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2010 New Year's Honours in the arts | reviews, news & interviews

2010 New Year's Honours in the arts

2010 New Year's Honours in the arts

And the award goes to...

Nicholas Hytner: director of the National Theatre is knighted in 2010 New Year's Honours List

A happy new year to all our readers - and it’s a particularly happy new year for some, as they anticipate buying a new outfit for a trip to Buckingham Palace to collect the gongs awarded to them in the 2010 New Year’s Honours List. Those honoured in the arts include a few big names alongside one or two surprises, and we at theartsdesk.com send our heartiest congratulations to all those honoured.

Two of the biggest awards go to Nicholas Hytner, director of the National Theatre, and actor Patrick Stewart, who are both knighted for services to drama. Hytner, 53, has been director of the National Theatre since April 2003 and said he was "delighted and flattered" to receive a knighthood. Although it may be regarded as a perk of the job (all his predecessors were gonged), I hope the knighthood will also be seen as reward for making the arts affordable to all (he was responsible for introducing the Travelex £10 ticket scheme) and for standing firm for artistic freedom. Early in his days on the South Bank, Hytner faced opposition from the religious right for staging Jerry Springer: The Opera and earlier this year from Islamic fundamentalists for staging Richard Bean’s England People, Very Nice.

hamlet_partick_stewart_pic1The Queen is reputed to be a fan of Stewart, who is best known worldwide for his role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek, although he has appeared in many productions with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He recently returned to London after living in Los Angeles for several years and appeared alongside David Tennant in the RSC’s acclaimed production of Hamlet in 2008 (pictured) and in Waiting for Godot in the West End last year with Sir Ian McKellen. Stewart, 69, said: "I am very proud to receive this honour. The theatre is and has always been my great joy. In particular the past six years have given me acting opportunities that at one time I could not have imagined possible.”

Phyllida Lloyd 52, said she was “humbled” to receive a CBE for services to drama. After a career at the RSC and the Royal Court, Lloyd directed the Abba musical, über-hit Mamma Mia! in 1999 and later directed the cinema version, starring Colin Firth, Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan.

Theatre grande dame (although strangely not an actual Dame, tut tut, those at the Palace) Margaret Tyzack, who appeared in television adaptations of The Forsyte Saga and I, Claudius, has an upgrade on the OBE she received 35 years ago with a CBE. Still working at 78, she has in the past criticised the lack of roles for older women, saying they are either portrayed as "witches or crone-like" with scripts that are "a load of clichéd old bollocks". More power to her elbow.

Braham Murray. artistic director of Manchester's Royal Exchange theatre, is awarded an OBE, also for services to drama, while Jeremy James Taylor, who founded the National Youth Music Theatre in 1976 and was its artistic director until 2003, is awarded an OBE for services to young people and to musical theatre. I am disappointed, though, that the National Theatre of Scotland, one of the best innovations of recent years in British theatre, has yet again been overlooked.

Nor are there any theatrical dames this year, but perhaps the Queen is saving some for her Birthday Honours List in June. Surely Julia McKenzie, Britain’s foremost musical theatre star for some (and starring in both Cranford and Miss Marple on TV over the holiday period), will be under consideration, as indeed must Fiona Shaw, the outstanding classical actress of her generation. Without wishing to be ungallant to the former, the latter may be considered too young to be damed, but she is surely a lady in waiting. She is at the moment performing The Wasteland at Wilton’s music hall in London, another must-see performance of her distinguished career in British theatre.

After Shaw’s performance last night, I spoke to Deborah Warner, her director in The Wasteland (and herself made a CBE in 2006), who said of this year’s awards, “Sir Nick and Sir Patrick - it’s wonderful news.” On arts honours in general, she said: “I think these awards are very important for recognising the importance of the arts in our society and the contribution they make to British life. It’s lovely to receive one, not just as a personal gift, but as representing a group of people who give so much pleasure to so many others. I think they can only be regarded as A Good Thing.”

Sculptor and painter Maggi Hambling receives a CBE. Hambling, 64, said: "I'm delighted. It's always a bit of a shock when you get the one of those letters, but it's an important recognition of the place of the arts in society.” Her award will be one in the eye for her detractors: The Scallop, a 12ft-high sea shell, erected in 2003 on Aldeburgh beach in Suffolk to celebrate British composer Benjamin Britten, has been condemned as an eyesore by some locals and daubed with philistine insults including "move this tin can" and "rubbish".  Painter Rosa Branson receives an MBE for services to art and charity.

