Community workers heroes of the Queen’s birthday honours

Although celebrities, such as actress Olivia Coleman CBE, stole the headlines, it is the extraordinary people who work in their community on a voluntary or paid basis to help the underprivileged that are the real heroes of the Queen’s Birthday Honours announced on 8 June 2019.

People working in the local community made up 75% of the birthday honours list, an increase of 5% against the New Year Honours 2019.  

This tells us a great deal about the value the honours committee places on the unpaid time put in by people for their community. The results also support Theresa May’s policy, introduced in the summer of 2018, requiring that those receiving a Queen’s honour award must have achieved in one of the following areas – supporting young people, aiding social mobility, helping local communities, tackling discrimination and boosting economies.

Among the community voluntary workers honoured were Sonia Watson, the CEO of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, who received an OBE for helping disadvantaged people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds pursue a career in architecture.

Christie Spurling received an MBE for founding the charity N-Gage in Manchester that encourages disenfranchised students from deprived communities to engage in education; while Sarah Burns also received an MBE for her work with the charity Smart Works, which provides unemployed, single-parent women with clothing and coaching for job interviews.

Business leaders did well, too, making up 13% of people on the list. Boyd Tunnock, the inventor of the nation’s favourite teatime snack, the Tunnock teacake, was knighted. Other entrepreneurs recognised were Poppy Gustafsson, co-founder and co-chief executive of Darktrace, the cybersecurity company, who received an OBE, and Tony Laithwaite, who founded Laithwaites Wine in 1969, who was honoured with a CBE.

Women faired extremely well representing 47% of the total and an incredible four damehoods that were awarded to Elizabeth Corley, vice chair of Allianz Global Investors for her work on diversity; Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the Confederation of British Industry; Julie Kenny, chair of Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust; and Professor Elan Closs Stephens for services to the Welsh government and broadcasting.

Out of the total of 1,073 people receiving a Queen’s birthday honour, the majority (920 awards) were at BEM, MBE and OBE level with only 153 taking the top awards of CBE and knighthood/damehoods.