Van's the Man, by request

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ARTS and SPORT

Van Morrison, the enigmatic Belfast-born singer who has been a cult figure since the Sixties, is the most surprising figure in the honours list today.

According to Downing Street sources, Morrison was nominated many times over by the public. The singer, who receives an OBE, is appearing at Wembley tonight with the legendary blues artist Ray Charles.

Morrison, whose interviews over the years have been few and far-between, has gained a large following partly because of his enigmatic presence, but mostly for his fusions of blues, jazz, celtic rhythms and rock 'n' roll with lyrics that straddled pop and poetry. His first hits were in the 1960s with Them.

The much-predicted knighthood for Paul McCartney did not materialise. But the Beatles' producer George Martin is made a knight. Martin, who signed the Beatles in 1962 for Parlophone, recently trawled the archives to produce the Beatles Anthology set. In the Sixties his knowledge of classical music and production techniques helped the Beatles develop their recording style.

Still in the world of pop, Harvey Goldsmith, the former pharmacy student who became the best-known promoter of pop concerts in Britain, including the Live Aid show in 1985, is appointed CBE.

An OBE goes to the actress and comedienne Dora Bryan, 72, who starred in A Taste Of Honey and has had an acting career spanning 60 years. In the 1950s she appeared in such classic British films as The Blue Lamp, No Room At The Inn and The Fallen Idol, bubbly, optimistic and the epitome of vulgarity struggling for gentility.

The chronicler of fictional English village life Joanna Trollope, 42, with books including The Choir and The Rector's Wife, is also appointed OBE, while the crime-writer Ruth Rendell, creator of Inspector Wexford, is appointed CBE.

A CBE also goes to the Radio 2 presenter David Jacobs for a career in broadcasting that stretches from Juke Box Jury in the early Sixties via presenting Any Questions on radio to presenting light music today. Christopher Gable, artistic director of the Northern Ballet, becomes a CBE.

Jeremy Isaacs, the often explosive general director of the Royal Opera House, in London, memorably featured in a recent warts-and-all-television documentary, is knighted. The founding chief executive of Channel 4, he was also responsible for the brilliant documentary series The World At War and has been persuaded to make a follow-up about the Cold War.

Murray Walker, the doyen of motor racing commentators, whose urgent style has enthralled millions of viewers is appinted OBE.

Sportsmen to be appointed MBE include the Everton and Wales goalkeeper Neville Southall and the world rally champion Colin McRae. From the racing world, the trainers John Dunlop (OBE), who has won the Derby twice, and Jack Berry (MBE) are honoured.

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