The best of 2011: people of the year

Time Out's editors reveal their picks of the most influential people of 2011

Every year, Time Out's writers and editors have the opportunity to meet and experience the work of the world's most exciting and creative individuals, and 2011 was no different. Here, the team reveals who they consider the most influential figures of the past 12 months.

Who's your person of 2011? Let us know in the comments box below.

  • Steve Jobs

    Tim Arthur, Editor in Chief

    'I woke up in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. I reached out to grab my iPhone to find out what time it was. It was just after three. Without thinking I did what I what I always do, checked for text messages, Facebook status update and Twitter tweets. ‘RIP Steve’ was the first indication I got from someone I follow/cyber stalk. I closed that app and opened up the BBC News website. It was what I had feared, Steve Jobs co-founder of Apple Inc and Pixar Animation was dead. I put my phone down, picked up my iPad and scoured the net for more information. Messages, photos and videos from all over the world were already flooding the net with an unprecedented outpouring of geek grief. For many of us it was hard to comprehend that at just 56 the man that many saw as arguably the greatest innovator and visionary of the last fifty years was dead. Along with the likes of Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak, Jobs helped transform the planet. The products he created were elegant, sublime and instant design classics. He made ‘high tech’ beautiful as well as useful. From iTunes to iMacs, from 'Toy Story' to 'Up', everything he touched had heart as well as genius. He will be missed, especially at the moment when the world could do with a few more Steves.'

    View Steve Jobs tribute
  • Tilda Swinton

    Rachel Halliburton, Deputy Editor

    'Tilda Swinton’s performance as the mother of a murderous teenager in ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ has rightly been acclaimed as one of the most stunning of the year. It marks the latest step in this highly articulate, never less than artistically adventurous actress’s career – a terrifying, visceral triumph.'

    View Tilda Swinton interview
  • Duncan Sambrook

    Michael Hodges, Executive Editor

    'It was so nearly Boris Johnson but in the end I opted for Dominic Sambrook. He used to be an accountant but he stopped doing that and opened a brewery by a helicopter pad in Battersea, and has kept on brewing. The beer is sensational but the social message even stronger – imagine a London where all the accountants became brewers.'

  • Pauline Pearce

    Simone Baird, Features Editor

    'The third night of the London riots saw many of us glued to Twitter and the rolling TV news trying to make sense of the trashing of our neighbourhoods and riot police stomping past our doorways. It would take a Hackney pensioner to cut through the widespread feeling of ‘What the fuck is going on, London?’. When journalist Mark Moore tweeted his video of a ‘truly extraordinary speech by fearless West Indian woman in face of Hackney and London riots’, it immediately went viral. That woman was Hackney pensioner Pauline Pearce and she was videoed that night, walking stick in hand, shouting at looters: ‘Look at that shop there! She’s working hard to make her business work. You want to go burn up her shop? For what? Just to say you’re warring and you’re bad man? Get real!’ Amidst chaos and burning homes and livelihoods, Pauline Pearce reminded me why I’m proud to be a Londoner.'

    View London riots news
  • The Occupy London Movement

    Rebecca Taylor, News Editor

    'The campaign group seized the public’s imagination when they set up their tent city outside St Paul’s Cathedral on October 15. Since then, they have expanded onto two other London sites and show no signs of disappearing any time soon. It’s easy to vilify them as ‘fornicating hippies’ (Boris Johnson) and ‘junkies’ (The Evening Standard), or criticise the group for lacking specific goals, but who else is really challenging the financial sector that created our global mess or the governments that are forcing the public to bear the brunt of it? Good luck to them!'

    View Occupy London news
  • Leonid Nikolaev and Oleg Vorotnikov (Voina)

    Chris Waywell, Chief Sub Editor

    'Russian art group Voina have staged public sex performances and painted a massive cock on a bridge opposite state security headquarters. Nikolaev and Vorotnikov are currently awaiting trial for turning over a police car during a demonstration. Despite all this, in April the group won an award from the Ministry of Culture for innovation in the visual arts. In December, Nikolaev escaped from police custody following his arrest during a demonstration. He subsequently issued a statement complaining of his treatment while being fingerprinted, that he witnessed officers taking bribes and that the police were negligent in allowing him to escape.'

  • Terence Conran

    Around Town
    Sara O’Reilly, Around Town editor

    'Celebrating his eightieth birthday in October and currently the subject of a retrospective at the Design Museum, Terence Conran has had a sustained impact on they way live ever since he emerged from art college to work on the Festival of Britain. His characteristic blend of entrepreneurship, design talent and inclination to share his own enthusiasms has given us Habitat, Conran, the Design Museum and the reinvention of its environs in Shad Thames – and a string of restaurants that have succeeded in capturing the zeitgeist. This year, against a backdrop of cuts to museum funding, Conran made a donation of £17.5m to the project that in 2014 will see the Design Museum move to a new, much bigger home in the old Commonwealth Institute building in Kensington, where it will be possible to do all sorts of exciting things that haven’t been feasible in the former banana-ripening warehouse beside Tower Bridge that currently houses the museum.'

