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What is the connection between the actress Kate Winslet and schools minister Jim Knight? It is nothing seedy. Both appear happily married. And, no, unlike Ms Winslet (right), Mr Knight has not been nominated for an Oscar or a Bafta for best actress. However, their connection is showbiz-related.

Between 1986 and 1991, when he was still in his early twenties, Mr Knight worked for a small-scale travelling theatre company, then managed arts venues in Basingstoke and Wiltshire.

One of the first events Mr Knight promoted was a play directed by a then-unknown student called Sam Mendes.

It was thanks to that break (possibly) that Mr Mendes went on to become internationally renowned for his theatre work and for his films, including American Beauty, which won him the Oscar for best director. Meanwhile, Mr Knight became a publishing company manager, then a minister, and now only appears on stage at teacher conferences. The two friends remain in contact.

Mr Knight knows Mr Mendes and his wife well enough to refer to them as Sam and Kate and call in the occasional favour.

Whether Mr Knight has any influence on Kate could become clear if she wins the Oscar. Watch her tearful acceptance speech carefully for references to "progression", "personalised approaches" and "catch-up-and-stretch".

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