Energised Sir Cliff returns to spotlight after child sex claims 'blip'
Sir Cliff Richard has made an energised return to the spotlight and Professor Stephen Hawking quipped about the complexities of Brexit at an awards ceremony dedicated to the country's unsung heroes.
The singer and theoretical physicist were among the eclectic list of figures who turned out at the 18th Daily Mirror's Pride of Britain Awards.
The glittering annual ceremony was hosted by Carol Vorderman at central London's Grosvenor House, with awards spanning categories including special recognition, emergency services, child of courage and TSB community partner.
As he walked the red carpet, Sir Cliff said he was "bounding with energy" to be making his major first television appearance since an investigation into child sex allegations was dropped.
The 76-year-old veteran singer, who has launched legal action against the BBC and South Yorkshire Police for alleged collusion in the case, retreated from public life during the two-year probe that saw albums and a biography postponed.
He said: "When you go through something like the last two years in my life, you realise how lucky you are really.
"That's just a blip in my life, really."
Later taking to the stage to present an award, Sir Cliff said the night's tales of "success and suffering" had helped put his experience in perspective.
"It was nothing," he added.
After being was greeted by waiting schoolchildren as she arrived, Prime Minister Theresa May introduced Prof Hawking as the recipient of the lifetime achievement award and said he had "quite simply changed the way we think about the world around us".
The acclaimed thinker replied: "Thank you, Prime Minister, for those very kind words.
"I deal with tough mathematical questions every day - but please don't ask me to help with Brexit."
Humanitarian surgeon David Nott received a lengthy standing ovation after a video depicting his efforts in volunteering his medical expertise in various conflict zones including Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria was played to the audience.
Upon receiving his special recognition award, he described an emotional lunch with the Queen after returning traumatised from Aleppo in 2014.
He said: "There I was in Buckingham Palace with the Queen, in the most beautiful surroundings (and) I'd just come back from the worst possible hell.
"She looked at me and realised something was not quite right with this man.
"So (she) beckoned the courtiers over and suddenly the corgis arrived."
The Prince of Wales also attended to present The Prince's Trust Young Achiever Award to Francesca Brown, 25, who overcame depression and family troubles to found an inspirational football development programme for girls called "Goals4Girls".
Charles said: "Francesca's remarkable story demonstrates the importance of my trust's work and the impacts such support can have."
William Edwards, who risked his own life to save pensioner Anne Wade while she was trapped inside a burning car, was honoured as an outstanding bravery award winner and said his experience had inspired him to join the fire service.
YouTube star Nikki Christou, from Enfield, also received cheers as she arrived on stage to be presented with a child of courage award.
The 12-year-old was diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening facial disfigurement arteriovenous malformation - an abnormal connections between arteries and veins - at the age of just six.
Two years after her diagnosis she started a YouTube channel, featuring make up and baking tutorials, which now has 95,000 subscribers.
The winners were chosen by a judging panel made up of celebrated figures in national life and organisers received tens of thousands of nominations from the public while researchers discovered "remarkable individuals".
The Pride of Britain Awards will be shown on ITV at 8pm on Tuesday.