CORONAVIRUS HEROES DOMINATE QUEEN’S BIRTHDAY HONOURS
Written by Gabriel Ciniglio on 10 October 2020
Covid-19 heroes dominate the Queen’s Birthday Honours this year, from famous faces such as Marcus Rashford and Joe Wicks to hundreds of key workers who have helped with Britain’s fight against coronavirus.
This year’s list was postponed from June in order to include people such as medical workers, fundraisers and volunteers who have been instrumental in the Covid-19 effort.
It celebrates the selfless good deeds of big names as well as ordinary people during the pandemic, which saw delivery drivers drop off food and medicine to vulnerable people and health and care workers put themselves at risk to help their communities and beyond.
Among the most notable names in the list is footballer Marcus Rashford, who has been made an MBE after his heroic efforts in ensuring children in need received meals across the summer during the pandemic.
His campaign forced the Government to make a U-turn over its free school meals provision and now he is being honoured for services to vulnerable children in the UK during Covid-19.
The Manchester United star said: “As a young black man from Wythenshawe, never did I think I would be accepting an MBE, never mind an MBE at the age of 22.
“This is a very special moment for myself and my family, but particularly my mum who is the real deserving recipient of the honour.
“The fight to protect our most vulnerable children is far from over.”
Body coach Mr Wicks is also being made an MBE for helping children keep active and mentally fit during lockdown with his online PE lessons.
Mr Wicks said: “My childhood and how I grew up, if you met me as a little boy you’d have thought, ‘He’s not going to go anywhere, he’s not going to do anything great’.
“But I’ve turned it around and I really am proud I’ve become this person who’s helping people.”
Hot on the heels of Mr Wicks is Derrick Evans, more commonly known as Mr Motivator, who has been made an MBE after creating online home exercises during lockdown and hosting a week-long workout with Linda Lusardi to raise money for Age UK’s Emergency Coronavirus Appeal.
The television star said he initially thought he was being “scammed” when told of the honour, adding that it was “wonderful to be acknowledged in this way”.
He said: “If only my parents were really here with me now, they would be so chuffed, but I think in spirit they are actually hovering up there and they are saying ‘Boy, you done good’.”
Joining the list of celebrities who have helped with Covid-19 efforts is rapper Lady Leshurr, who is being awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) after releasing a coronavirus-related song this year reminding people to wash their hands.
She said: “I can’t believe that the Queen of England has noticed and commended the Queen of Grime.
“I’ve always held my integrity and it just proves, you know, if you believe in yourself and your craft, and you just work and build, you will be commended and you will be rewarded for your success and what you bring to the universe.”
Earlier this week, news leaked of damehoods for former Great British Bake Off judge Mary Berry and veteran actress Maureen Lipman, best known for her roles in BT adverts in the 1980s and currently in Coronation Street.
Ms Berry, who was made a CBE in 2012, is being made a dame for services to broadcasting, the culinary arts and charity, while Ms Lipman is honoured for her services to charity, entertainment and the arts during her 50-year career.
Ms Berry said she was “absolutely overwhelmed” at receiving a damehood, adding: “I just wish my parents and brothers were here to share my joy, as my only achievement at school was just one O-level – in cookery of course.
“However, I am sure they are looking down and smiling. ”
Ms Lipman, who becomes the first dame of Coronation Street, said: “I am proud to be honoured by the Queen and country that I love, for doing the work that I love.”
Meanwhile, another national treasure, Sir David Attenborough, receives an upgrade to Knight Grand Cross in the diplomatic list for services to broadcasting and conservation.
Phil Redmond, the creator of Grange Hill, Brookside and Hollyoaks, has been knighted for services to broadcasting and arts in the regions, while writer and director Sally Wainwright, who has been behind some of the biggest television dramas in recent years, including Gentleman Jack, is made OBE.
Ms Wainwright said: “I’m pleased that it’s come on the back of Gentleman Jack because I’ve been working on that for 20 years and, for me, it’s been the highlight of my career to be able to write about Anne Lister, so I feel quite emotional, I didn’t expect that.
“So for it to come on the back of that, for me, has been really quite beautiful actually.”
For services to music, British rapper Dizzee Rascal, real name Dylan Mills, has been made an MBE, while hip hop duo Krept and Konan, real names Casyo Johnson and Karl Wilson, are awarded the BEM.
In the entertainment industry, soap star and singer Mica Paris, who recently joined the cast of EastEnders, is being made an MBE for services to music, entertainment and charity.
