New Year honours recognise successes in poetry, prose – and reality TV
The arts awards in the honours list have a distinctly literary feel, with the poet Geoffrey Hill, elected last year as Oxford’s professor of poetry – a post uniquely voted for by the university’s alumni, given a knighthood, the novelist Penelope Lively made a dame, and the novelist Rachel Billington and the writer Clive James awarded CBEs.
Hill, 79, who had an academic career, has been described as the finest living English poet. He previously said: “Difficult poetry is the most democratic because you are doing your audience the honour of supposing they are intelligent human beings. So much of the popular poetry of today treats people as if they were fools.”
Should he and Peter Bazalgette, the independent TV producer credited with popularising the Big Brother reality show format, be knighted on the same day the conversation may be interesting.
Bazalgette, a descendant of the great Victorian civil engineer responsible for building London’s sewers, said: “To receive a knighthood is a delightful compliment and I am acknowledging it as recognition for television’s thriving independent production sector in general.”
Honours to the arts and media make up 7% of the total. MBEs go to Barbara Benson-Smith, who has co-run a stage academy in Whitby, North Yorkshire, for 58 years and is a prolific fundraiser for the NSPCC, and Lyndie Wright who runs the Little Angel Theatre in Islington, north London.
Steve Lillywhite, record producer for a huge number of successful bands, including U2′s first three albums, receives a CBE. Antonio Pappano, musical director at the Royal Opera House, receives a knighthood.
David Harewood, the actor best known for his role as Friar Tuck in Robin Hood and for playing Nelson Mandela, receives an MBE.
Helena Bonham Carter, who receives a CBE, said she would be dedicating her award to her late father, who was left quadriplegic after an operation to remove a brain tumour went wrong. “I am thrilled, though not sure I deserve it. I always thought my father deserved a medal for facing 25 years of chronic disability with quiet daily heroism, so I am delighted to accept such a wonderful honour in his memory.”
She was, however, also pondering an alteration in family circumstances: “At the moment it’s my four-year-old daughter who does the commanding in our household. I must inform her of the change in the situation.”
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