*Note this story has been updated with quotes and details of further honourees, since publication (on December 31, now January 2, 5.45pm GMT)
KERANJEET KAUR VIRDEE, the chief executive and artistic director of South Asian Arts-UK, based in Leeds, has been awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List, released late this evening (December 30).
South Asian Arts UK support and promote Indian classical music and dance and were much involved in this year’s Opera North production, ‘Orpheus’ for which the music was composed by Jasdeep Singh Degun.
www.asianculturevulture.com previewed the world premiere of the production – an Indian classical musical interpretation of Monteverdi’s classic 17th-century opera with classical Indian vocalists and instrumentation throughout alongside a conventional western orchestra.
South Asian Arts-UK have been around since 1997 and Virdee has been involved in the organisation since 1998.
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Virdee was born in East Africa and moved as a young girl to the UK with her family in 1967.
For 13 years, she worked in the fashion industry in London, after qualifying with a degree in Fashion and Textiles from Manchester Metropolitan University, and then joining South Asian Arts UK (or Leeds Centre for Indian Music and Dance as it was then) as an administrator and rising to be chief executive and artistic director today.
She told www.asianculturevulture.com she was very surprised to have been awarded an MBE.
“Receiving this award is a huge compliment and acknowledgement of my passion to empowers other through creativity by providing equal access to culturally relevant arts that enabling individuals to realise their creative potential.
“However, this award is not mine alone, it is for my parents, family, friends, Trustees and my Team.
“It is with their support and trust in my direction that has empowered me to be of service to other for over 20 years. As a custodian of South Asian Music and Dance, I am extremely grateful, and humbled especially as this honour has come as a complete surprise,” Virdee told acv.
Art curator, writer and academic Hammad Nasar is now an MBE. Based in London, he is a senior research fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre, an educational arts charity, and was lead curator at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum which supported Coventry’s City of Culture Programme for 2021-22 and that included the curating of the Turner Prize Exhibition in 2021. He has curated a lot internationally as well. He helped to launch the Bagri Foundation’s Asia Forum for Contemporary Art launched last year at Venice Biennale (2022).
Dr Jyotiben Shah, a consultant urologist at University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS FT, is also now an MBE. She has campaigned extensively for the equality of female surgeons and it was her experience that lent itself to the play, ‘Tiger Country’ by Nina Raine – who centres her medical drama around the lead character, Vashti, played by Indira Varma. She spoke to us about her part in the 2014 revived play at Hampstead Theatre and said Dr Shah had been inspiring and had shared her real iife experiences and had allowed Varma to shadow her. Her story since her honour in the Burton Mail.
Jasvir Singh, chair of City Sikhs and one of the co-founders of South Asian Heritage Month has been awarded a CBE. He is currently in India on a religious trip and thanked his family and friends for their support on Twitter.
Michelin star chef Vineet Bhatia also becomes an MBE. The Mumbai-raised chef first made his name with Zaika and then his own restaurant in London, Rasoi. He appears on the international honours list.
Among other notable recipients in the arts sector are black artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah who becomes a knight, and already holds a CBE; actor David Harewood who becomes an OBE and artist Grayson Perry who is made a Sir. Other entertainment figures recognised are music band Queen guitarist Brian May, who becomes a Sir, ‘Countdown‘ TV Show presenter Rachel Riley, becomes an MBE, while actor Stephen Graham has an OBE. Another multi-arts creative recognised is YolanDa Brown, who becomes an MBE for services to music and music education and brodcasting.
Double Olympian Denise Lewis is made a Dame for her services to sport. Now a successful broadcaster, the Olympic Gold Medealist Heptathlete from the Sydney Olympics in 2000, said: “I was endeared to the nation at that time and it’s almost like going full circle having this damehood 22 years after that performance. It’s very emotional.”
Four of the victorious England Lionesses – the English women’s football team have been recognised for their part in the country winning the Euros in the summer. Captain Leah Williamson is an OBE while Beth Mead, Ellen White and Lucy Bronze are MBEs.
Among the other prominent Asians to be honoured are Professor Sir Partha S Dasgupta, who is based at the University of Cambridge and is one of the world’s leading authorities on the way industry impacts on sustainability and measuring economic activity against environmental impacts. He is the author of a highly influential report commissioned by the UK government which provides ways of measuring how business and industry affect our environment. He is made a Knight Grand Cross for his services to economics and to the natural environment. It is a very rare accolade reserved for those who have already been recognised with Knighthoods.
Alok Sharma MP, former Tory cabinet minister and COP-26 President has been awarded an Order of St Michael and St George for his contribution to tackling climate change.
Nadra Ahmed, executive chair of the National Care Association has been awarded a CBE, while leading Manchester based GP Professor Robina Shahnaz has been made a Dame; Leicestershire GP Dr Mayur Keshavji, becomes a Sir.
Another medic, Dr Ramesh Mehta, founder of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) has been awarded an CBE for his services to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. He set up BAPIO in 1996 to fight for equality of South Asian origin doctors working in the NHS.
Hiten Mehta, executive director of the British Asian Trust, a leading charity that was inspired by King Charles, receives an OBE.