A host of leading figures from the world of arts and entertainment have been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

They include two Connollys, a winner of the Eurovision Song Contest and a veteran Hollywood actress who turns 101 this year.

Billy Connolly, the Scottish comedian and actor known to millions as ‘The Big Yin’, receives a knighthood for services to entertainment and charity.

The 74-year-old told the BBC he was “very pleased” by an honour that was “never on the horizon” when he was growing up in Glasgow in the 1940s and ’50s.

“It’s so odd for someone from that background to get [a knighthood],” said the former welder who began his show-business career as a folk singer.

“It always feels strange to be welcomed into the establishment but I feel completely comfortable with it,” he continued.

Ed Sheeran has even more reason to be cheerful, having been made an MBE for services to music and charity.

The chart-topping singer-songwriter released his third album, Divide, earlier this year and will be the headline act on the last night of the Glastonbury Festival next weekend.

Julie Walters, an actress whose long career in film, television and theatre has shown her to be as adept as comedy as she is with drama, has been made a dame.

Much-loved for her TV collaborations with the late Victoria Wood, she has starred in such films as Educating Rita, Billy Elliot and the Harry Potter series and was recently seen in Channel 4’s National Treasure.

June Whitfield, another actress with a long history of beloved television comedy, has also been made a dame.

The 91-year-old star of Terry and June and Absolutely Fabulous told the BBC the honour had come as “a great surprise”.

“I never in a million years thought I would become a dame,” said the actress, who received an OBE in 1985 and a CBE in 1998.

“I’ve met some of the other dames and it’s absolutely wonderful to join the club.”

Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney and author JK Rowling have become companions of honour alongside designer Sir Terence Conran and cookery expert Delia Smith.

“I’m very happy about this huge honour and with the news coming on my birthday weekend and Father’s Day it makes it colossal!” said Sir Paul, who turns 75 on Sunday.

“I’m deeply honoured and proud to be nominated for this honour for services to literature and philanthropy and to be included in the distinguished and diversely talented company of the other Companions of Honour,” said Harry Potter creator Rowling.

Olivia de Havilland, the veteran Hollywood actress who played Scarlett O’Hara’s sister-in-law in Gone with the Wind, receives a damehood just a few weeks before she turns 101.

The double Oscar winner, who was born in Tokyo to British parents on 1 July 1916, becomes the oldest woman to become a dame since the modern-day honours system began.

“I am extremely proud that the Queen has appointed me a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire,” said the star of such films as The Heiress, The Snake Pit and The Adventures of Robin Hood.

“To receive this honour as my 101st birthday approaches is the most gratifying of birthday presents.”

He’s a best-selling author, a judge on Britain’s Got Talent and he’s swum both the English Channel and the length of the Thames for Sport Relief.

Now comedian and writer David Walliams has been made an OBE for services to charity and the arts – something he says will be cherished most by his mother Kathleen.

“The news made me happy, but nobody is happier than my mum,” the 45-year-old Little Britain star told the Press Association.

She’s always been a smooth operator. Now sultry singer-songwriter Sade – real name Helen Folasade Adu – has a CBE to add to the OBE she received in 2002.

Emeli Sande, meanwhile, becomes an OBE for services to music. The Scottish singer memorably performed at both the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics.

Author and illustrator Raymond Briggs, creator of The Snowman and and Fungus the Bogeyman, becomes a CBE at the age of 83.

This picture, taken in London’s Hyde Park in 2008, shows him and a friend seated next to a deckchair adorned with perhaps his best-loved character.

Broadcaster Gloria Hunniford becomes an OBE for services to cancer charities through breast screening services and cancer support. The 77-year-old sadly lost her daughter Caron to cancer in 2004.

June Spencer, another broadcasting veteran, becomes a CBE. The 98-year-old actress, who plays Peggy Woolley on The Archers, is the only original cast member who can still be heard on Radio 4’s long-running rural soap.

Spencer said her CBE was “an unexpected and great honour”, while Huw Kennair-Jones, editor of The Archers, said it was “incredibly well deserved”.

