The lost and found creative greats
From passionate painters to engaging educators, many great influencers have used their little grey cells to think outside the box and colour our world with innovation. 44’s Editorial Assistant Hannah Montgomery explores this kaleidoscope of creativity by recognising some key visionaries, many of whom often don’t get the appreciation they deserve…
When I was growing up, William Shakespeare was my creative inspiration.
While my classmates grumbled about reading his plays and poems because they didn’t understand the language, I secretly enjoyed the challenge of analysing the unfamiliar phrases and considering their meaning.
Though Shakespeare never captured the interest of my peers, he’s rightly acknowledged as one of the greatest writers in the English language.
He may not be to every school pupils’ taste, but his dramatic narratives and sentimental sonnets have stood the test of time.
I asked the rest of the 44 team to credit their favourite creatives – and they came up with an eclectic mix of the good, the great and, in a few cases, the somewhat forgotten…
You may never have heard of Ada Lovelace, but her story is incredibly interesting. She published the first ever algorithm to be used on a computer – all the way back in 1843. Her ability to create something never seen before, and the way she used her imagination to explore the vast possibilities of computers more than 150 years ago, is what makes her so inspiring.
American writer Maya Angelou is the creative giant I admire. With her brilliant writing, which centres largely on the themes of racism and identity, she has inspired women of all ethnic backgrounds.
Tommy Nutter has creative flair – I find it incredible how he took the structured elegance of the standard Savile Row suit and added flamboyant touches, along with heavy nods to the innovation of men’s tailoring in the 1920s. I could never have afforded to get one made while he was still on the Row, but I did take detailed drawings from the suits in his window when I had a suit made by a lesser tailor for my wedding. That was almost 30 years ago, yet I still wear it!
I’d say Ashley Banjo from Diversity for being a genius choreographer. He’s somehow able to hear a piece of music and understand how he can layer a story on top of it through dance. His choreography has made me laugh, it’s made me think, and it’s brought street dance to a whole new audience.
Hamilton is a hit hip-hop musical about the founding fathers in America that really shouldn’t work. It does because of the creative genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda and his team. It demonstrates how looking at creativity from a different angle can produce something special and unforgettable.
I’m in awe of old scholars who dared to think differently without the crutches of modern technology or 21st century insights. Leonardo da Vinci gets my vote not only because of his early designs for helicopters and parachutes, and advances in anatomy, but also because I love things that work because they’re simple. And he famously said that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
I think Olivia Colman should be recognised, because of her incredible versatility. It doesn’t matter what she turns her hand to, she always manages to pull off each of her roles with flair.
The work produced by graphic designer Noma Bar is really inspirational. I love the way he strips things back to its most basic form. Quite often it’s the simplicity of something that makes it so clever.
My ‘creative great’ would be J.K. Rowling. Whether you’re a fan of the iconic Harry Potter books or not, you can’t deny that she had a life-changing lightbulb moment while travelling on a delayed train from Manchester in 1990. However, rather than just praising her for a great book idea, it was what she did after that I really admire. She showed resilience by overcoming multiple rejection letters – and kept fighting for her idea. For me, her story shows that creativity is not just about a single idea – it’s about what happens after to develop, shape and share that idea so it becomes something truly magical.
I love the clarity and boldness of Tamara de Lempicka’s art. She was fearless in her painting and subject matter, and always strove to be original. I’ve also always been in awe of Mary Shelley for writing Frankenstein when she was barely in her 20s.
It’s amazing how music has the power to change the way you feel, so I would choose the composer John Williams. He has composed some of the most famous movie soundtracks of all time. Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Home Alone… while these films were always going to be blockbusters, it’s Williams’ music that truly makes them memorable.
Model, singer, actress and icon… Grace Jones has been daring for decades! She has pushed creative boundaries, challenged perceptions on gender, and is still stealing the show aged 70. She’s never compromised her sense of self or her artistry – everything has always been on her terms.
Ruth Jones – she co-wrote Gavin and Stacey, which in itself makes her a comedic and creative genius. Plus, I really wouldn’t want to mess with Nessa…