Tower poppies creators honoured

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Published: Tuesday 30th December 2014 by The News Editor

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The creators of the spectacular sea of poppies that engulfed the Tower of London and touched the hearts of millions this year receive awards in the New Year Honours.

Paul Cummins and Tom Piper are both given MBEs in recognition of the immensely popular Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, which saw 888,246 ceramic poppies progressively fill the moat at the Tower – one for each British or Colonial military death during the First World War.

Millions of people queued in all weathers to see the moving installation – and in her Christmas message the Queen spoke of her own visit to see the poppies, saying: “The only possible reaction to walking among them was silence.”

The artists are among 1,164 people recognised by the Queen in the list, which also includes widely-trailed honours for actors Joan Collins, James Corden and Sheridan Smith.

The poppies emerged as one of the most visited and acclaimed public art installations for years, drawing an estimated five million visitors between July and November.

Cummins said he felt “taken aback and extremely happy to receive this unexpected honour”.

He added: ” Everyone who worked on Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, to me, should feel a part of this MBE, without them this installation wouldn’t have been created.

“Thank you to all those involved in bringing my vision to fruition and to those who put me forward for this honour, I’m shocked to receive it but truly grateful.”

Piper said he was “delighted” and thanked those who played a part in creating the installation.

He added: ” I am extremely proud of the part I have played in this unique collaboration with Paul Cummins. I t has been a real privilege to co-create an artwork which has meant so much to so many people.”

Announcing the list, outgoing head of the Civil Service Sir Bob Kerslake hailed the pair.

“Their contribution to the commemoration of these fallen soldiers has captured Britain’s imagination and made the First World War centenary unforgettable,” he said.

Other prominent figures honoured this year are Esther Rantzen, actors John Hurt, Kristin Scott Thomas and Emily Watson, comedian Meera Syal, novelist Ali Smith, Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and designer Mary Quant.

From the world of sport, former athletes Steve Cram and Dame Mary Peters, and Hillsborough campaigners Margaret Aspinall and Trevor Hicks are among those recognised, along with 103-year-old marathon runner Fauja Singh.

Former lord mayor of London Fiona Woolf, who resigned from her role as chair of the inquiry into historic child abuse, is made a dame for services to the legal profession, diversity and the City of London.

Addressing questions about the awarding of the damehood, Sir Bob said: “I think if you look at her citation you will see she has a very distinguished track record as lord mayor of London but also as a lawyer and we felt the grounds were there in their own right for Fiona to receive an honour.

“Her honour reflects what she has achieved throughout her career.”

Sir Bob also confirmed he will look into the “highly regrettable” leaking of a string of high profile honours before they were officially announced, adding that it was “unfair” when individuals are wrongly named as receiving honours. There were report s that Jonny Wilkinson was set to receive a knighthood, before it emerged that he is not included in this year’s list.

The list confirms OBEs for Corden and Smith, who once dated and have enjoyed huge success since they played siblings Smithy and Rudi on the hit BBC series Gavin & Stacey.

Corden, 36, has established himself at the forefront of the entertainment industry and earned international acclaim in 2011 for his performance in comic play One Man, Two Guvnors, which was a success in the West End and on Broadway.

He said he was “thrilled, overwhelmed and honoured”, adding: “My family are very proud. My mum is already fretting about what to wear.”

Smith’s award caps her journey from one-time burger van worker to national treasure. After roles in The Royle Family, Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps, Gavin & Stacey and Benidorm established her as a comedy star, the 33-year-old went on to win awards for performances on both TV and stage.

She won a Bafta for her portrayal of Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs’s wife, and this year she earned rave reviews for her role as Cilla Black in an ITV biopic. On the stage Smith has won awards for her performances in musical Legally Blonde and the play Flare Path.

Smith said she was “overwhelmed” and “humbled” to receive the honour.

As expected, Collins is made a dame for services to charity. The 81-year-old, a devoted monarchist, said she was “deeply honoured”.

Hurt, 74, is knighted after a career lasting more than 50 years taking in roles in the Elephant Man, Doctor Who and Harry Potter, as well as a famous scene in Alien in which an extraterrestrial bursts from his stomach.