Patricia Hodge and Sarah Lancashire both become OBEs for services to drama.

Hodge is known for such shows as Miranda, Rumpole of the Bailey and The Life and Loves of a She-Devil, while former Coronation Street star Lancashire won a Bafta this year for the BBC’s Happy Valley.

Both Tony Hawks and Natasha Kaplinsky are known to millions for their radio and television work. Yet both have been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for their activities outside the studio.

Hawks becomes an MBE for services to disadvantaged children in Moldova, while Kaplinsky has been made an OBE for services to Holocaust commemoration.

Kaplinsky is a member of the United Kingdom Holocaust Memorial Foundation advisory board and has spent the past 15 months voluntarily interviewing 112 British survivors.

“Obviously this is a huge honour to receive an OBE but it gives me an opportunity to talk about the extraordinary people that I’ve met throughout this project,” said the ITV newsreader and former Strictly Come Dancing winner.

Actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw has been made an MBE, as has writer and director Amma Asante.

The pair worked together on 2013 film Belle, which told the real life story of a mixed-race woman who was brought up as an aristocrat in 18th Century London.

Model Erin O’Connor becomes an MBE for services to fashion and charity, while Sandie Shaw is made an MBE for services to music and charity.

Shaw, now 70, became the United Kingdom’s first winner of the Eurovision Song Contest when she sang Puppet on a String in Vienna in 1967.

Mezzo soprano Sarah Connolly has been made a dame, while the conductor and composer George Benjaminbecomes a sir.

Connolly – who is not related to her namesake Billy – was made a CBE in the 2010 New Year honours, while Benjamin received the same honour six months later.

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After a hugely successful mini-tour back in August and September ahead of fifth studio album Freedom Child’s release, it was really only a matter of time before The Script found their way back to the place they truly feel at home – on stage. But, before they delighted the thousands of die-hard fans, some of whom had queued since 2am to get the best spots at the barrier, who had sold-out Manchester Arena, it was up to Ella Eyre to metaphorically, and given the biting February cold, literally help warm them up ahead of the main event.

Ella walked on stage to a rapidly filling arena and for the next half hour, danced, shimmied and sang her way into the hearts of many before her. Vocally, she may not have been the strongest female to have graced the arena stage, but she certainly proved herself to be one of the most energetic as she encouraged the crowd to sing and dance along, especially to closing number and smash hit “Came Here For Love” which went down a storm.

After an interval of around half an hour, during which time a four sided curtain shrouded the B stage towards the back of the arena, the lights dimmed once more and, almost simultaneously, the cheering proceeded to get louder and louder. As the curtain fell away to the opening notes of “Superheroes”, the band, drummer Glen, guitarist Mark and front-man Danny, complete with newly dyed blonde locks, made their first appearance before their ecstatic audience, with Danny bouncing up and down brimming with the energy of a man half his age, but with a vocal that’s never sounded better.

Having told their fans via Twitter that this new tour was to be very interactive, following “Rock The World”, the band proceeded to prove said comment via “Paint The Town Green” and with Glen armed with a mini drum and Mark leading the way with his guitar, the band made their way through the packed crowd down to the front and onto the main stage.

“It’s Not Right For You” offered up the first real opportunity for the thousands packed into the venue to show off their vocal skills, and they seized said opportunity happily as their “oh-oh-oh’s” echoed around the vast space, before they earned themselves rapturous applause from Glen and bassist Ben in particular for their efforts during “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved.”

As Danny took a seat at the piano that had by now appeared on stage, he began to play the intro to “Wonders”, a track from the bands’ latest album which had already proven itself (given the Twitter reaction it’s received in recent months) to be a new fan favourite, so needless to say, as the thousands present finally heard it live for the first time, they were more than a little happy. One individual close to the front was likely even more so, when, mid-song, having left the piano, Danny proceeded to reach over, grab their drink and take a swig of it. The trio then continued to power their way through their set, delivering hit song after hit song – “Six Degrees Of Separation” and “Nothing” being just two, with applause and cheers rarely far from their ears. “If You Could See Me Now” meanwhile had many audience members, myself included, on the verge of tears, and the emotion in Danny’s voice, and in his eyes, was clear for all to hear and see.

