked in security, the fact that she is a very competent Thai boxer might have helped her secure her job!
The films that Sara worked on included Star Wars, Mission Impossible 3 and War Horse. She is now working as a Location Manager and is credited on a number of films and TV series including The Aliens.
Sara was delighted to be invited back to John Willmott School to talk to the Year 10 Youth Award group about her career.
Award winning war correspondent and military historian Colin Smith attended John Willmott Grammar School from 1958 until 1960.
He won school prizes for English Literature and History but left at 16 to become a boy soldier. In 1962 he bought himself out of the army and began his journalism on the Guernsey Evening Press before moving to the Sutton Coldfield News and then the Birmingham Post.
Eight years after leaving Willmott, he was on the Observer national paper and in 1971 covered the Bengali uprising in what was then East Pakistan when he walked from the Indian border to Dacca.
For the next 30 years, mostly for the Observer, he mainly reported on conflicts and trouble spots from Saigon to Sarajevo surviving in the process ambushes in West Belfast with the British Army, a Khmer Rouge attempt to sink on the Mekong river the small ship on which he was trying to reach Saigon, and three long days in a condemned cell in Zaire.
He has twice been named International Reporter of the Year in the British press awards and once runner up. His books include Singapore Burning, England’s Last War Against France and Spies of Jerusalem, an historical novel.
His latest is Warsaw Boy, a story of the Warsaw Uprising in collaboration with its teenaged protagonist Andrew Borowiec.
JWS student (1982-1988)
Dominic is a football commentator, commentating on live matches for companies like Sky Sports and talkSPORT Radio. He also works for newspapers such as The Times and The Sun providing commentary for their video highlights of the Premier League. After leaving JWS he worked for BRMB before going on to study Performing Arts (Music) at Middlesex University. He has also worked for Capital Radio and Virgin Radio presenting shows and commentating on everything from the funeral of Princess Diana through to football World Cups. While at JWS he considers himself fortunate to have been taught by Jeffrey Skidmore and was involved with lots of music and school productions.
Darius played football for Aston Villa, Manchester City and England. While at John Willmott School he played for the school team which was successful throughout his school career. While still a student he was signed for Aston Villa School of Excellence. He still plays professionally as a striker / winger.
Tony began his professional football career at Birmingham City. He won 22 caps for Northern Ireland at full international level. While at John Willmott School he played for the school team which was successful throughout his school career. While still a student he joined Birmingham City Youth as a trainee. He still plays professionally as a left back / left winger.
Amy plays cricket for England Ladies’ Team as well as Warwickshire Women. While at John Willmott School she played for the England U19’s and then the England team. Her cricketing position is wicketkeeper.
James is a BBC sports presenter working for BBC Tees. While at John Willmott School he established the school radio station. He also played the lead role in the school’s production of Calamity Jane.
Matt is a Film Director at Sky Blue Films, he was also Art Director of Surface Films Ltd. While studying at John Willmott School he made short documentaries and films about and around the school.
Adam Davies (stage name Adam Lawrence)
Adam is an Actor who has performed roles in plays based in London including ‘The History Boys’ at the Greenwich Theatre, he has also performed at the Royal Shakespeare Company. While studying at John Willmott he took part in a number of school productions.
Emma Willis (nee Griffiths)
Emma is a former model and is now a Television Presenter on shows including This Morning, Loose Women, Prize Island and of the BBC1 talent show The Voice UK. Emma began her modelling career while at John Willmott School.
Tim is RPT Tennis Director and Head Club Coach at Rothley and Queniborough Tennis Clubs. While at John Willmott School Tim played for local tennis clubs as well as in inter-school competitions.
Jemma is a member of the Team GB Modern Pentathlon. She has represented the country in a number of competitions, including the Youth World Championships in Hungary and the European Championships in Bulgaria. While at John Willmott School she was selected to compete in international competitions.
Joanna was an international swimmer who represented Team GB at the Seoul Olympics, where she was the youngest competitor while she was still studying at John Willmott School. Joanna began her swimming career at Boldmere Swimming Club and represented John Willmott School on many occasions.
Claire is a former BBC Producer/Editor and is also an Author of the children’s novel The War Monkey. Her love of Drama and English developed while she was a student at John Willmott School. She went on to study for a BA Hons in English.
Kelly Tye (nee Williams)
Kelly is Assistant Concert Manager at the Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham Conservatoire. She has also directed a number of amateur musical theatre companies in a variety of shows, most recently Annie at Solihull Library Theatre. While at John Willmott School she played a number of lead roles in the school musical productions, including Sandy in Grease.
Anthony Pinel has been an organist at Birmingham Cathedral, Bristol Cathedral, St Peter’s Church Morristown New Jersey USA and is now organist and master of the choristers at Grimsby Parish Church. He also conducts a number of choirs and choral societies. Anthony studied music at Huddersfield University after leaving John Willmott School.
Paul Agnew is an international leading tenor who has appeared in many operatic roles around the world including at the Opera de Paris, he has also performed as a soloist in oratorios for many top conductors in Paris, London, Montreaux, Vienna and Toronto. While a student at John Willmott he performed with Ex Cathedra whose conductor Jeffrey Skidmore was Head of Music here. Paul read music as a Choral Scholar at Magdalen College, Oxford.
