Belfast Telegraph

Dame Judi sees partner David Mills honoured for conservation work

Dame Judi Dench has returned to Buckingham Palace for an honours ceremony - this time to see her partner pick up an award for his conservation work.

David Mills, who founded the British Wildlife Centre in Surrey almost 20 years ago, said he was "elated" to be given an MBE.

The 73-year-old told of his work to help rebuild the red squirrel population, something which brought the couple together following their first meeting six years ago.

Mr Mills, who breeds the endangered animals and is trying to help put them on islands across the UK, said the film star did not know who he was when she called in at the centre in Newchapel.

He said: "She has always been interested in wildlife, and she turned up as a visitor one day.

"We met and we talked, and she said if ever she could do anything for us she would be very happy to and so I asked her to open a walk-through red squirrel enclosure, which she very kindly said yes, she would do. After that, as they say, the rest is history."

Dame Judi has previously spoken about Mr Mills' influence on her interest in wildlife, and he said the pair are happy to support each other in their respective careers.

He said: "We share each other's worlds, which is lovely."

Also honoured by the Prince of Wales was Downton Abbey's executive producer Gareth Neame, who said the day made him feel as though he was in a scene from the hit television show.

He said: "It's funny for me because of course in Downton Abbey we have recreated these kinds of scenes so it's quite funny to be in the real thing."

Mr Neame, 49, who was given an OBE for services to drama, said he is "optimistic" about a Downton Abbey film, but said it would depend on whether actors' schedules allowed.

He said: "When you end the television show everyone goes their separate ways and to get everyone back again at the same time, it is challenging."

He added: "I hope it will happen."

Dr Anita Lasker Wallfisch, who received an MBE for her services to Holocaust education, spoke of her fears for the future following the election of Donald Trump in America, and the vote for Britain to leave the European Union.

The 91-year-old, a surviving member of the women's orchestra in Auschwitz, said: "You wonder where all this is going to lead. We had 70 years of peace, and of course young people don't appreciate what that means."

She said she has tried not to lose hope but added: "I think that's terrible (Brexit). It doesn't look good. And if you can elect somebody like Mr Trump, it's quite disgraceful."

Also honoured was playwright Rikki Beadle-Blair, who received an MBE for services to drama. He said he is "very excited" to be working on a play called Summer, featuring exclusively transgender actors.

He said: "The play, even though the characters are all trans characters, it never gets mentioned, that is just who they are, and so that is a huge step, I think."

It will be performed next year at the Theatre Royal Stratford East.


From Belfast Telegraph