Ones to watch: Future stars to look out for in 2016

Clockwise from left: Hearts player Dario Zanatta, Singer Nina Nesbitt, Actress Freya Mavor, Hibs player Scott Martin and boxer Lewis Benson. Picture: TSPL
Clockwise from left: Hearts player Dario Zanatta, Singer Nina Nesbitt, Actress Freya Mavor, Hibs player Scott Martin and boxer Lewis Benson. Picture: TSPL
Have your say

WE get out our crystal balls to spot the contenders likely to make their mark in sport, entertainment, politics and business this year

IT’s that time again when we dust off the crystal ball and come over all Nostradamus to predict the contenders likely to make their mark in sport, politics, entertainment and city life this year.

For many of us, a new year means time to reflect on the year gone by and how to make the next one even better. But for others, 2016 is already looking like a year full of ­promise.

One or two of our picks have tasted some success already. For them, this new year brings fresh challenges which will surely keep their names at the top of the pile.

Others are on the brink of breaking through to become the new generation of well-kent faces and names who will dominate city life.

So who are the ones to watch this year?


Dario Zanatta, footballer, Hearts

Dario joined Hearts on a two-year contract in the summer and has already played twice at first-team level despite being only 18. A tall and athletic forward who isn’t short on pace, he previously played for Vancouver Whitecaps in his native Canada but is keen to make an impact in Europe. He has represented Canada at under-16, under-18 and under-20 level already and is regarded as one of the country’s top prospects. He can play on either flank or through the middle and is expected to make more senior appearances for Hearts in 2016. He is currently a regular in the club’s under-20 side and has scored several impressive goals this season.

Scott Martin, footballer, Hibs

Scott spent a couple of years training with Celtic and had trials with Dundee United and Aberdeen before being snapped up by Hibs. The 18-year-old midfielder is currently on loan at Forfar Athletic, but he’s very much in Alan Stubbs’ plans for the future, having caught the eye during a handful of first-team appearances. Despite his inexperience, the talented teenager has never looked out of place and his all-action style already has some supporters making comparisons with a young Scott Brown, which is no faint praise down Leith way.

Lewis Benson, boxer

Professional boxer Lewis has earmarked 2016 as his breakthrough year in the sport. The light welterweight fighter joined the paid ranks last June after signing a three-year contract with promoters MGM Scotland. The 24-year-old has contested three pro-fights to date and has won them all, his most recent coming earlier this month when he knocked out Englishman Kristian Laight at Meadowbank after 69 seconds. MGM promoter Sam Kynoch has already stated his desire to see Lewis compete for a title at some point this year, much to the delight of the former Lochend amateur himself.


Rachel Flynn, actress

Dubbed “the new Ruthie Henshall”, Edinburgh-born Rachel trained at Motherwell College and graduated from the London School of Musical Theatre before winning her dream panto role alongside the Krankies, John Barrowman and Melanie Masson in Cinderella at the Clyde Auditorium last year. Also a model, she’s shot a billboard advert for the Scottish Rugby Union and appeared in a Heinz TV commercial. It’s on stage where she’s most likely to make her mark, however, with Evening News entertainment editor Liam Rudden having this to say about her: “Rachel’s crystal clear vocals, amazing range and warm stage presence single her out as a star of the future.”

Blair Anderson, actor

Young Blair already has some impressive theatre credits to his name – and the list just grows and grows. He’s currently starring as Robertson Ay in Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s multi award-winning musical Mary Poppins, which arrives at the Festival Theatre this spring. “Not only does Blair have a great stage presence and singing ability, he has innate comic timing, which should guarantee him a long and varied stage career,” says Liam Rudden.

Freya Mavor, actress

Former Mary Erskine’s pupil Freya first shot to stardom playing the Queen Bee bitch in E4’s Skins, and her star has been on the rise ever since. Having secured a nomination as Best Actress in the TV Choice Awards, become the face of wool brand Pringles, and been named Fashion Icon of the Year at the Scottish Fashion Awards – all in 2011 – the blonde bombshell from Canonmills went on star in the smash-hit musical Sunshine On Leith and on TV in both Channel 4’s Restoration drama New Worlds and the BBC’s adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s historical romp The White Queen. Freya made her first splash on the big screen alongside Karen Gillan in the British rom-com Not Another Happy Ending in 2013, and last year she starred in the French film The Lady In The Car With Glasses And A Gun (La Dame dans l’auto avec des lunettes et un fusil). In 2016, Freya’s film career is set to go up several more notches when she appears in the screen adaptation of the Julian Barnes novel The Sense Of An Ending, which co-stars Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling and Emily Mortimer. It goes without saying, but it looks like it’s only a matter of time before Hollywood comes calling.

