2009 winner

An action-packed actor turned entrepreneur from Newbury won the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs 2009.

John Pickup, 40 an amputee, began Amputees in Action, a company that specialises in supplying amputee extras and stuntmen for Hollywood films, television and for armed forces casualty training in 2004. The firm’s artistes have featured in a number of big-screen blockbusters including Gladiator, 28 Weeks Later, Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan and popular TV shows like Doctor Who.

John was presented with a cheque for £50,000 by Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou. Sir Stelios said: ‘I am passionate about encouraging the enterprising spirit and working with Leonard Cheshire Disability to set up the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs.

‘I would like to warmly congratulate John. He runs a successful business and displays the drive, creativity and determination to reach the top and really fly. The £50,000 prize will help to ensure that Amputees in Action has a great platform for growth.

‘With around 50 per cent of disabled adults out of work, removing the barriers disabled people face in business is essential. Self-employment is a more viable option for many disabled people as it offers flexibility and helps bypass much of the prejudice that unfortunately still exists amongst employers.’

John Pickup said: ‘It's a great honour to have won this fantastic award and to have Amputees in Action recognised in this way.

‘£50,000 will mean we can invest in a project to work with the Stunt Register and Actors Equity to develop a competency award system, similar to NVQs that would enable amputees to perform stunts.

‘We have held many workshops for amputees in acting and basic stunt skills. They give our artists more confidence but these are not yet recognised qualifications - we would like to change that.

‘For the business to grow, it is all about the backing not only of our clients but the trust and support of professional organisations who represent them. I believe that a positive approach is the way to overcome the fear, prejudice and misconception that often stand in the way of disabled people.’