    View Terence Conran listing
  • Ai Weiwei

    Ossian Ward, Visual Arts editor

    'When Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was unceremoniously arrested on April 3 and detained for almost three months, the art world responded vociferously. Fittingly for the capture of such a prolific blogger and online activist, a global social media campaign was launched and ‘Release Ai Weiwei’ went up in giant letters on the windows of Tate Modern, while Ai’s ‘Sunflowers Seeds’ installation still littered the Turbine Hall below. Even in absentia, he had two more major shows in London this year and was named an honorary Royal Academician as well as the most influential person on Art Review magazine’s annual Power 100 list. Upon his release and subsequent house arrest (on charges of tax evasion), it seemed the Arab Spring would eclipse coverage of the Jasmine Revolution entirely, but the artist soon began defying the Chinese authorities by speaking out and giving press interviews once more. He will remain a symbol of hope and a frictional force against oppression as long as he lives.'

    View Ai Weiwei interview
  • Craig Taylor

    Books & Poetry
    Chris Moss, Books editor

    'There are dozens of good writers for whom London is home or inspiration. This year we had new books by Peter Ackroyd, Sebastian Groes, Claire Tomalin, Nicolas Kenyon, Leo Hollis, Boris Johnson, David Kynaston, Ken Livingstone, Lawrence Manley and Carol Birch (Booker shortlisted for Jamrach's Menagerie) with a London theme of some kind - but we should give a heavy pat on the back to Craig Taylor for 'Londoners' (Granta). This collection of monologues directs the spotlight at ordinary citizens, from all classes and all walks of life, and lets them express their loves, hates, troubles, complexes, hopes and ambitions. And a massive hurrah to all those who opened bookstores too given the recession-hit, online-obsessed, everything-serious-should-be-free economic climate.'

  • Plácido Domingo

    Classical Music
    Jonathan Lennie, Opera & Classical editor

    'Plácido Domingo turned 70 this year, his anniversary celebrations including two shows at the Royal Opera House. These featured three final acts: Verdi’s ‘Otello’, ‘Rigoletto’ and ‘Simon Boccanegra’, and showed how the Spanish opera singer is no egomaniac, given that none of the acts were solely about him, particularly ‘Rigoletto’, in which he sang the baritone role of the jester, leaving the showy arias to the tenor. Voted by ‘BBC Music Magazine’ as the best tenor of all time, having played 136 roles in 3,500 performances, he is inarguably the word’s most experienced opera singer. He is also an inspiration for his pragmatism ­– in recent years as his voice changed, he embraced it as an opportunity to take on baritone roles – and while lacking darkness and depth, he brings a bright burnished quality to his roles. Still treading the boards as a singer, he is also general director of two companies, LA Opera and Washington National Opera, and a busy conductor. ‘If I rest I rust’ is his motto. Long may he continue.'

  • Mary Anne Hobbs

    Kate Hutchinson, Clubs editor

    'Not only is she the nicest person in dance music, Mary Anne Hobbs has also succeeded in her mission to bring underground electronic music to prime-time radio with her double drop onto Xfm. Having joined the alternative station following her departure from Radio 1 a year ago, she presents two shows – one during the week and one on Saturday evening – filled with the kind of music that previously you would only have heard on Rinse FM. For young producers, it’s a chance to get mainstream radio airplay, which until now would have been a distant dream. For listeners, it’s an opportunity to keep abreast of electronic trends from one of the scene’s most respected curators. It was an honour to have her headline our Time Out Live Nite Sessions club night in November after she played to some 15,000 people at Sonar festival in Barcelona.'

    View Mary Anne Hobbs interview
  • Adam Riches

    Ben Williams, Comedy editor

    'At a time when comedy’s popularity is continually on the increase, character comic (and this year’s Edinburgh Comedy Award-winner) Adam Riches proved there’s still an audience looking for alternatives to observational stand-up. The magic of his audience-interactive show, ‘Bring Me the Head of Adam Riches’, would be lost in an arena: it’s designed for an intimate environment where no one in the crowd quite feels safe. Highly inventive and gloriously silly, it’s one of the funniest shows we’ve seen all year. But Riches also shows aspiring comics that panel shows aren’t the only route to success in the comedy business.'

    View Adam Riches listings
  • Gill Clarke

    Lyndsey Winship, Dance editor

    'A posthumous vote for dance artist Gill Clarke, a founder member of Siobhan Davies Dance Company, who died in November after many years of living with cancer. As director of Independent Dance she was a much-loved teacher and staunch supporter of independent artists working in the precarious world of dance. A woman of integrity and intelligence and an inspiration to many a dancer.'