There are knighthoods for Tommy Steele, dubbed Britain’s “first rock n roll star”, for services to entertainment and charity, and actor David Suchet for services to drama and charity.
On being knighted, Mr Steele, who was born Thomas Hicks, said: “It’s like being in a panto. People are calling you Sir and you think: ‘Blooming heck. Is that in the script?’ It’s wonderful and I haven’t come down to earth yet.”
There are CBEs for the University of Manchester’s Professor Brian Cox, actor Adrian Lester and TV presenter Lorraine Kelly.
Ms Kelly, who has been a staple on breakfast television for decades, said: “This is such an unexpected honour, I’m very grateful and humbled, particularly as I am in far more deserving company, especially all of those frontline workers who are true heroes.”
In total, 1,495 honours make up this year’s list, with health and social care workers making up 14%, while 13% of recipients are from a minority ethnic background, making it the most diverse list after 12% in the New Year Honours last year.
But the honours system continues to draw criticism over the lack of diversity among the higher ranks, with some branding it “elitist” and calling for the word “empire” to be dropped from the titles.
Kehinde Andrews, professor of black studies at Birmingham City University, said the British empire’s legacy is poorly understood and that the honours system reflected “how we think history works by picking out the winners”.
Singer-songwriter Joan Armatrading, who was made a CBE in the honours list, said people have “long forgotten” the honours’ association with empire.
“I think it is just a country acknowledging its citizens of things that they have done that they really recognise as being good things,” she said.
Key workers from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities have been recognised for their selfless efforts in the fight against Covid-19, including Felicia Kwaku, 52, associate director of nursing at King’s College NHS Foundation Trust, who is honoured for her services to nursing.
The nurse of 30 years, from Islington, north London, supported BAME nurses by delivering webinars during the pandemic and raised issues surrounding personal protective equipment (PPE), particularly for Filipino nurses.
Miss Kwaku, who is made an OBE, said it is “timely and appropriate” that BAME people are being recognised for their efforts during Black History Month, adding: “You can’t ignore the fact people have laid down their lives during this pandemic. It is only right, proper and fitting to honour them and honour those who continue to serve.”
Of those who have been honoured, 72% have worked tirelessly for their local community, reflecting the huge voluntary effort across the country in response to Covid-19.
This includes 100-year-old Dabirul Islam Choudhury, who is made an OBE after he raised £420,000 for Covid-19 relief while fasting during Ramadan.
He walked 970 laps of his garden in Bow, east London, after being inspired by Captain Sir Tom Moore, the Second World War veteran who raised £33 million after walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday in April.
Other everyday heroes include Ali Ghorbangholi, 29, and Professor Mark Wilson, 46, co-founders of the GoodSAM app which has helped mobilise hundreds of thousands of volunteers in support of vulnerable shielded people during lockdown.
In sport, former long distance runner Brendan Foster receives a knighthood for services to international and national sport and culture in the North East.
“It is a real privilege to receive this honour,” said the former athlete, who was presented with his first medal by the Queen at the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games 50 years ago.
He added: “Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to spend my whole life doing something that I’ve loved from childhood – participating, sharing my enthusiasm through broadcasting and for the last 40 years encouraging thousands to run for pleasure.”
Former Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas is made a CBE while cricketer Darren Gough is made an MBE.
Several experts working in the science, health and pharmaceutical fields have also been recognised for their efforts during the pandemic.
Professor Stephen Holgate, Medical Research Council clinical professor of immunopharmacology at the University of Southampton, is knighted for services to medical research, and Emma Walmsley, chief executive of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), becomes a dame.
Meanwhile, Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, who leads the Covid Symptom Study (CSS) app, is made an OBE.
Elsewhere, Tony Gallagher, a multimillionaire property developer who has donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Conservative Party and is also a friend of former prime minister David Cameron, is knighted for services to land development and the property business.
British fashion designer Paul Smith, who was knighted in 2000, is getting an upgrade after being appointed to the prestigious Order of the Companions of Honour, joining the likes of Sir Elton John, JK Rowling and Sir Paul McCartney.
The Cabinet Office said this year’s list is the first to have 11% of recipients under 30, with Theodore Wride being the youngest person at 16. He is awarded the BEM for service to his community in Sunderland during the pandemic.
The list includes 740 women, which represents 49% of the total, lower than the 50.7% seen in the New Year Honours list last year, while 6% of people being honoured considered themselves to have a disability.