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Four charity leaders receive top awards in New Year Honours list

10 Jan 2022 News

Alistair Spalding, of Sadler's Well Theatre, and Diane Lees, the director-general of the Imperial War Museum, were among those to receive awards in the New Years Honours List.

The annual list was published by the Cabinet Office on 31 December 2021 and recognises those who have made a positive impact on their community or within their line of work. The New Years Honours List 2022 recognised 1,122 people.

This honours list is the most diverse to date, with 15.1% of recipients coming from ethnic minority groups. However, less than half of the awards went to women (47.9%) and Alison Bennett, head of honours in the Cabinet Office’s Honours and Appointments Secretariat, admitted that there was more to be done. 

There were a number of awards for senior charity professionals, charity infrastructure bodies and philanthropists. 63% of the New Years Honours list were awarded for community work. 

Knighthoods and damehoods

Four charity figures received high awards in this year's list. 

Alistair Spalding, who has been the CEO and artistic director of Sadler's Wells Theatre since 2004, received a knighthood. 

Diane Lees, director-general of the Imperial War Museum, was awarded a damehood for her services to museums and cultural heritage. She has been director-general of the museum for almost 14 years, and is also a trustee of the Holdsworth Trust. 

Professor of cardiology Shakeel Qureshi was knighted for his services to paediatric cardiology and charity. He is chairman of 4 Peace of Mind, a small humanitarian aid charity, and is chairman of the medical charity Chain of Hope. 

Peter Murray, the founder and executive director of Yorkshire Sculpture Park, was also knighted for services to the arts. 

Infrastructure bodies

The chief executive of NAVCA Maddy Desforges was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to volunteering and charity. 

Desforges has been chief executive of NAVCA since March 2021, after five years at Voluntary Action Sheffield. 


Paul Reddish, chief executive of Volunteering Matters, was also awarded an OBE. He tweeted his support for a campaign to change the name of the awards. 

Covid response

Many charity leaders were praised for supporting communities through the pandemic. 

Victoria Hornby, CEO of Mental Health Innovations, received an OBE for her work in the charity sector during the Covid-19. The charity established Shout – a 24/7 mental health support service. 

Before the pandemic, the Shout service received, on average, 750 messages per day. This skyrocketed to an average of 1,600 conversations per day in December 2021.

Charan Singh Sekhon, chairman of SEVA Trust UK in Bedford, was recognised as a Member of the British Empire (MBE) due to his charitable work throughout the pandemic. He launched an emergency Covid-19 support project in March 2020 to help the elderly, vulnerable, homeless and international students during lockdown.  

Sekhon said: “I am incredibly humbled to hear this news and honoured to receive this recognition.

“I must thank my entire family, and the guidance of my parents, who taught me a true meaning of life. There is no better reward than serving the country.”

Charity worker recipients

Janine Tregelles, CEO of charity Revitalise, was awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). She has been with Revitalise for two years, and has worked in the charity sector for 20 years with non-profit's like Mencap, Golden Lane Housing and Access Social Care. 

Former director of fundraising at British Heart Foundation Amanda Bringans received an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) award for her services to charity. She has held senior roles in several charities, including Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Leonard Cheshire Disability, Macmillan and Comic Relief. She is now a trustee for the RSPCA. 

Bringans said: “I’m amazed and grateful to have been given an OBE. I have spent many years working for some extraordinary charities, with some wonderful, dedicated fundraisers, to whom I would like to dedicate this award. Working with them all has been an honour and a privilege.”

Lynne Morris, Toybox CEO, also received an OBE for services to children in the UK and abroad. She has been CEO of the children’s charity for 10 years and has held director roles across the non-profit sector. 

Two senior staff members from the British Red Cross were also recognised, with the executive director of UK operations Norman McKinley awarded an MBE and director of humanitarian assistance receiving an OBE.

CEO of British Asian Trust Richard Hawkes was also awarded an OBE for his contributions to the charity sector, and Gareth Batty, FareShare Yorkshire’s CEO, received an MBE.

Simon Darby, a Young Lives vs Cancer Social Work Team Leader from Northern Ireland received an MBE for his worth with teenagers. 

Young fundraisers receive awards

Tobias Weller, 11, became the youngest recipient of a British Empire Medal (BEM) on record this year for his fundraising efforts. 

The 11-year-old, who has cerebral palsy and autism, completed sponsored walks and marathons to raise money during the Covid-19 pandemic. He has raised £157,000 for the special educational needs school Paces, which he attends, and The Children’s Hospital Charity.

12-year-old Max Woosey also received a BEM for spending every night sleeping in a tent since 28 March 2020 to raise money for North Devon Hospice. 

The hospice took care of his close family friend Rick Abbott in the last days of his life. Nicknamed The Boy in the Tent, Woosey has raised over £583,000 for the charity. 

Calls to change the system

Many nominated for honours awards have rejected them over the years, for a myriad of personal and political reasons. For example, in 2003 the poet Benjamin Zephaniah turned down an OBE due to its links to empire.

The campaign group Excellence Not Empire is calling for the honours system to change so that Order of the British Empire changes to Order of British Excellence. It feels this would make the honours system more inclusive, and be a move to acknowledging Britain’s colonial past. 

In June 2020, many charity leaders wrote a letter to the Times urging the Queen to drop the word “empire” from the awards. Many of those who signed it, including Lord Abedowale CBE and Polly Neate CBE, have expressed their support for the Excellence Not Empire campaign.  

The group announced on Twitter that it would be moving to the second phase and is looking to work with a consultant to “work with us to build phase 2. Initially a short consultancy with a bit of visioning, strategy, comms, PR, funding.”

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