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Tuesday 10 July 2007 afternoon ceremony
With a musical career spanning four decades, Queen founding member Brian May is a world-renowned guitarist, songwriter, producer and performer. His influence on a new generation of musicians is a tribute to his unique style and musicianship, most memorably displayed when he performed his own arrangement of God Save The Queen on Buckingham Palace roof to open the 2002 Golden Jubilee celebrations.
Brian May has provided Queen with many of their finest musical moments, among them the anthemic We Will Rock You, The Show Must Go On, I Want It All, Fat Bottomed Girls and some of their finest ballads including Who Wants To Live Forever, No-One But You, and Save Me. To date he has penned 22 top 20 hits worldwide and his songs continue to inspire, with versions recorded and sampled by such diverse artists as Def Leppard, Shirley Bassey, Eminem, Elton John, Metallica and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
When he wrote the hit track Flash, Queen became the first rock group to score a major film, Flash Gordon. This was followed by definitive music for Highlander, an opera for Steve Barron’s 1996 Pinocchio and a complete soundtrack for the French art film Furia. His song Driven By You, originally penned for a Ford advert, became his first solo hit record.
Venturing into the theatre, Brian May wrote and performed the music for The Red and Gold Theatre Company’s Macbeth at the Riverside Theatre in 1987 (later revived in two other productions). This was a pre-cursor to his deep commitment to developing Queen’s musical We Will Rock You, currently breaking all records in its fifth year at the Dominion Theatre in London.
As an accomplished solo artist, Brian May has recorded two highly successful solo albums – 1991’s Back To The Light, including Too Much Love Will Kill You and Driven By You, both Ivor Novello Award winners, and 1998’s Another World. He has enjoyed collaborating with numerous artists including Robbie Williams, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Luciano Pavarotti, Diana Ross, Cliff Richard, The Foo Fighters and Meat Loaf and continues to support Nelson Mandela’s 46664 campaign for Aids awareness.
As patron to a number of charities, these endeavours along with his accomplishments in music led to a return visit to the Palace in Spring 2006 when he was awarded the title of CBE.
He retains his keen interest in astronomy and regularly contributes to Sir Patrick Moore's Sky at Night with whom he has recently co-authored the astro-physics book 'Bang! The Complete History of the Universe' published by Carlton Books and has recently completed his Astrophysics PhD Thesis at Imperial College London, began in 1970, which he plans to submit in August 2007.
One of the most influential women in British television comedy over the last 20 years, writer and actress Jennifer Saunders first found success as one half of the double act French and Saunders. The duo met in 1977, while training to become drama teachers at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama; they soon became friends and flat-mates and it was this friendship that would form the basis of a career in comedy that has now spanned 25 years. In 1980, prompted by Saunders, they answered an advertisement in The Stage, which led to their performing comedy sketches at The Comic Strip Club. Since then the double act have gone on to establish themselves as key players in British comedy and this year celebrate their 20th anniversary at the BBC.
As a solo writer and performer Jennifer Saunders captured the zeitgeist of the 1990s with her ground breaking sitcom Absolutely Fabulous. With its outlandish depictions of drug and alcohol abuse and irresponsible, irreverent and frequently illegal behaviour, the series gained a large and loyal following. The programme became one of the very first UK comedy shows to transfer successfully to American television.
Jennifer Saunders has won several awards for her work as a writer and performer including two International Emmy Awards, five BAFTA Awards, one Writers Guild Award, two Royal Television Society Awards and four British Comedy Awards. She is currently working on the second series of the acclaimed Devon-based sitcom Jam and Jerusalem for BBC 1 and has written and starred in a new series, Vivienne Vyle, to be launched in the autumn on BBC 2, based on the life of a day-time TV talk show host.
Next year she will be on tour across the UK with Dawn French. Jennifer Saunders lives in London and Devon with her husband, writer and comedian Adrian Edmondson, and their three daughters.
After studying drama at the University of Manchester, Adrian Edmondson moved to London where he became one of the leading lights of the ‘alternative’ comedy scene, helping to establish the original Comedy Store and Comic Strip clubs.
