Here’s another thing Danny Boyle and I have in common – apart from our love of cinema and phenomenally shaped heads – we are both people of the people.
The Oscar-winning film director and man behind this summer’s acclaimed Olympics opening ceremony indicated he would not accept a knighthood, were it to be officially offered, when sounded out by the Government’s arts and media honours committee. He reportedly said a knighthood would have made him “unequal” and he prefers to remain “a man of the people”.
Unlike Danny I’ve never been offered a meaningless major accolade by the shallow public, which it’s just as well, as I would of course be unable to accept. However, like Boyle, I know the true tragedy of being a humble, self-effacing person is that without the aid of boasting, it's hard to be sure everyone else appreciates just how humble and self-effacing you are.
Good news, then, that this is apparently changing. Until January this year, for instance, we would not have known that in turning down an honour, Danny Boyle joins the illustrious ranks of Roald Dahl, Lucien Freud, Francis Bacon, LS Lowry and John Lennon . It was only then, that the tradition of keeping rejections secret – to spare the Queen’s tender feelings, presumably – ended.
As Boyle reportedly hinted to the honours committee, given that the major heroes of his opening ceremony – the NHS, equality, multiculturalism – are currently under attack from the Tory-led Coalition, to accept a knighthood would be a peculiar move. Not that accusations of hypocrisy have always prevented former rebels from cosying up to the establishment when the opportunity presented itself. See: Noel Gallagher schmoozing with Blair at No. 10 in 1997.
The desire of post-New Labour governments to co-opt, subsume and neuter everything that’s good about British culture must be resisted, and publicly. Good on Danny Boyle for doing his bit. Apart from anything else, it’s very inconvenient to have to hastily construct a ritual record-burning pyre every time David Cameron coquettishly reveals to an interviewer what is currently on his iPod.
If the nation really wants to show it's collective gratitude to Boyle (it was a very good opening ceremony), I have a suggestion. Let's all purchase a copy of his 1997 film A Life Less Ordinary on DVD from a non-tax-avoiding online retailer. It’s rubbish, so that way he’ll know we really mean it.