Queen’s Birthday Honours: OBE for Sheffield Doc/Fest star Gareth Malone

Sheffield date: Gareth Malone (centre) and the Military Wives. Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
Sheffield date: Gareth Malone (centre) and the Military Wives. Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
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SHEFFIELD Doc/Fest speaker and chart-topping Military Wives choirmaster Gareth Malone will have plenty to sing about on a visit to the city today - he’s been awarded an OBE, writes Graham Walker.

Malone and his Military Wives Choir took part in the Diamond Jubilee concert outside Buckingham Palace and they star on the official number one Jubilee single and album, Sing, co-written by Gary Barlow and Lord Andrew Webber.

An OBE also goes to Barlow, for services to entertainment and charity - he organised the Jubilee show and, with Sheffield’s own Eliot Kennedy, they co-produced Sing and recorded it on a trip around the Commonwealth.

Malone is due to speak about his career, which is reigniting an interest in choral music, with a Sheffield Doc/Fest talk at the Crucible Theatre today (Sat, June 16, 2012), at 1.15pm.

He said of his gong that he was indebted to his long-suffering parents for putting up with his hours of piano practice.

“It is extra special to receive an OBE during the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations, having just performed at the Jubilee concert. What a year,’’ he said.

Barlow, aged 41, said of his OBE: “I’m absolutely thrilled and feel very privileged to be in the company of so many brilliant people who I know have received an OBE.

“Growing up, I never dreamt that one day I’d be getting one myself. I enjoy every minute of the work I do, with a lot of it being a reward in itself, so for somebody to decide I should get recognised for that is just amazing.”

Actors Kate Winslet, Kenneth Branagh and the designer behind the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress are recognised in the list today.

Branagh’s knighthood left his heart “fit to burst” while Winslet said her CBE made her “very proud to be a Brit”.

The list, which sees the revival of the “working-class gong”, showcases the best of British talent, with awards also going to actresses Jenny Agutter and Amanda Redman, and chart-topping choirmaster Gareth Malone.

As Britain prepares for the Olympics, sporting stars are not forgotten, with gongs for golf world number one Luke Donald as well as former Wales rugby international Shane Williams and former England goalkeeper David James.

The 2012 birthday honours list sees the re-introduction of “working-class gong” the British Empire Medal (BEM), revived by David Cameron in a reversal of John Major’s decision to scrap it in 1991.

Its return has allowed the honours system to step up its recognition of “hands-on” service to local communities and the Big Society, the head of the Civil Service said.

Sir Bob Kerslake, who chairs the main honours committee, said: “Essentially, what we are trying to do is recognise people who have made a real contribution to their communities and to society.

“What the reintroduction of the BEM has done is help us extend the reach of the honours system by rewarding hands-on service to local communities.”

Some 293 people are given BEMs.

Oscar-winning actress Winslet, 36, who achieved worldwide fame for her role in the 1997 blockbuster Titanic, receives a CBE for services to drama, 100 years after the sinking of the “unsinkable” ship.

She said she was surprised and honoured, adding: “I feel deeply proud to receive this, as a part of an ever-expanding community of British actors and film-makers who are fortunate enough to be able to contribute to an international industry. This makes me very proud to be a Brit.”

Creative director for fashion house Alexander McQueen Sarah Burton - who designed the Duchess of Cambridge’s striking gown for the royal wedding last year - gets an OBE for services to the fashion industry.

In another royal link, Helen Asprey, personal private secretary to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, is made Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order, an honour bestowed by the Queen.

Belfast-born Hollywood star Branagh joins the ranks of the great acting knights.

The Oscar-nominated actor, director and screenwriter, recognised for services to drama and to the community of Northern Ireland, said: “I feel humble, elated and incredibly lucky.

“When I was a kid I dreamed of pulling on a shirt for the Northern Ireland football team.

“I could only imagine how proud you might feel. Today it feels like they just gave me the shirt and my heart’s fit to burst.”

Knighthoods also go to Royal Shakespeare Company artistic director Michael Boyd and Scottish opera director David McVicar, as well as songwriter and lyricist Richard Stilgoe and Carphone Warehouse founder and chairman Charles Dunstone.

Stilgoe, who made his name for the clever ditties he composed on BBC1 shows Nationwide and That’s Life, said he was “astonished and thrilled”.

The 69-year-old has been honoured for his ongoing philanthropic work, which has seen him give away millions to good causes and even donate his former home to an organisation he founded.

Lord Archer’s wife Dr Mary Archer, a champion of patient care and safety, is to become a Dame, along with Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid, who designed the aquatics centre at the Olympics Park, as well as former Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, for service in support of the Olympics.

Actress Agutter said she was “thrilled and touched” to be recognised for her charitable work with an OBE.

The 59-year-old has been a much-loved figure on screen for more than 40 years, making unforgettable appearances in films such as The Railway Children.

She said: “I’m obviously thrilled and touched that people I’ve been working with from the charities have recommended me - and the fact that it has been taken up.”

Fellow actress Redman, who starred in police drama New Tricks and founded the Artists Theatre School, receives an MBE, while novelist Susan Hill - author of The Woman in Black - said her CBE meant she had “caught up” with her husband, who was given the same honour five years ago.

A CBE also goes to Emma Hill, creative director of fashion company Mulberry, for services to the British Fashion Industry.

Sport plays an important role in the honours in the year Britain hosts the Olympics.

Golfing world number one Donald, currently competing in the US Open, said he was “truly honoured” by his MBE for services to the sport.

The gong also goes to former Wales rugby player Shane Williams for services to rugby and former England goalkeeper David James for services to football and charity.

Showjumper Nick Skelton, who retired after breaking his neck in 2000 but went on to recover and compete again, gets an OBE for services to equestrian sport.

A CBE goes to former professional footballer Paul Elliott, a champion of football’s anti-racism movement.

Those behind the organisation of the 2012 games are recognised for their efforts, with honours going to several members of the Olympic Delivery Authority.

In the media, former Spectator editor Alexander Chancellor is awarded a CBE for services to journalism while comic Armando Iannucci said his OBE for services to broadcasting will not stop him poking fun at politicians.

The 48-year-old, the man behind famously foul-mouthed Westminster sitcom The Thick Of It, said: “I just hope it’s not an attempt by the Government to stop me, because that’s not going to happen.”

Actress and campaigner April Ashley, 77, is to receive an MBE for services to transgender equality. Born a boy, the 77-year-old became the first Briton to undergo a sex change operation in Casablanca in 1960.

Lady Meyer, wife of former British Ambassador to the United States Sir Christopher Meyer, receives a CBE for services to children and families.

She founded charity Parents and Abducted Children Together after an almost decade-long legal battle to gain access to her sons after their German father refused to return them after a summer holiday visit.

Motorcycle stuntman Eddie Kidd, left wheelchair-bound after an accident in 1996, receives an OBE for services to charitable giving. The daredevil completed the London Marathon last year and is set to carry the Olympic torch through Lewes, east Sussex, on July 17.

A total of 1,201 people were recommended to the Queen for an award, with 1,064 candidates selected at BEM, MBE and OBE level - while 72% of recipients are involved in charitable or voluntary work in their local community.