Artist Grayson Perry and Queen guitarist Brian May have been knighted in the King’s first New Year honours list.
The pair were two of the highest-profile Brits to be knighted, with four of England’s Lionesses, including captain Leah Williamson, also honoured, as well as Countdown presenter Rachel Riley, who was awarded an MBE for her efforts to raise awareness of the Holocaust and combat antisemitism.
Sir Grayson is known for his tapestries, ceramic works and cross-dressing, has been made a Knight Bachelor for services to the arts. The 62-year-old artist, writer and broadcaster, who calls himself a “tranny potter”, often explores fashion, conformity and prejudice in his work and appears in public as his female alter-ego, Claire.
He spends hours meticulously making vases, which at a distance look like ornaments, and are covered in words and sometimes graphic images depicting his own past or railing against society. He has said previously that he loves using clay because “it is held in such low esteem in the art world”.
Sir Grayson won the Turner Prize in 2003 after being nominated for the piece Claire’s Coming Out Dress and a collection of vases depicting the dark recesses of life. The pots are covered with subject matter such as child abuse, autobiographical images of himself, Claire and his family, as well as examinations of cultural stereotypes.
In 2012, Sir Grayson produced a set of six huge tapestries to accompany a Bafta-winning Channel 4 series called All In The Best Possible Taste With Grayson Perry, about British taste. He toured the country for the programme and the first place he visited was Sunderland, producing two textile pieces based on places and characters he found in the city – The Adoration Of The Cage Fighters and The Agony In The Car Park.
In his 2016 Channel 4 programme Grayson Perry: All Man, the dress-wearing artist put himself in three ultra-male worlds to see what their masculinity explained about the changing lives and expectations of men in modern Britain. Other Channel 4 programmes include Why Men Wear Frocks, Grayson Perry’s Big American Road Trip, Rites of Passage, Divided Britain, and Who Are You?
While Sir Brian May said he feels a renewed responsibility to “behave in a way which benefits the country and the rest of the population” after being given his knighthood. As the virtuoso guitarist in rock band Queen, the 75-year-old is responsible for some of the biggest riffs in popular music, from the solo on Don’t Stop Me Now to the melodic strums of Somebody To Love.
Alongside late frontman Freddie Mercury, bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor, he scored numerous number ones during the group’s ’80s heyday, touring the world. The musician, astrophysicist and animal welfare advocate is being recognised for his services to music and charity.
He told the PA news agency he is “excited” and “pleasantly surprised” and the news has been “sinking in over the last few days”. He added: “I feel very good about it. The first reaction I suppose is ‘Oh my God’, because it’s a shock.
“I don’t think I expected it because I haven’t been conducting the kind of life which I thought would lead to a knighthood – I’ve been quite vociferous in criticising recent governments for a start. So I imagined that I was on the wrong side for all that stuff. It’s a nice surprise to have this honour put upon me.
“I also think it comes with a responsibility to continue to behave in a way which benefits the country and the rest of the population here and the world as well. But I take this responsibility quite seriously anyway so it’s an encouragement to seek a good place and for everybody in the world.”