Charlotte is an international ice-skater and has recently been performing as Cruella DeVille in Disney on Ice. She has competed in the British Ice Championships and has also performed with Torvill and Dean.
Fleur is a freelance journalist based in Oxford. She holds a number of degrees in English Linguistics and used to work for the Oxford English Dictionary. She is the author of several guide books. While a student at John Willmott School she took part in school plays.
Helen is a singing teacher in Cambridge working at schools and the Cambridge colleges including Kings College Chapel Choir and also at the London Oratory School. As a professional singer Helen performed with Sir Simon Rattle at the Salzburg Festival and also was a soloist at the BBC Proms. She has appeared worldwide with many of the top professional choirs. Helen did a degree in Music in Huddersfield and then went to the Royal College of Music in London. While at John Willmott School Helen took the lead roles in a number of the school productions.
Tom is a freelance photographer and picture editor working for a variety of magazines and newspapers. He graduated from Birmingham with a degree in Art and Design. While at John Willmott School he was involved in a number of Art & Photography exhibitions and was also a member of a rock group playing guitar.
Nathan is an actor based in London. He studied for an English degree at Kings College London and is now studying for an MA in Performing Arts.
While at John Willmott School Nathan took the lead in a number of school musicals and plays. He also performed and sang his own compositions in school concerts from the age of 11 and represented the school in inter-school music competitions.
C J Webley
CJ is studying Performing Arts at Warwick University. He is also on the comic circuit and is quickly making a name for himself. While at John Willmott School he took parts in both musical productions and plays and he was also chosen to study and perform with the National Youth Theatre.
Nicky is a professional golfer having competed internationally on the Ladies European Golf Tour, the Asian Ladies Golf Tour and the Japanese Ladies Professional Golf Tour. She competed in the Women’s British Open, the US Women’s Open and the Evian Masters. She has also captained the Ladies European Team. Today Nicky lives in Victoria, Australia, where she is the Club Professional at Mansfield Golf Club and also manages successful golf shops attached to golf courses. On leaving John Willmott School Nicky studied for a BA in Applied Golf Management at Birmingham University.
Matthew is a Solicitor at Squire Sanders in Birmingham specialising in construction and engineering law matters both nationally and internationally. He studied Law at Christ’s College Cambridge and then went on to study a Legal Practice Course (LPC) graduating at the highest grade. He also has a MA in Law from Cambridge. Matthew was Head Boy at John Willmott School, achieving 3 grade A’s at A Level and also a Merit in the Advanced Extension Paper, only taken by the top 10% of students in the country.
Victoria Kelly (nee Burton)
Vickie creates costumes for TV and Stage Shows, Adverts and Films. She has worked on Dr Who, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and has just started work on the next Star Wars film. While at John Willmott she was advised by her Technology teacher to take an Arts Foundation course since she didn’t really know what she wanted to do in the Arts. Her best career advice ever – she says. She went on to Wimbledon School of Art and graduated with a First Class Honours Degree in Costume Interpretation. She worked for five years in a German theatre and also with the Midlands Arts Centre and Birmingham Royal Ballet. She has toured intensively, including Australia and Asia, with different shows and is really enjoying her work in films.
Laura has been a Head of PE and is currently a Head of House at a school in Walsall. She studied Sports Studies (BSc) at Staffordshire University. At John Willmott School she studied A Level PE and her love of sport was inspired by the PE staff, Mrs Jervis, Mrs White and Mr Osburn. After University she became a Gym Instructor at The Belfry, then decided to become a teacher and hopefully inspire others the way she had been inspired at John Willmott. She began horse riding at the age of 3 and now takes part in Eventing (Dressage, Show Jumping and Cross Country) and last year won the National Hunter Trials Championships.
Anne Harding-Bell (nee Saveker)
Anne is a lead specialist Speech and Language Therapist for the East of England Cleft Lip and Palate Network at Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge. She is also Senior Research Fellow, De Montfort University and Course Leader for the Post Graduate Programme training Speech and Language Therapists specialising in Cleft Lip and Palate in the Homerton School of Health Studies at the University of Cambridge. She is a world renowned expert in cleft palate speech and child speech impairment. After studying at John Willmott Anne went on to take a degree followed by a PhD in cleft palate speech.
Petro is the Managing Director of the FT Group working in the Financial Services Industry. After leaving John Willmott School he took a BA (Hons) degree in History and Politics at Coventry University and he also has an MBA (Master in Business Administration) from Birmingham City University.
Fay is a lingerie and swimwear designer creating ranges for companies such as ‘Mamas and Papas’, ‘Figleaves’ and ‘By Caprice’. She has travelled to London and Paris with Caprice and was part of ‘Project Catwalk’ with her. She has also worked for Ted Baker in London. Fay has seen her work exhibited in France, Italy, America and China and says “It’s always such a thrill to see your own work on the catwalk.” After studying A Level Art and Design at John Willmott School she went on to DeMontfort University in Leicester to graduate with a BA Hons degree in Contour Fashion. Fay is currently working as Senior Lingerie Designer for IEI UK.