“No Man Is An Island” had practically everyone in attendance (at least those I could see), including those in the seats, at Danny’s instruction, placing their left arm around the shoulder of the person next to them and taking eight steps to the left and eight to the right in time with the music – it made for quite a sight, one which has seen the crowd since be referred to, rather humorously, as “penguins.”

Continuing to be extremely (and surprisingly) interactive during with the crowd their set, the band then appeared in the middle of the seating area, surrounded by standing fans, and proceeded to play renditions of “If You Ever Come Back” and the beautifully melodic “Never Seen Anything Quite Like You”, before, as Mark and Glen made their way back to the main stage, Danny continued to delight those in the tiers by singing “The Energy Never Dies” as he made his way through the crowd back towards his bandmates.

It’s not every day you see fans hold up umbrellas indoors, but that’s exactly what some did during the performance of “Rain”, the song that rounded off the main set. Having left the stage for a few minutes, during which the sound of thousands of stamping feet and rapidly increasing in volume cheers echoed from all corners of the venue, the band then returned for their encore, kicking it off with “No Good In Goodbye”, closely followed by “Breakeven.”

With tonight being the first show the band have played in the arena since 2015, and following the bombing last year, it was touching to then see Danny introduce on stage the Parrs Wood High School Harmony Choir, who performed with Ariana Grande at the One Love Manchester concert.

He then went on to give an emotive and passionate speech about freedom:

“We all stand united together Manchester. That’s what this album is about; freedom. The freedom of expression, to love who you wanna love, to be who you wanna be, to say what you wanna say. Have no fear. Never fear! Now to me, music has always been the one true religion, because it accepts you no matter who you are, what colour, what creed, what sex, what shape, what nationality…it cares not. It’s always been there for me since I was young, and I’m guessing, by looking at all of you, it was there for you too.”

He called on everyone present to take out their phones and record the moment that was unfolding, inviting them to make a memory with him and the band. That moment, with thousands of lights filling the arena, created what Danny referred to as “a whole constellation of stars” of which he said, “every one of those is a portal to the outside world, and we’re going to give them a moment to remember.” As he asked if Manchester was ready to “make a moment”, the roaring cheer he received in response told him the answer was an emphatic ‘yes.’ From there “Hall Of Fame”, with the choir adding an extra special something to the performance, closed out the set, ending it on an undeniable high.

With over a dozen more dates still left for the band to perform on this leg of the tour, and likely scores more yet to be announced, tonight The Script not only entertained those before them, but also got those with tickets for upcoming shows, and following the show on social media, even more hyped up. They might have been away for close to three years, but given the energy and passion with which they performed each and every song, together with the reaction of the crowd, tonight in Manchester, it was like they never went away at all.


The BRITs 2018 performance line-up continues to get bigger and better with the addition of multi-million selling superstar and three-time BRIT winner Justin Timberlake, who will appear at the live ceremony at The O2.

He joins previously announced talent Dua Lipa, Ed Sheeran, Foo Fighters, Sam Smith, Stormzy, Rita Ora, Rag’n’Bone Man and Jorja Smith who will all take to the stage for the biggest night in British music.

This will be Justin’s third performance at the BRIT Awards, having appeared with Kylie Minogue in 2003, and again on his own ten years later. He has sold 32 million records worldwide and all of his studio albums have reached No. 1 on the UK charts.

BRITs Chairman & CEO and Chairman of Sony Music UK & Ireland Jason Iley said: ‘We are honoured to have an artist of Justin’s stature and relevance performing at this year’s BRIT Awards. He is one of the most exciting male solo artists in the world with success spanning more than two decades and is adored by music fans across the globe. The BRITs has an enviable history of being one of the most important platforms for incredible stand out TV moments from the biggest global artists and I have no doubt that Justin’s performance will be one to remember.’

The 38th BRIT Awards will be hosted by Jack Whitehall and broadcast live on ITV. Celebrate with us on 21 February!