WE could all name one or two villains of 2021, but who were your heroes? As the new year begins, here are some of the people I have looked up to over the past 12 months:

l Bradford is a city built on fascinating life stories, and twists of fate. When 11-year-old Rudi Leavor opened the door of his Berlin flat to the Gestapo one night, it led to the arrest of his parents. Later released, they knew they had to escape Nazi Germany. “It was a blessing in disguise,” Rudi told me last year, reflecting on his newly-published memoir. “But for that arrest, we might not have escaped the fate of millions of Jews in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.”

Rudi came to Bradford in 1937, with his parents and sister: “My father was told he could go anywhere except London and Manchester, where they had enough refugee dentists. A clerk stuck a pin in a map and suggested Bradford.”

Rudi became chairman of Bradford Synagogue, devoting himself to maintain the building when the city’s Jewish population dwindled. His award-winning interfaith work, particularly with Bradford’s Muslim community, made global headlines. Back in July Rudi was preparing a talk on his memoir at Bradford Literature Festival, but sadly he died of Covid, aged 95. I joined more than 200 people at his memorial service in November.

Rudi read the T&A every day for over 70 years, and contributed letters and articles. Like many people in Bradford, I became his friend. He was one of the best people I knew.

l Heroism turns up in unexpected places... like a village hall in a Cheshire town few of us had heard of until last February. When an online meeting of Handforth Parish Council turned to chaos, with councillors hurling insults and the chairman getting kicked out, it was watched by over five million people, trending on Twitter and

spawning memes.

Jackie Weaver, drafted in from the local council’s peacekeeping corps to sort out this chaotic corner of Little England, makes this list because she’s kick-ass. She reads and understands the standing orders. And her level-headed heroism at Handforth shines a light on other local government heroes who give up their time to sit in draughty village halls, going through the minutes, motions and Any Other Business that keep the wheels of this lowest tier of democracy turning. They read the standing orders - so we don’t have to.

l “It was a moment in our lives, and it meant the world.” Terry Pearson will never forget going to Hest Bank as a child in the 1960s. He was one of thousands of Bradford children who stayed at the holiday home near Morecambe and today he’s a trustee of the charity that owned it. For 70 years Bradford Cinderella Club opened up the sea-front property to 50,000 children from families who couldn’t afford holidays, or had health conditions that benefitted from open spaces and fresh air. “It was the first time I’d ever seen the sea,” recalled Terry, who has worked tirelessly to convert a city centre property into a ‘crash pad’ where teenagers can have an overnight break - a place of solace, built on the same principles as Hest Bank.

The Cinderella Club was set up over 130 years ago to help children in poverty. Today, thanks to Terry and the other volunteers, it continues to do just that, in many different ways.

l When Jacqui Drake found a mole on her leg, it turned out to be a melanoma. Nearly 20 years later it returned, and today Jacqui is living with stage 4 skin cancer. She decided to try and raise £1 million to help other cancer patients, providing home comforts at a treatment centre and equipment that the NHS doesn’t fund. Thanks to her remarkable drive, energy and organisational skills, she has so far raised £286,244 for Jacqui’s Million. Despite undergoing surgery and gruelling treatment for a condition she now knows is terminal, Jacqui is one of the most upbeat, optimistic people I’ve ever met.

I hope that in 2022 I can ‘Be More Jacqui, Terry and Rudi’.