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Thursday, 22 August, 2002, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
BBC reveals 100 great British heroes
Johnny Rotten
John Lydon: Among the 22 living heroes from music world
Johnny Rotten and David Beckham line up alongside historic greats such as Geoffrey Chaucer, Enoch Powell and William Shakespeare in a new poll of Britain's top 100 heroes.

More than 30,000 people across the country were asked to pick a person who epitomised greatness, for a survey conducted for the BBC's new Great Britons programme.

Boy George
80s pop star Boy George is a surprise inclusion in the list
The series begins in the autumn by revealing the British public's top 100 nominations and the top 10 will then feature in a series of one-hour programmes.

Viewers will be asked to choose a single winner after seeing the shows fronted by people such as Jeremy Clarkson, former editor of The Independent and The Daily Express newspapers Rosie Boycott and the BBC's political editor Andrew Marr.

BBC 2 controller Jane Root said: "This series will arouse enthusiastic debate in offices and homes all around the country."

JK Rowling
Harry Potter author JK Rowling lines up alongside Chaucer
And executive producer Tom Archer said: "It will be a real insight into what people think this country means and what they think greatness is.

"It is much more varied and interesting than just an A-list of celebrities and goes against the idea that Britain is dumbing down."

Helen Haste, an expert on cultural icons who is based at Bath University, agrees the absence of celebrities proves Britain is not as superficial or transient as many believe.

Princess Diana
Richard Burton
JK Rowling
George Harrison
Michael Crawford

"Just because people enjoy reading about celebrities in magazines, it does not mean they will give them a place in the chronicles of history.

"People perceive celebrities as being famous for being famous and as a short-term thing - someone to entertain them but not to be taken seriously."

John Peel is the only DJ to warrant an inclusion in the top 100
Politician Enoch Powell, whose "rivers of blood" speech polarised opinions, personifies the British bulldog spirit for some right-wingers, according to Ms Haste.

And she believes Aleister Crowley, another nominee, who was once seen as the most evil man alive for dabbling in Satanism, epitomises British eccentricity.

The list also includes 20 scientists, engineers and inventors, 14 royals and just one television presenter - David Attenborough.

William Shakespeare, Harry Potter creator JK Rowling, JRR Tolkien and Geoffrey Chaucer represent the written word.

Prince Charles
Elizabeth Taylor
William Wordsworth
Ringo Starr
Laurence Olivier

Historian Dr Tristram Hunt told BBC News: "The British have a healthy respect for our scientists and writers and an equally healthy disrespect for our politicians."

Most of the 22 still living come from the world of music - with soccer's David Beckham and five-time Olympic rower Sir Steve Redgrave the only sportsmen.

Dr Hunt said the "sad neglect" of visual artists was "a product of the technological age".

"Our great scientists and performers in the modern media are the artists of today."

But veteran radio DJ John Peel, who features on the list, disagrees.

"If this list is genuine and not an elaborate Mickey-take, there is something very strange going on in our lovely country," he told BBC News.

See also:

21 Aug 02 | Entertainment
11 Jun 02 | Entertainment
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