New Year’s honours: Awards for Tower poppy artists

The poppies at the Tower, which led to their creators Paul Cummins and Tom Piper receiving MBEs. Picture: Getty
The poppies at the Tower, which led to their creators Paul Cummins and Tom Piper receiving MBEs. Picture: Getty
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The creators of the spectacular sea of poppies that engulfed the Tower of London and touched the hearts of millions this year receive awards in the New Year Honours.

Paul Cummins and Tom Piper are both given MBEs in recognition of the immensely popular Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, which saw 888,246 ceramic poppies fill the moat at the Tower – one for each British or Colonial military death during the First World War.

Millions of people queued in all weathers to see the moving installation and, in her Christmas message, the Queen spoke of her own visit to see the poppies, saying: “The only possible reaction to walking among them was silence.”

The artists are among 1,164 people recognised by the Queen in this year’s list, which also includes widely trailed honours for actors Joan Collins, James Corden and Sheridan Smith. The poppies emerged as one of the most visited and acclaimed public art installations for years, drawing an estimated five million visitors between July and November.

The accolades for ceramic artist Mr Cummins and stage designer Mr Piper are disclosed days after they suggested they will be overlooked for a Turner Prize nomination because some in the art establishment were left unmoved by their creation.

“It is not going to happen,” Mr Cummins said. “Probably if it had been anyone else, yes.”

Other prominent figures honoured this year are Esther Rantzen, actors John Hurt, Kristin Scott Thomas and Emily Watson, comedian Meera Syal and designer Mary Quant.

From the world of sport, former athletes Steve Cram and Dame Mary Peters, and Hillsborough campaigners Margaret Aspinall and Trevor Hicks are among those recognised, along with 103-year-old marathon runner Fauja Singh.

James Corden, 36, has established himself at the forefront of the entertainment industry and earned international acclaim in 2011 for his performance in comic play One Man, Two Guvnors.

Ms Smith’s award caps her journey from one-time burger van worker to national treasure. After roles in The Royle Family, Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps, Gavin & Stacey and Benidorm established her as a comedy star, the 33-year-old went on to win awards for performances on both TV and stage.

She won a Bafta for her portrayal of Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs’s wife, and this year she earned rave reviews for her role as Cilla Black in an ITV biopic. On the stage Smith has won awards for her performances in musical Legally Blonde and the play Flare Path.

John Hurt, 74, is knighted after a career lasting more than 50 years taking in roles in the Elephant Man, Doctor Who and Harry Potter, as well as a famous scene in Alien in which an extraterrestrial bursts from his stomach.

Kristin Scott Thomas, 54, who appeared in Four Weddings And A Funeral and The English Patient, is made a dame.

Awards for those from the sporting world make up 5% of the total this year. They include a CBE for former world champion athlete Cram, 54, and an OBE for former West Bromwich Albion player Brendon Batson, a pioneer for black footballers.

Awards to figures from industrial and economic fields account for 12% of the total list.