Entertainment

Top theatre producer picks up gong ‘in the memory of her family’

Sonia Friedman said her family ‘sacrificed a huge amount’.
Sonia Friedman said her family ‘sacrificed a huge amount’. Sonia Friedman said her family ‘sacrificed a huge amount’.

A theatre producer who picked up a gong at Buckingham Palace said she works hard in memory of her family, who travelled from Russia and escaped the Nazis.

Sonia Friedman, whose production company is behind some of the biggest shows in the West End and on Broadway, said her family “sacrificed a huge amount”.

She found out about the honour around the time she learned her brother, violinist and artist Richard Friedman, was going to die.

Investitures at Buckingham Palace
Investitures at Buckingham Palace Sonia Friedman is made a CBE (Aaron Chown/PA)

“And my brother is the reason that I do what I do, because he was my inspiration when I was growing up – to be creative and to storytell and to use my imagination,” she said after getting her award on Tuesday.

Ms Friedman, who has been made a CBE for services to theatre, said: “This will sound cliched but it is the truth, which is I come from a Russian immigrant refugee family who came here with nothing.

“And they sacrificed a huge amount in order for my generation to exist, my generation of siblings, and I do it for them. I do it for their memory.

“And it’s a legacy that, at the end of my life, I can have won many, many Oliviers or Tonys but I will have something that will carry through for my memory, particularly as I don’t have children.

“It’s a confirmation that I did something in the memory of the family who travelled from Russia, escaped the Nazis, to allow me to do this.”

Ms Friedman, whose company produced the hit play Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, is currently working on the upcoming play Stranger Things: The First Shadow.

She was joined at the ceremony by her partner and the wife and daughter of her late brother Richard.

Also there was former Saracens player Floyd Steadman, the first black scrum-half and captain of a top-flight English rugby union club, who was made an OBE for services to the sport, education and charity.

Investitures at Buckingham Palace
Investitures at Buckingham Palace Floyd Steadman being honoured by the Princess Royal (Aaron Chown/PA)

He said he was “in shock” when told about the honour and described the day as “a wonderful occasion” for him and his three sons, adding that his wife – who died six and a half years ago – would have loved it.

Also picking up a gong was internationally renowned bowler Sandra Bailie, who was made an MBE for services to bowls.

The 62-year-old grandmother from Co Down holds the record for the highest number of Irish indoor titles (29) and has earned 42 Irish caps and won two British titles in triples and pairs competitions.

She has also excelled in outdoor bowls, winning 44 Irish caps and seven Irish titles.

Investitures at Buckingham Palace
Investitures at Buckingham Palace Sandra Bailie at the palace (Aaron Chown/PA)

Ms Bailie described her day at the palace as “absolutely wonderful”, saying the experience was “quite surreal”.

Bryn Hughes, whose daughter Pc Nicola Hughes was killed in 2012 alongside Pc Fiona Bone in a gun and grenade ambush while on duty in Tameside, Greater Manchester, was also honoured at the ceremony.

Mr Hughes set up the Pc Nicola Hughes Memorial Fund in 2014 to help young people under the age of 21, who have lost a close family member through a violent crime such as murder or manslaughter, with grants and services.

He was made an MBE for his work supporting young people who have suffered loss due to violent crime.

Reflecting on hearing about the honour, Mr Hughes said he thought it was a “wind up” before realising it was real, prompting the hair on the back of his neck to stand up.

He said he told the Princess Royal it was a day of “mixed emotion”.

Asked what he thinks his daughter would make of the honour, Mr Hughes said she would be proud – but joked she would also make fun of it.