  • Jafar Panahi

    Dave Calhoun, Film editor

    'If you haven’t heard of Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, your ears might prick up when you learn that the director of ‘The Circle’ and ‘Crimson Gold’ was given a six-year jail sentence and a 20-year filmmaking and travel ban in December 2010 by the Iranian government, simply for planning a film of which the authorities did not approve. His case lost its first appeal this October and is now waiting to be heard by Iran’s Supreme Court. Panahi, 51, is one of several Iranian filmmakers suffering similar treatment, but his case received special attention when he illegally sent a co-directed work, the autobiographical documentary ‘This is Not a Film’, to the Cannes Film Festival in May (it was reportedly smuggled out of Iran in a cake). It was an act of supreme artistic bravery, while the film itself was witty and clever, reflecting his circumstances in a creative and provocative fashion.'

    View ‘This is Not a Film’ review
  • Eat.St Collective (Petra Barran and Giles Smith)

    Charmaine Mok, Food & Drink writer

    'The pair deserve their gongs for promoting and nurturing London’s burgeoning street food scene since 2009. They launched the brilliant Eat.St at King’s Cross earlier this year, a three-day ‘market’ offering a platform for new and established street food traders (and the denizens of King’s Cross a better lunch option than Subway). The community of roving food trucks and street stalls is growing week on week – Eat.St has become a hub where traders can find support and hungry diners can track down and discover their favourite meals on wheels.'

    View Eat.St Collective news
  • Roger Crouch

    Gay & Lesbian
    Paul Burston, Gay editor

    'When his teenage son Dominic committed suicide as a result of anti-gay bullying, Roger Crouch committed himself to tackling bullying in schools. A patron of new charity Diversity Role Models, who send positive role models into schools, Crouch’s outreach work saw him awarded Stonewall’s Hero of the Year last month. Sadly he died on Nov 28.'

  • Adele

    Eddy Lawrence, Music editor

    'Number One in the album charts, beating Amy Winehouse's record for the most albums sold by a female artist. The live DVD of her playing the Albert Hall shows Adele at her gloriously gobby best, alternating amazement at being on the venue’s stage with object proof of why she deserves to be there. We eagerly anticipate her return to action – she's been communicating via a text-to-speech smartphone app for the last three months after receiving laser microsurgery for a vocal cord haemorrhage.'

    View Adele interview
  • Jane MacIntyre

    Katie Dailey, Shopping & Style editor

    'Jane isn’t a known figure in the fashion industry by any stretch. But this year she has fought to take ownership of derelict public loos to provide functioning amenities and a pop up events space (nicer than it sounds) for the community. She was also instrumental in setting up markets on Chatsworth Road and St John’s Church in Hackney (all info on her site, McIntyre seems dedicated to her neighbourhood, all of her projects being fiercely local-minded and wary of frightening off the native communities with over-gentrified products and prices. We could have picked Kate Middleton for her services as a clothes horse to British designers, or Lulu Kennedy for her dedication to upcoming talent via Fashion East, but for ground level impact to the London shopping scene, we pick Jane.'

  • Sonia Friedman

    Caroline McGinn, Theatre editor

    'A woman in a man’s world, Sonia Friedman nevertheless has more courage than any other British commercial producer. Without her, audiences in London and New York might not have been moved and entertained by Mark Rylance’s era-defining turn in ‘Jerusalem’. In fact, Rylance wouldn’t have made his Tony-winning Broadway debut at all (in ‘Boeing Boeing’) had Friedman not insisted that he remain on board for the US transfer. She takes a risk on great drama even when it isn’t a safe bet at the box office, bringing Out of Joint’s 5* revival of Caryl Churchill’s 'Top Girls' into the West End this summer. In 2011 Friedman also took Katori Hall’s play about Martin Luther King, ‘The Mountaintop’ (which started life at Theatre 503, above a pub in Battersea) to Broadway, where Samuel L Jackson took the lead. Her fingerprints were all over quality big-name drama on the West End this year: Keira Knightley and Elisabeth Moss in ‘The Children’s Hour’ and Catherine Tate and David Tennant in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ - directed by rising star Josie Rourke. From ‘Legally Blonde: The Musical’ to Tom Stoppard’s ‘Arcadia’, Friedman combines shrewd popular instincts with a dedication to championing good work. She brings the best of New York to London (watch this space for ‘The Book of Mormon’) and the best of the West End to Broadway. Producers determine the kind of theatre popular audiences get to see, and commercial producers are rarely celebrated, especially by Time Out – they can be conservative and out-of-touch with the cutting edge compared to our classy and powerful subsidised theatres. But when they get it right artistically as well as commercially – as Friedman so consistently does – then we should shout about it.'

    See 'Jerusalem' listing
  • Paul Mason

    Phil Harrison, TV critic

    'Paul Mason, the Economics Editor of Newsnight, has been the only TV journalist to engage with the various upheavals this year in a really accessible, thorough and enlightening way. He also has a blog on the BBC website which has explored the revolutionary impact of social media on everything from the Arab Spring to the Occupy movement. He’s come closer than anyone to making sense of the whole thing.'