Nina Nesbitt, singer

The Edinburgh-born pop princess is already a well-kent name thanks to the hit singles Stay Out and Way In The World and a debut album which briefly made it to No.1 on the UK charts before ending its opening week at No.11. But after two years out of the spotlight, during which time she’s been writing music that “represents a new state of mind, a new person and a new life”, Nina is set to come back with a bang when her Modern Love EP is released on February 5 on Island Records. Now 21, the half Scottish, half Swedish singer, who attended Balerno High School, says the new EP is a “big departure from the 17-year-old girl with an acoustic guitar but it feels like the most honest music I’ve ever written”. Nina’s army of Nesbians will be pleased to know that lead single Chewing Gum will be revealed this year.

Honeyblood, band

What a year 2015 was for the dynamic duo of Stina Tweeddale and Cat Myers. The girls signed to Fat Cat records, toured the United States with Belle & Sebastian, and opened proceedings at Murrayfield Stadium for the mighty Foo Fighters. There was also the small matter of them picking up a Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award nomination for their astounding self-titled debut. Honeyblood ended 2015 by going down as storm at Edinburgh Hogmanay’s Concert in the Gardens. Now they’ve done the hard bit – working their socks off to become everyone’s favourite new band – 2016 is the year they’ll go stratospheric. Produced by James Dring, who has worked with Gorillaz, Blur and Jamie T, the band’s second album is already done and dusted, and due out in the spring. “It’s still in the same style as the first record but we wanted to elaborate on that more, making it exciting to play live,” says Edinburgh-born Tweeddale. “There’s going to be a couple of little surprises on it.” We can’t wait.

Elle Exxe

Edinburgh-born electro-clash queen-in-waiting Elle Exxe (real name Linda Harrison) is set to make a huge splash in 2016. “My music is big bass, big beats and a ballsy vocal,” says the singer, who is now based in London, where she’s making quite a name for herself. “I like to think it’s gutsy, in your face and honest.” After a string of catchy singles, Elle is set to drop her debut album this year. Remember the name.


Hannah Bardell, MP for Livingston

Livingston lass Hannah is making quite a splash in the world of politics, where she’s considered a “rising star”. She left a job at GMTV to work with the SNP on its 2007 campaign, then managed Alex Salmond’s constituency office for three years, before working at the Edinburgh Consulate of the US State Department. She has also served as a member of the Grampian Chamber of Commerce Policy Committee, Business for Scotland and the Aberdeen Performing Arts Development Commitee. In her teenage years, Hannah was a Pushkin Prize winner for creative writing, and in her spare time enjoys playing guitar and watching most sports, particularly football and rugby.

Mile Briggs, Tory MSP candidate

There are not many assured paths to power for Conservatives in Scotland, but rising star Miles Briggs is almost guaranteed to become an MSP thanks to his second slot on the Tories’ top-up list in Lothian after Ruth Davidson.

Mr Briggs saw off strong competition from seasoned party figures to secure one of the places being vacated by the two sitting Tory MSPs, Gavin Brown and Cameron Buchanan.

He has worked as a political adviser to senior Tory MSP Liz Smith since 2007 and has stood as a candidate for Holyrood, Westminster and the city council, most recently fighting Edinburgh South at the 2015 general election.

He says politics for him is all about community campaigning and he is seen as an effective operator.

Alison Dickie, SNP MSP candidate

Like most of the SNP candidates standing in May, Alison Dickie has a better than evens chance of being elected to the Scottish Parliament.

But the 49-year-old primary teacher, who is standing in Edinburgh Central, is arguably in a particularly strong position to make a success of it if she gets there. She worked at the parliament for ten years as a senior official, whose duties included writing speeches for the presiding officer.

Ms Dickie, whose husband is Baptist minister in Granton, swapped the neutrality of her Holyrood role to become active in politics and was an enthusiastic campaigner during the referendum.

Having left the “bubble” of politics and rejoined the “real world”, working in a school, is also likely to stand her iN good stead.

Daniel Johnson, Labour MSP candidate

Businessman Daniel Johnson was selected nearly two years ago as Labour’s candidate to fight the Edinburgh Southern seat in the 2016 Holyrood elections. It is arguably the party’s best prospect of having at least one constituency seat in Scotland since it is roughly equivalent to the only seat Labour still holds at Westminster.

Mr Johnson beat local councillor and education convener Paul Godzik, who stood the last time, in the internal battle to become the candidate. He argued his business background – he is managing director of Studio One and Paper Tiger – helps him bring fresh ideas to politics and party insiders believe he would be an asset to them as an MSP.


Lesley Eccles, FanDuel co-owner

In 2009, Edinburgh-based Eccles started fantasy sports gaming platform FanDuel with husband Nigel and three others. Six years on and the business is one of Edinburgh’s great tech start-up success stories – a leading player in the US fantasy sports games business, a sector which has more than 40 million followers. Participants get a chance every day to select new players, fill out a line-up and, most importantly, win some cash. Lots of cash. FanDuel has over one million active paying users, and paid out over $2 billion in prizes in 2015. Eccles has said FanDuel is moving forward with plans to start operating outside its core market of the United States, with a UK launch coming “soon”. We’ll be hearing a lot more about Eccles and FanDuel in 2016, you can bet on that.