Scott Thomas, who appeared in Four Weddings And A Funeral and The English Patient, is made a dame. The 54-year-old said she “could not believe” her inclusion on the list, adding: “In fact, I thought someone was playing a trick.”

Watson, 47, who went from virtual unknown to critically-acclaimed star after her performance as Bess in the film Breaking The Waves and more recently won a Bafta for her appearance in Appropriate Adult, ITV1’s dramatisation of the investigation into serial killer Fred West, is awarded an OBE.

The Oscar-nominated actress from London said the news of the honour left her “quietly smiling to myself all day”.

Peter Asher, one half of 1960s’ pop duo Peter and Gordon, whose hits included A World Without Love, is made a CBE, as is Syal, 53, who starred in Goodness Gracious Me and The Kumars At No 42. Brinsley Forde, a founding member of reggae act Aswad, is awarded an MBE for services to the arts.

Scottish writers Ali Smith and Carol Ann Duffy lead representatives of the literary world on this year’s list. Smith, whose novel How To Be Both was shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize, is given a CBE while Duffy, 59, the first female poet laureate in the post’s history, is made a dame.

The list is said to have a particular focus on those who help vulnerable children. ChildLine founder Esther Rantzen, 74, said she was “thrilled” to be made a dame, while there is a CBE for Kate Lampard, who oversaw the NHS investigation into Jimmy Savile.

Awards for those from the sporting world make up 5% of the total handed out this year. They include a CBE for former world champion athlete Cram, 54, and an OBE for former West Bromwich Albion player Brendon Batson, a pioneer for black footballers. MBEs are awarded to boxer Patrick Barnes and judo star Euan Burton, who both won gold medals at this year’s Commonwealth Games

Aspinall and Hicks, of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, are awarded CBEs in recognition of their tireless campaigning on behalf of those bereaved by the disaster in 1989.

Singh, widely recognised as the oldest marathon runner in the world, is given a British Empire Medal (BEM) while Dame Mary Peters, who won gold in the women’s pentathlon in 1972 at the Munich Olympics, is made a Companion of Honour.

Awards to figures from industrial and economic fields account for 12% of the total list. They include a damehood for Mary Quant, 80, who is widely credited with popularising the miniskirt. She said she was “absolutely delighted”.

There are CBEs for one-time Dragons’ Den investor James Caan and Brent Hoberman, who founded travel website lastminute.com with Martha Lane Fox in 1998, while young entrepreneur Jamal Edwards, who founded broadcasting firm SB.TV, is given an MBE.

Cressida Dick, the country’s most senior female police officer, receives a CBE. She announced she was to leave the Metropolitan Police after 31 years earlier this month.

Trevor Baylis, who invented the wind-up radio, is appointed CBE, while Dr Simon Campbell, who played a key role in the development of Viagra, is knighted.

In a coincidence rarely seen since the Order of the British Empire was established in 1917, two members of the same family are recognised for separate activities on the same list: Mairi O’Keefe receives an MBE for services to people with disabilities, while her mother Catriona MacKinnon is given a British Empire Medal for services to the Gaelic language and culture.

They are among hundreds of people away from the public eye who are being honoured, with the Cabinet Office saying three quarters of recipients are recognised for outstanding work in their community.

Six per cent of the successful candidates are from ethnic minorities, while 45% of the senior awards – CBE and above – are given to women, a jump of 10% compared with the Queen’s Birthday Honours list issued earlier this year.

Sir Bob said: “This list really is a reminder that the honours system is open to everyone in this country.”

It was disclosed that a small proportion of those selected – fewer than 2% and typically around 20 – turned down an honour.

Sir Bob said: “There are a range of reasons that people turn down honours. Some because they think the honour isn’t high enough for them. Some actually turn it down because they don’t feel that they themselves are worthy of receipt of an honour.”

He said his “lips are sealed” about the identities of those who rejected honours, and confirmed there are currently no plans to remove the reference to the British Empire in the title of the order.

Published: Tuesday 30th December 2014 by The News Editor

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