During the 80s he appeared as the anarchic punk Vyvyan in the TV sitcom The Young Ones, was one of The Comic Strip Presents… team, notably creating the spoof heavy metal band Bad News, and with his long time double act partner, Rik Mayall, created The Dangerous Brothers on Saturday Live. During the inaugural Comic Relief campaign he and the rest of The Young Ones teamed up with Cliff Richard to record a new version of Living Doll, which reached number one in the UK singles chart.
Wearing a different hat he spent 1988 creating and directing pop videos, among them Fiesta by the Pogues, Prime Mover by Zodiac Mindwarp & The Love Reaction, Like The Weather by 10,000 Maniacs, and Hourglass by Squeeze.
In the 90s he teamed up with Rik Mayall to create the TV sitcom Bottom. Three series, five touring shows and a feature film followed. He also starred alongside Richard Briers in the black comedy series If You See God, Tell Him, appeared in the West End production of Waiting for Godot and wrote The Gobbler, a novel.
More recently he achieved ‘cult stupidity status’ doing Comic Relief Does Fame Academy and has appeared as a regular in Holby City.
Having filmed many early Comic Strip episodes in and around Dartmoor he feels a keen affinity to Devon. He and his wife, Jennifer Saunders, have lived near Chagford for many years. In 2003 he appeared at the Northcott Theatre in The Life and Times of Young Bob Scallion, he’s had a hand in raising funds for the ongoing refurbishment of the Northcott, and is also glad to be developing a relationship with the Creative Writing course at the University of Exeter.
Sir Robert Owen read Law at Exeter University, graduating in 1967. During his years as an undergraduate he played rugby for the University first XV, being awarded his colours in 1965. He is married to another graduate of the University, Sara née Rumbold.
He was called to the Bar at the Inner Temple in 1968 and became a QC in 1988. He practised at the Common Law Bar until his appointment as a High Court Judge in 2001, specialising in professional negligence, in particular clinical negligence, and product liability. His last case before appointment to the Bench was as counsel to Lord Cullen’s enquiry into the Paddington rail crash. In 1994/1995 he served as chairman of the London Common Law and Commercial Bar Association, and in 1997 was elected chairman of the Bar of England and Wales, having served as the first chairman of its education and training committee and as chairman of its professional standards committee. He was appointed a Recorder of the Crown Court in 1987, a DTI Inspector in 1991 and a Deputy High Court Judge in 1994. Between 1998 and 2004 he was a governor of the College of Law.
He is currently the Senior Presiding Judge of the Western Circuit and chairman of the civil committee of the Judicial Studies Board with responsibility for the training of judges who sit in the civil jurisdiction. He also chairs the vCJD Trust set up by the Department of Health in 2002 following the BSE enquiry to compensate the victims of vCJD and their families.
A keen sailor, Sir Robert is the vice-commodore of the Bar Yacht club, and the chairman of the Fowey harbour consultative committee.
Anthony Gibson has worked for the National Farmers Union (NFU) for over 30 years, mainly in the South-West and always with a strong emphasis on communications, the HQ directorate which he now heads.
Born and brought up in Devon, he read history at Oxford before joining the NFU in 1972 as a speech writer and editorial assistant. He moved on to become Regional Information Officer for the South West (1975), Somerset County Secretary (1981), Senior Policy Adviser for the newly formed South West region in 1989 and South West Regional Director in 1992.
Through all of those appointments he was a regular broadcaster, journalist and commentator on farming and rural affairs, and came to national prominence as a forthright protagonist for the farming cause in the two great crises of BSE and Foot and Mouth. He was also one of the pioneers of the local food movement and founded the first county food group, Taste of Somerset, in 1984 and the first regional food group, Taste of the West, in 1990.
He was made acting Director of Communications for the NFU in March 2006, an appointment which was made permanent in September 2006. His mission, he says, is to reinforce the reputation of the NFU as a champion for a modern, dynamic and hugely important industry. Among many honours and awards, he was awarded the OBE in the 2003 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to agriculture and the rural economy in the South West. He was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Society in 2007, and was President of the Devonshire Association in 2006/07.
The University of Exeter, The Queen’s Drive, Exeter, Devon, UK EX4 4QJ
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