Honours refusenik Danny Boyle joins illustrious roll call of rebels...

In rejecting an honour Danny Boyle joins a select, and sometimes surprising group of individuals

James Legge
Sunday 16 December 2012 19:04
Benjamin Zephaniah, poet: 'Our political system is close to collapse. I want a new system that makes every vote count'
Benjamin Zephaniah, poet: 'Our political system is close to collapse. I want a new system that makes every vote count'

Whitehall’s Arts and Media Honours Committee approached Danny Boyle, the Oscar-winning film director and architect of the Olympics opening ceremony, about making him “Sir Danny” in recognition of his services to Britain.

He said he could not accept, joining an illustrious roll call of honours refuseniks, thus joining a select group of honours rebels...

Danny Boyle, 2012

The Bury-born film director Danny Boyle has turned down a knighthood, offered for his role in masterminding the Olympic Opening Ceremony.

The brain behind the British films Trainspotting and 28 Days Later said he'd rather remain "a man of the people."

Last week, Boyle told Radio 4: “I’m very proud to be an equal citizen and I think that’s what the Opening Ceremony was actually about.”

Nigella Lawson, 2001

In 2001 celebrity chef Nigella Lawson declined the offer of an OBE. The daughter of a Tory life peer, and not known for her anti-establishment sympathies, she later insisted that it had been more complicated than an outright refusal, saying: "I'm not saving lives and I'm not doing anything other than something I absolutely love."

JG Ballard, 2003

JG Ballard, the author of Empire of the Sun, turned down a CBE in 2003, saying: "It's the whole climate of deference to the monarch and everything else it represents. They just seem to perpetuate the image of Britain as too much pomp and not enough circumstance."

LS Lowry, between 1955-76

Mancunian painter LS Lowry was particularly steadfast in his refusal of patronage, declining pretty much every honour they could offer him, from an OBE to a knighthood, between 1955 and 1976.

Benjamin Zephaniah, 2003

Poet Benjamin Zephaniah said he was surprised to be offered an OBE in 2003, explaining: "Up yours, I thought. I get angry when I hear that word ‘empire’; it reminds me of slavery, it reminds of thousands of years of brutality." Perhaps unsurprisingly, he snubbed the gong.

Alfred Hitchcock, 1962

The legendary film director- and American citizen - Alfred Hitchcock turned down a CBE in 1962, but he might have been holding out for something shinier: he was knighted in 1979.

John Lennon, 1969

Late in 1969, John Lennon returned an MBE he had been awarded in 1965, with a letter saying: "Your Majesty, I am returning my MBE as a protest against Britain's involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against 'Cold Turkey' slipping down the charts. With Love, John Lennon."

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