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These are some of the inspirational women changing lives in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 05:30 28 November 2017 | UPDATED: 10:37 12 December 2017

Jessica-Jane Applegate after breaking four world records in Berlin. Picture: Roger Lindberg

Jessica-Jane Applegate after breaking four world records in Berlin. Picture: Roger Lindberg

Roger Lindberg

We explore the lives of a handful of the hundreds of women who keep Norfolk moving, giving, caring and developing.

Wendy Thomson, managing director of Norfolk County Council. 
Picture: ANTONY KELLY Wendy Thomson, managing director of Norfolk County Council. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

All over Norfolk, women are changing lives.

This could be the lives of their colleagues, students, families or complete strangers, but their determination and compassion set them apart.

And while there are many hundreds of women who deserve celebration in our county, here we explore the contribution of a handful to the daily lives of its citizens.

City College Norwich principal Corrienne Peasgood.

 Picture: Nick Butcher City College Norwich principal Corrienne Peasgood. Picture: Nick Butcher

As managing director of Norfolk County Council Dr Wendy Thomson is one of the women who quite literally keep the county going.

After her appointment in 2014 she vowed to help the authority through its “rough patch” and has put her academic background in social work to use leading a bid to improve the council’s beleaguered children’s services department.

Norfolk’s business community is making its mark on the national scene, with companies like Epos Now bucking the productivity trend with outstanding growth. Chief operations officer Hayley Johnson has charted the business’s growth from a team of four to an international brand and won the women in business services category at this year’s First Women Awards.

Rachel de Souza, chief executive of Inspiration Trust. Picture: Andi Sapey Rachel de Souza, chief executive of Inspiration Trust. Picture: Andi Sapey

A tier of strong women are involved in nurturing the next generation of female talent. These include: Dame Rachel De Souza, chief executive of the Inspiration Trust academy, which runs 14 schools in Norfolk and Suffolk, and leader of an educational campaign group; principal of City College Norwich Corrienne Peasgood, who worked her way up from apprentice to plumbing lecturer to a senior role in the Transforming Education in Norfolk (TEN) Group; and Angela Robson, deputy vice chancellor at Norwich University of the Arts, said by vice chancellor John Last to be an integral part of the university’s day-to-day running.

One of the county’s – and country’s – most senior religious figures also has a hand in its daily running. After becoming the first female Dean of Norwich in 2014, the Very Rev Jane Hedges oversees the life of Norwich Cathedral and has also served as the president of the Royal Norfolk Show in 2017. Ordained deaconess in 1980, deacon in 1987 and priest in 1994, she also became the first woman Canon at Westminster Abbey in 2006.

The county is full of women who give to those less fortunate than themselves.

Angela Robson, deputy vice-chancellor of Norwich University of the Arts. 
Picture by SIMON FINLAY. Angela Robson, deputy vice-chancellor of Norwich University of the Arts. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Davina Tanner has dedicated her career to giving ex-offenders the chance to rehabilitate through a career of their own. Taking former inmates from HMP Norwich and HMP Wayland, she offers employment opportunities at Café Britannia and its adjoining shop, and Bistro Britannia in Norwich. Her social enterprise earned her an OBE in 2015.

Chief executive of the Norwich-based St Edmunds Society Lorraine Bliss has held her post for 20 years. Driven by the belief that every young person deserves the right to achieve their full potential, irrespective of the social and mainstream educational challenges they may have faced growing up, she says she is extremely proud of the work St-Eds has achieved and the difference that staff and tutors have made to the lives of thousands of young people.

For many of these women personal hardship has been the prompt for their work for society.

Head of operations at Epos Now, Hayley Johnson. 
Picture by SIMON FINLAY. Head of operations at Epos Now, Hayley Johnson. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Take Adele Bellis, who was scarred for life in an acid attack in Lowestoft in August 2014 after years of abuse from her controlling ex-partner. Instead of letting the trauma of her experiences beat her she has turned it into a positive, publishing an acclaimed autobiography, Brave, and taking the issue of domestic abuse into schools and the wider community.

For Jade Chapman from Dereham, her sister Laura’s profound deafness inspired her to help. She launched the Let It Shine campaign in 2014, at the age of 16, which aims to have British Sign Language taught in schools across the country to fight the isolation being deaf can cause. She has lobbied government ministers to help her cause and, in October 2014, was given the Bernard Matthews Youth Award for her dedication to education.

Then there are those who fight fiercely for their county on its own merits, like Corinne Fulford from Thetford. An ex-town councillor, former manager of the Dad’s Army Museum, former coordinator of Thetford’s Great Festival and director of Leaping Hare, a community interest company which coordinates and promotes local events, she is a vociferous champion for her town.

The Very Reverend Jane Hedges, Dean of Norwich, and this year's Royal Norfolk Show president. Picture: Paul Hurst The Very Reverend Jane Hedges, Dean of Norwich, and this year's Royal Norfolk Show president. Picture: Paul Hurst

Meanwhile Gorleston swimmer Jessica-Jane Applegate is championing sport in the county. A world record holder who has also claimed 75 British records and four Paralympic medals, her achievements were recognised with an MBE in 2013. But she takes equal pride in her charity work, as an ambassador for sports and disability charities including Mencap and Inas, which helps athletes with intellectual impairments to compete in international competition.

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