CBE for comedy actress Meera Syal

Actresses Meera Syal and Emily Watson have been honoured in the latest New Year Honours list, alongside fashion queen Mary Quant.

Meera receives a CBE for her services to drama and literature. The 53-year-old is familiar to TV audiences for her comedy roles in Goodness Gracious Me and The Kumars at No 42, but has also found a receptive audience for her books about the experiences of British Asians.

She used her experiences growing up in the West Midlands for her first book Anita And Me – later adapted for the screen, and found further acclaim for a her second book, Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee.

Her writing abilities have been given further vent scripting the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Bombay Dreams.

Meera – who is married to her screen colleague Sanjeev Bhaskar – has also achieved a chart-topping single, featuring on a Comic Relief version of Spirit In The Sky by Gareth Gates and notched up appearances in Doctor Who and has taken stage roles including a celebrated production of Shirley Valentine.

Oscar-nominated actress Emily said the news of her OBE left her “quietly smiling to myself all day”.

The 47-year-old Londoner enjoyed instant success with her first major film role, Breaking The Waves, which saw her nominated for the best actress Oscar, but says her real big break was joining the Royal Shakespeare Company years before.

Describing the moment she discovered she had been nominated for an honour, she said: “I was quietly smiling to myself all day when I heard. Telling my dad was the best bit. Honoured and delighted. And slightly weirded out that someone somewhere in Whitehall has been watching my work. Guess it means I’m really a grown up. Damn.”

Watson’s career has taken in Hollywood success – she got her second best-actress Oscar nod for Hilary And Jackie where she played cellist Jacqueline du Pre and picked up the instrument herself to make the portrayal even more convincing.

She has appeared in films as diverse as Angela’s Ashes, Gosford Park and Warhorse and was critically acclaimed for her role in ITV’s Appropriate Adult.

Oscar-nominated screenwriter and novelist William Nicholson collects an OBE for his services to drama and literature. The 66-year-old, who began his working life as a BBC film-maker, has scripted a succession of celebrated films including Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, Les Miserables and Gladiator.

But he has also produced a series of novels for adults and teens, and produced acclaimed stage plays, including Shadowlands, his work about the life of CS Lewis which he went on to adapt into a movie starring Anthony Hopkins.

Meanwhile, designer Mary Quant, who is widely credited with popularising the mini skirt, has spoken of her delight at being made a Dame.

The 80-year-old is given the honour for services to British fashion in the Queen’s New Year list.

She said: “I am absolutely delighted to have been awarded this terrific honour. It is extremely gratifying that my work in the fashion industry has been recognised and acknowledged in such a significant way.”

Musician and broadcaster Brinsley Forde has said he is “proud” that his work had made an impact, as he was awarded an MBE for services to the arts.

The 61-year-old was a founding member of reggae act Aswad almost 40 years ago, enjoying a string of chart hits, as well as having an acting career in his youth.

He said today: “Obviously it’s a real honour to think that someone has nominated you for this.
“I’m really proud and I think the important thing is that someone thinks you are worthy of nominating and has appreciated what you have done.”

Brinsley has gone on to showcase reggae tracks as one of the early DJs on BBC digital station 6 Music with his Lively Up Yourself programme and has also presented radio documentaries and the VH1 programme Soul Vibrations. He has also collaborated with acts such as Dizzee Rascal.