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Choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne backs staying in EU after Palace honour

Published 20/05/2016

Matthew Bourne was awarded a knighthood for his services to dance
Matthew Bourne was awarded a knighthood for his services to dance

Choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne threw his weight behind Britain remaining in the EU as he received his knighthood from the Prince of Wales during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

The world-renowned dancer, who revolutionised the dance world with his all-male production of Swan Lake in 1995, said he was "thrilled" at the honour and was proud that his profession had been recognised.

The 56-year-old, whose balletic touch has enlivened everything from the musicals My Fair Lady and Oliver! to Shakespeare's The Tempest and As You Like It - as well as a routine by comedians Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders - received his award for services to dance.

Sir Matthew is also among almost 280 actors, artists and writers who have put their name to a letter calling for Britain to stay in the EU.

Published in Friday's Telegraph, it says: "Britain is not just stronger in the EU, it is more imaginative and creative. Our global creative success would be severely weakened by walking away ...

"Leaving the EU would be a leap into the unknown for millions of people in the UK who work in the creative industries, and for the millions more at home and abroad who benefit from the vibrancy of Britain's cultural sector."

Speaking after receiving his knighthood, Sir Matthew said: "It is all a bit of guesswork really, what may or may not happen.

"I'm certainly for staying in because I think I'm a natural collaborator as an artist. You feel you gain more from what you can get from other people and working together."

Others who signed the letter include actress Keira Knightley, director Richard Curtis and sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor.

The only Briton to have won the Tony Award for both best choreographer and best director of a musical - as well as having five Oliviers to his name - Sir Matthew did not discover ballet or modern dance until he was in his early 20s.

But after a career that has stretched for more than 30 years he said he hoped he was not yet out of new ideas.

He said: "People think you are going to go on forever and you are full of ideas and they are never going to stop, and you do worry about that.

"I get a lot of inspiration from new dancers that I work with, the young talent.

"I love working with young talent and that probably inspires more than anything else now - to want them to do well and to want to find things that are going to show them off well in new ways."

His latest project is a ballet version of the 1948 film The Red Shoes, based on the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairytale of the same name.

Opening in November, production is well under way with sets having been designed and workshops in progress.

Sir Matthew said: "It's very exciting to do something new. I always think this is going to be the last one I do.

"It won't be, I'm sure, but I always feel it's going to be while I'm doing it - I think, 'I haven't got any more'."

Among others receiving awards was Beryl Vertue, executive producer for the BBC hit show Sherlock, who received a CBE for services to television drama.

Ms Vertue is chairwoman of Hartswood Films and worked on programmes such as Jekyll, Men Behaving Badly and the film Tommy.

Her daughters Sue and Debbie - along with son-in-law and Doctor Who writer Steven Moffat - are also in the family business, and Ms Vertue said it was a "particular treat" to work with people she loved.

Actor Toby Jones was revealed on Monday to be playing a villain in the new series of Sherlock, opposite Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, and Ms Vertue said he had already made an impact.

She said: "He's quite chilling, with his seemingly benign demeanour. He is a brilliant actor, and we are blessed really with such fine actors."

Ms Vertue would not be drawn on more on the character but said: "It is a very important role. He said to me, 'the minute I read the script I thought I'll have to do this'.

"I think that's a lot of our success - they are so well written. And we have been blessed by actors who can really, really act. Benedict was the only person we saw for Sherlock when we were casting."

The new series of Sherlock is the fourth, and Ms Vertue said she could see it going on into a fifth and beyond.

And she revealed the show's leads had become such big stars that they have to have security keep fans away when they are filming in London.

She said: "They find out where you're shooting, it's like a network and off it goes. They're very well behaved but they come from abroad - a lot of them come from China and Russia, and they bring little gifts with them.

"It's lovely - they make little things, it's so sweet."

Scottish pianist Malcolm Martineau, regarded as one of the leading accompanists of his generation, also received an OBE, along with Catherine Sabin, the first female president of the Lawn Tennis Association.

Mr Martineau, who has worked with the likes of Sir Thomas Allen, Angela Gheorghiu and Bryn Terfel, said his honour was a "surprise prize".

And he called for more support for music in schools to create the next generation, saying children under the age of 10 need to have more exposure to classical music so they realise it is not elitist or "not cool".

Colonel Edward Dawes, of the Royal Artillery, also received an OBE for services in the field.

Col Dawes, a soldier for more than 27 years, was chief of staff of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan from April 2014 to April 2015, helping to lead an international mission of 12,500 peacekeepers.

Six weeks into his tour he was kidnapped at gunpoint at an illegal checkpoint and beaten during hours of "tactical questioning" before managing to escape.

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