In literature, Dick King-Smith, who wrote The Sheep-Pig, the basis of hit film Babe, is an OBE, while children’s author and illustrator Lauren Child, creator of the Charlie and Lola series, is awarded an MBE. It is heartening to see the art of translation - a much overlooked profession - honoured in the form of Anthea Bell, co-translator of the Asterix comic books and of Pushkin Press's hugely successful new editions of the works of Stefan Zweig, who gets an OBE.

quoIn pop music, Mr Richard Parfitt and Mr Francis Dominic Nicholas Michael Rossi - better known as plain Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi, the two remaining original members of Status Quo, are awarded OBEs for their services to music and charity. It’s a shocker, but a delightful one, that the original bad boys of British rock are now firmly part of the Establishment. Singer-guitarist Parfitt, 61, and lead singer Rossi, 60, have been rockin’ all over the world (sorry) for more than 40 years, and have sold more than 118 million records worldwide. They have had a record-breaking 64 British hit singles, including 22 in the top 10. They may have been dismissed as the original three-chord wonders, but the duo have also raised millions of pounds for charity, and Status Quo launched the first Prince’s Trust concert in 1982 and three years later they opened the original Live Aid concert with "Rockin’ All Over the World". Status Quo were famous for their rock‘n’roll lifestyle, a fact alluded to by Rossi as he said "Us - of all people! I'm not sure that we deserve it. But fuck it, I'm so made up it's ridiculous."

In classical music, conductor James Loughran, who has wielded his baton five separate times at Last Night of the Proms, has become a CBE, while harpist Jennifer Doolan receives an MBE, and an OBE is given to composer Craig Armstrong, 50, who created the scores to films including Romeo+Juliet and Moulin Rouge! An MBE goes to Jet (né Terence) Harris, 70, who played bass in the Shadows, for services to music, and the same to Pino Frumiento. singer-songwriter, for services to disability arts. The CBE for Lucian Grainge of Universal Music highlights the cultural and financial importance of the music industry in the UK.

In film, screenwriter and director Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame is knighted in New Zealand; while producer Graham King, whose movies include Oscar-winning The Departed, gets an OBE in the diplomatic and overseas list. Tessa Ross, 48, Channel 4's controller of film and drama, who helped make Slumdog Millionaire an Oscar-winning hit, gets a CBE and said it was "a huge encouragement to do more".

In television, wildlife presenter and cameraman Simon King, who appears on the BBC’s Springwatch and Autumnwatch series, gets an OBE for services to wildlife photography and to conservation.

debbie_moore_446x251In dance, David Nixon, artistic director of Northern Ballet Theatre, Leeds since 2001, receives an OBE for services to dance, while Debbie Moore, 63, founder of Pineapple Dance Studios in 1979 (pictured), is made OBE for services to business - surely in recognition of the sales of legwarmers for which she is responsible. Angela Alessendre, founder of the Alessendre Special Needs Dance School and the Larondina Dance Company, receives an MBE for services to dance. For many years Alessendre has taught Down’s and severely handicapped children to dance to music, improving their physical coordination and body control. Irene Langlands, who has taught dance in Scotland for 51 years, also receives an MBE.

Mark Jones, 58, director of the Victoria and Albert Museum since 2001, is knighted, while performance poet Lemn Sissay, who is artist-in-residence at the Southbank Centre in London, receives the OBE. Foluke Akinlose, founder and editor of Precious Online, an online network for women of colour, is appointed MBE for services to the creative industries and Murray Halliday is also awarded an MBE, for services to the arts in Perth.

Although I am no fan of circus (I really hate animals being used for entertainment), I am delighted that the awards committee have been thinking outside the box (well the ring, I guess, for the former) for my two favourite arts awards, both MBEs. Zippos Circus entertainer Norman Barrett is the first circus ringmaster to receive an honour and at 74 he is still working after 62 years in the business. And Christopher Hilton, formerly general manager of the Odeon Leicester Square cinema, where the Queen and her offspring attend film premieres, is recognised for services to the film Industry.

Lastly, if I may take sideways step to mention Dr Claire Bertschinger, who has been made a Dame for her humanitarian work. Dr Bertschinger was the British nurse whose work during the Ethiopian famine in 1984 inspired Michael Buerk’s memorable pieces for the BBC in, which in turn inspired rocker Bob Geldof to create Live Aid. I don’t wish to cavil, but Sir Bob was gonged in 1986 and the good doctor has had a rather longer wait to be honoured for arguably a far greater contribution to humanity. Clearly there’s some way to go in our honours system but, as many of the above awards show, we are at least going in the right direction.

It’s a shocker, but a delightful one, that the original bad boys of British rock are now firmly part of the Establishment

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