Belfast Telegraph

I hope I can be a beacon for young people, says award-winning black actor

Matt Henry picked up his MBE days after receiving a pair of red stilettos from the Kinky Boots cast in honour of his Olivier Award.

West End star Matt Henry is celebrating a week of honours, including an MBE and a bright red pair of stiletto boots.

The 38-year-old actor and singer, from Birmingham, picked up his MBE for services to musical theatre days after receiving the signature footwear from colleagues in recognition of his award-winning role of Lola in the hit musical Kinky Boots.

After receiving his MBE from the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace, he said: “Being Lola, I was presented with a pair of stiletto red boots, but the MBE is very special. It solidifies everything about this journey I have had over the last two years with being in Kinky Boots and winning the Olivier.”

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Investitures at Buckingham Palace

He was the second black man to win the Olivier Award for best actor in a musical, after Adrian Lester for his role in Company in 1996.

He said: “Hopefully this MBE also means that I can be that beacon for young people coming up – the black, Asian and ethnic minorities who are looking to get into the industry.

“I hope that people can say to themselves that if Matt Henry can do it, then – I can do it.”

Henry began his career selling ice cream and programmes.

He moved to London at the age of 18 and took a job as an usher at the Adelphi Theatre, where he watched in “absolute awe” as the stars of Chicago dazzled audiences.

More than 15 years later, he performed on the same stage, starring in Kinky Boots and winning an Olivier Award for his performance.

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Investitures at Buckingham Palace

Consumer rights champion and broadcaster Linda McAuley said it had been an “absolutely fabulous day and more overwhelming than I thought it would be”, after collecting her MBE.

Ms McAuley, of Bangor in Co Down, began her broadcasting career with BBC Northern Ireland in 1978 and for the last 22 years has tackled a wide range of consumer issues from welfare to health education and the law through her popular On Your Behalf radio programme.

She said Charles gave her some words of encouragement, adding: “He said he was very glad that there were people like me around because there are so many scams out there and the digital world can be frightening.

“I am absolutely thrilled because it is not just for me, it is for all the consumers who have been affected, not just from the help of my radio programme but who have also benefited from hearing it. We have helped people directly but others have learned, been informed and ate not falling for the scam.”

The MBE is the latest honour for Ms McAuley, who was inducted into the Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO) Radio Awards Hall of Fame last year.

Her radio career has spanned both commercial and BBC stations, from news reporting to magazine and consumer programmes.

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Investitures at Buckingham Palace

William Ward, co-founder and chief executive of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, collected an OBE.

Slightly jet-lagged after flying in from China after the race, before heading to Hong Kong to drum up some business, Mr Ward, of Horsham, West Sussex, said: “It is a great honour. I am very patriotic and to especially to get this for work in trade is all unbelievable.”

His award is for services to the economy and the GREAT campaign.

It was a rare personal moment in the spotlight for a man who has worked behind the scenes to help make the Clipper race a global success.

It was the brainchild of co-founder Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world, and is now on its 11th edition.

There are 712 people signed up to compete in the Clipper 2017-18 race, more than 5,000 people have taken part over the years, and Clipper Ventures employs more than 70 staff across its bases in Hampshire and in Sydney, Australia.

Former deputy prime minister Sir Nick Clegg was knighted at the investiture ceremony.

The ex-Liberal Democrat leader, who campaigned heavily to remain in the European Union, chose not to have any publicity for his big day.

His knighthood was criticised by some Leavers when it was announced in the New Year Honours list.

In response, Sir Nick wrote on Twitter: “Grateful to have been included in the New Year Honours list in recognition of service over five years as DPM.

“The knighthood, in truth, belongs as much to my team in government as it does to me.

“And just to clear up a bit of confusion, the knighthood does NOT mean I will serve in the House of Lords. My aversion to unelected legislatures remains.”

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