Poppies artist honoured in Queen’s New Year’s list

Artist Paul Cummins at the Tower of London. Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
Artist Paul Cummins at the Tower of London. Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Community stalwarts from all over Derbyshire are to be given the ultimate award after making the Queen’s exclusive New Years honours list.

A select number of people across the county have made the elite list, which recognises outstanding achievement and the service of extraordinary people in Britain.

One local person that has been recognised is Chesterfield-born John Hurt, one of the one of the grand figures of TV and film, who is to receive a knighthood from the Queen for his services to drama.

The 74-year-old first developed an interest in acting at school but was discouraged by his parents and headteacher. Instead he went to art college with an eye to becoming a teacher himself.

Despite this, he earned himself a scholarship for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and picked up various TV and film roles until he appeared as Richard Rich in A Man For All Seasons, the role that turned out to be his major breakthrough.

He has since enjoyed great acting success and has had a distinguished career, taking him through a series of mesmerising performances, from the Quentin Crisp in The Naked Civil Servant, through his title role in The Elephant Man to his brief incarnation as The Doctor last year in BBC One’s Doctor Who.

Also from Chesterfield, ceramic artist Paul Cummins, the man behind the ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ installation at the Tower of London, has been granted an MBE.

The artist pioneered the installation, which saw 888,246 ceramic poppies progressively fill the moat at the Tower - one for each British and colonial military fatality during the First World War - between July 17 and November 11, marking the centenary of the outbreak of hostilities in 1914.

More than five million people flocked to see the memorial, including the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, and Princes William and Harry.

Speaking of the project that earned him his MBE, Paul said: “Each poppy represents someone who died in the First World War from Britain and the Dominions. I’m literally trying to represent people because a number is a number, but if you see it all like this it is a visual idea of how many people were there.”

Despite achieving MBE success, Paul does not expect his work to be recognised with a Turner Prize nomination.

“It is not going to happen,” he added. “Probably if it had been anyone else, yes.”

In Matlock, former Water Polo Club president, Reginald Dennis Smith, is set to receive a British Empire Medal from Her Majesty for services to the club.

Speaking of his joy after getting the award, Reginald said: “It’s quite an honour, it was a surprise, I was awarded a trophy by the East Midlands ASA for services to the Matlock Water Polo Club a couple of years ago but I never expected this.

“It’s nice to get recognised, as someone who has never been a brilliant player, for water polo as it’s not a very popular sport. I’m very pleased to receive such an award for something which I enjoy.”

The now 74-year-old started with the club when he was in his 20s, and spent more than 40 years in various roles.

“I’ve been a player, a driver, a cook, treasurer, president. I’ve been through all the usual processes. I enjoyed the time with them.”

When asked how he was going to celebrate his award, Reginald laughed and said: “I don’t do celebrations, they call me grumpy!”.

Another Derbyshire-based stalwart that has been recognised with an award is Eion Watts, Leader of the Labour-led Bolsover District Council, who is to receive an OBE for services to local government.

Elsewhere in Derbyshire there have been five other awards handed out. Derbyshire Constabulary’s Superintendent Gary Parkin is to be given a Queen’s Police Medal, speaking of his award, Superintendent Parkin said: “I have had a wide variety of roles within Derbyshire police that have allowed me to have a real influence on the service we provide to the people of our county.

“The Queen’s Police Medal is a complete honour for me, and I am exceptionally proud to have been awarded it.”

Ms Margaret Souyave, of Ambergate, is to be awarded an OBE for services to hockey.

Mrs Barbara Drummond, holiday camps organiser, Derby Deaf Children’s Society, is to receive an MBE for services to children with special needs and disabilities in Derbyshire and Lincolnshire.

Mrs Pamela Joan McConnell is also to be awarded an MBE for services to the community in Chesterfield, Derbyshire and to Charity through the Association of Inner Wheel Clubs in Great Britain and Ireland.

Robert Sidney Ludditt, Senior Officer Debt Pursuit, Chesterfield, HM Revenue and Customs, of Ripley, is to receive an MBE for services to debt collection.