Firstly, let me say that like many I am not entirely happy with the way the honours system works, and how the selection procedure always seems to leave out many more deserving people than it includes. That said, for most of us we don’t actually know how much charitable work many people do, and recognizing the selfless charitable work by an individual is surely one reason for giving an award. Why some people should get an award simply for doing their job doesn’t seem right, and likewise for being ‘good’ at sport.
Some newspapers have reported that this New Year honours list recognises more women than men for first time. “Of the 1,195 people honoured, 611 – 51% – are female. Sir Bob Kerslake, head of the civil service, said it represented “quite a significant shift” and “deep-rooted change” over the past 40 years, with the previous highest proportion of women being 47%. In the 2004 New Year honours list, 34% of recipients were women, in 1994 the percentage was 28%, and in 1974 it was just 17%.” The Guardian
However, is it necessary to highlight one aspect of this ‘flawed’ system? What about the percentage of those from ethnic groups, gay, lesbian, disabled, working class, etc. Or from industries that seldom get recognised? Maybe one day we won’t need to see the added aspect of gender, sexuality or ethnicity etc and we will all be treated simply as individuals. One day…
The bottom line is that we have a system and we are left to pick the bones out of it. The rights and wrongs of the honours system is for debate elsewhere. For the moment let us celebrate the successes of those from our own industry.
There are several from the world of entertainment, and in particular the world of theatre, that certainly tick many boxes for being included in the Honours List and well done to them.
Actresses Angela Lansbury, Penelope Keith and Gillian Lynne become Dames.
Penelope Keith, 73, who is popular for playing Margot Leadbetter in the 1970s sitcom The Good Life, and To The Manor Born, said of her honour: “It’s a recognition for not only my 54 years being an actress but also for all the charities with which I’m associated and I think they’ll be thrilled.”
Murder, She Wrote actress Angela Lansbury, 88, receives her award for services to drama and to charitable work and philanthropy. She told the BBC: “I’m joining a marvellous group of women I greatly admire like Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. It’s a lovely thing to be given that nod of approval by your own country and I really cherish it.”
Lansbury, 88, was born in East London and has enjoyed a long acting career in film, television and theatre. She returns to the West End in 2014 to play Madame Arcati in a new production of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit at the Gielgud Theatre.
Gillian Lynne, aged 87, whose choreography credits include Cats and The Phantom of The Opera, and with a dance career spanning seven decades, said she was “deeply humbled” by her DBE. “Passion for my art has been the motivating factor throughout my career, but for Her Majesty the Queen and the Cabinet Office to deem what I have done to be worthy of this accolade is an honour.”
Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber said: “I am thrilled that the grand lady of British musical theatre has got the recognition she deserves. Gillie was already a legend when I was at school! Without Gillie my Cats would never have seen the stage.”
Composer and conductor Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, who is Master of the Queen’s Music, has become a companion of honour.
Among those who received CBEs are actor Michael Crawford, who played Frank Spencer in 1970s sitcom Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em; and TV and radio personality Nicholas Parsons, both for charitable work.
It is often said that Michael Crawford is best known for playing Frank Spencer in the popular 1970s British sitcom, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em . For his stage work, originating the title role in The Phantom of the Opera, is probably his most prominent role, in the West End and on Broadway. More recently he played the The Wizard in The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium.
Parsons, best known for presenting TV quiz Sale Of The Century and for his role as host of Radio 4’s Just A Minute, said he was “flattered and delighted”
CBEs have also gone to dancer Carlos Acosta, for services to ballet; former Royal Court artistic director Dominic Cooke, for services to drama; Peter Bennett-Jones, for services to the entertainment industry and to charity, particularly through Comic Relief; and The Apprentice’s Karren Brady, for services to entrepreneurship and to women in business.
Actress and TV presenter Lynda Bellingham said that being appointed an OBE for her charity work was “a fantastic way to move forward” after a “tough year“. The Loose Women panelist, who became familiar to millions for her long-running role in the Oxo TV adverts, announced earlier this year that she had been diagnosed with cancer. “I am absolutely delighted and proud to receive this OBE,” she said. “It has been a long and tough year but this award is just a fantastic way to move forward. I feel honoured and inspired and very grateful.”
Welsh singer Katherine Jenkins said she was “incredibly humbled” by her OBE for her contribution to music and services to charity. The Neath-born mezzo-soprano has released 10 albums since making her recording debut in 2004, and has twice won the best album prize at the Classic Brits. She said: “To accept such an award after only a decade of service to music and charity, comes as a wonderful surprise. I share this award with the charitable bodies I am so privileged to work with, especially to those brave service men and women who risk so much for us all on a daily basis.”
An MBE also went to artist Derek Clarke, the oldest current member of the Royal Scottish Academy of Arts, whose career has spanned more than 70 years and who turns 101 on 31st December.
Guide to the Honours