From left to right: Keranjeet Kaur Virdee MBE, Jasvir Singh CBE and Gordon Sanghera CBE
Sikhs and people of Sikh heritage are amongst many being honoured in the New Year Honours List of 2023, which are the first set of honours to be granted by His Majesty the King, Charles III.
Amongst the recipients is Jasvir Singh, Founding Chair of City Sikhs and prolific community activist. He is the main Sikh contributor to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the Day’, with around 6 million listeners each day. He is co-founder of the ground-breaking South Asian Heritage Month, which celebrates and commemorates South Asian identity in Britain. As Chair of the British Sikh Report, he has led a team producing robust data on Sikhs every year for the last decade. He is also Vice Chair of the Faiths Forum for London, working with the capital’s faith communities in encouraging and promoting interfaith social initiatives. In 2021, he was appointed one of the Mayor of London’s Commissioners for Diversity in the Public Realm, ensuring that public spaces better represent the diverse communities of London past and present. In addition to his extensive charity work, Jasvir is an established family law barrister in practice for over 16 years.
At the age of 42, Jasvir Singh becomes the youngest ever Sikh to receive a CBE.
When asked about his honour, he said “I feel incredibly humbled to receive this honour. Britain is a very different place to what it was when my grandfather moved here almost 60 years ago, and our nation has become a beacon for diversity and intersectionality across the globe. It’s been a privilege to be able to support diverse communities through interfaith relationship building, showcasing South Asian culture and identity, and supporting vulnerable groups in society including LGBTQ+ people and victims of domestic violence. I dedicate this honour to all of those communities and with Waheguruji’s grace I hope to continue this work for many years to come.”
Another recipient is Keranjeet Kaur Virdee who over the past 25 years has taken South Asian Arts UK a registered Arts and Culture Charity from a small community organisation to a leading organisation in the North, creating, producing, training and presenting excellent classical and contemporary South Asian Music and Dance. In 2019 she also set up Generation 21 to promote professional development with the aim of nurturing tomorrow’s cultural leaders from minority backgrounds. She receives an MBE.
On hearing the news, Keranjeet said “Receiving this award is a huge compliment and acknowledgement of my passion to empower others through creativity by providing equal access to culturally relevant arts that enable individuals to realise their creative potential. However, this award is not mine alone, it is for my parents, family, friends, Trustees and my Team. It is with their support and trust in my direction that has empowered me to be of service to others for over 20 years. As a custodian of South Asian Music and Dance, I am extremely grateful, and humbled especially as this honour has come as a complete surprise.”
Gordon Sanghera is co-founder of Oxford Nanopore with Spike Willcocks and Hagan Bayley. He was appointed CEO in May 2005 and has led the company through multiple finance rounds, and in 2021, a listing on the London Stock Exchange. The company has developed a new generation of nanopore-based sensing technology. The first products enable the real-time, high-performance, accessible and scalable analysis of DNA and RNA, and this new class of sensing has the potential to expand into proteomics and metabolomics. He receives a CBE.
Gordon said, “When I found out about this award, the first person I thought of was my Grandfather. He was born in the Punjab region in India to a poor family, and he fought in Burma for the Allies in WWII. Life was hard in the UK for the family; they worked tirelessly to find their footing here and were frequently reminded of their status as ‘other’. They did fight and challenge an often-closed professional environment, and I think I inherited that spirit of defiance, a Punjabi work ethic – some have told me I can be a bit relentless to create something even when it seemed impossible. British society has evolved considerably since then and this honour reflects how much more diverse we’ve become both in public service and business. And yet there’s still room for improvement. Just as the Premier league became one of the world’s most popular sporting competitions – raising the standard of the game in this country considerably – by drawing on the talents of players from all around the world, the business community that I play a part in has a role in modelling inclusiveness and embracing diversity.”
The full list of recipients of Sikh heritage in the list include:
- Dr Gurdial Singh SANGHERA – Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Oxford Nanopore Technologies plc. For services to the Technology Sector
- Jasvir SINGH OBE – Chair, City Sikhs. For services to Charity, to Faith Communities and to Social Cohesion
- Ravinder GILL – Founder, College of Accountancy Ltd. For services to Higher Education
- Sharon Kaur JANDU – Director, Yorkshire Asian Business Association. For services to International Trade
- Inderpaul Singh JOHAR – Co-Founder, Dark Matters Laboratories. For services to Architecture
- Jaspal Singh MANN – Director, Simply Shred and Recycle Ltd. For services to the Environment
- Keranjeet Kaur VIRDEE – Chief Executive and Artistic Director, South Asian Arts UK. For services to the Arts, particularly South Asian Music and Dance
- Amarjit Singh SOORA – For services to the community in Ilford, London Borough of Redbridge
- Jagraj Singh SRAN – For services to Charitable Fundraising and to the community in Cranford, London Borough of Hounslow
Param Singh MBE, Deputy Chair of City Sikhs, said “This time of year is so special for people across the country as we take the opportunity to slow down the pace of life by spending time with our loved ones, and it is even more special with such an inspiring list of Sikhs that have been recognised by His Majesty The King for their diverse contributions to society. There are now over half a million Sikhs in the UK and it’s important that we continue to be recognised for the great work that is done. Congratulations to everyone on the Honours list.”
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