New Year Honours 2023 - The arts celebrate

Miranda Harcourt has become a dame in the 2023 New Year Honours.

One of our new dames almost never found out she was becoming one.

"It went to my wrong email address, so I would never have seen it but my husband called me up and went 'I'm just forwarding something from your old email address'," Dame Miranda Harcourt said.

She describes her reaction as "laughter of disbelief".

Dame Miranda is being recognised for her services to screen and theatre but it's teaching she's most proud of, especially her work in prisons.

"That really changed the course of the rest of my life and everything I've done since then, whether it's working in Hollywood, whether it's working in a school environment – everything stems from the choice to engage and reflect in the poetry of the way real people really speak."

The actor, acting coach, producer, director and writer headed acting at Toi Whakaari for several years.

The people she's worked with have gone on to win BAFTAs, Golden Globes, Emmys and Academy Awards.

"I think the arts are being recognised more and more – as they should be – because the arts are a huge part of New Zealand's tourism, the arts are a huge part of the way in which people around the world see and recognise New Zealand," she said.

Amid the disbelief is the realisation it's an honour she will share with her mother, Dame Kate Harcourt.

She won't be told her daughter has also become a dame until today.

"I'll take my computer downstairs and say 'would you be interested in hearing the New Year Honours?' and she'll go 'Oh, yes' - so I'll read them out to her and then she'll be very surprised, and I think she'll be thrilled."

"I'm actually really looking forward to that moment because it'll be a very rewarding moment for her. She's proud of me, and I'm proud of her and it'll be a nice moment for her to feel our mother-daughter warmth," Dame Miranda said.

'First and foremost, we were trying to just tell a story'

David Fane is honoured for services to performing arts.

The arts, and those behind it, are big features of this year's Honours.

David Fane becomes an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

"I thought, 'Hang on, who's playing this joke?'" he quipped.

But the letter revealing his honour was indeed real.

"I've sort of been taken aback; I've just been weirded out. It still feels weird now."

Fane - an actor, writer, director and champion of Pasifika - is being honoured for his services to performing arts.

He remembers a time when there were "very few" Pacific Island faces in theatre and on television, with their stories going untold.

"We formed a group called Naked Samoans because we wanted more brown people involved in theatre and to tell our stories and from our viewpoint.

"So now when I see television, especially when there's a whole lot more brown faces, every time I see a brown face on television I get excited. I get a real 'woooo', it's just really amazing how well we're doing," Fane said.

"I think what we were trying to do is, first and foremost, just tell a story."

Fane has had varied and memorable roles in film and television while also giving visibility to Pacific communities on stage and screen.

"When you're working away you never think, 'Oh I'm going to get something from the King' and here we are.

"I'm grateful and I'm really honoured. I'm really humbled."

Fane says he may celebrate his honour with others with a big meal in a tiny restaurant.

"Just having a 'woohoo!' and be thankful, which I am. I'm very thankful."

'We didn't get to support each other'

Michèle A'Court is honoured for her work in comedy and entertainment.

"I was doing a gig a couple of weeks ago and there was a very drunk, incoherent man in the audience shouting at me," comedian Michèle A'Court told 1News.

"And inside I'm going, 'You know what? I have a letter from the Governor-General and the King said yes, so shoosh dude'."

A'Court is also today being made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to entertainment and comedy.

She initially thought the letter from the Governor-General was a scam.

"Did it want my password and credit card details?!"

A'Court has been a performer for more than three decades, but her trailblazing advocacy for women is also being strongly recognised.

She says that advocacy is a "no-brainer" and is the thing that gives her joy and fun.

"When I started in comedy there were very few women and not only were there very few of us, we weren't able to work together because you could only have one lady on a comedy show or else it was a special event," she said.

"So we didn't get to see each other's work, we didn't get to support each other on stage, we didn't get to hang out in a green room."

A'Court started the New Zealand Comedy Guild and pushed for access and safety among those working in comedy.

Away from the stage and screen she's a patron of The Aunties and an an ambassador for Breast Cancer Cure.

"I guess that people in the comedy industry getting recognised in this way is a sign that we've really grown up and matured," she said.

She says Covid-19 has shown sharply how important that industry is, and the people in it.

"People like me have learnt how much doing our job really matters. It's not just about having a job and earning money, it's about how it feeds us, feeds our souls."

A'Court hopes her newfound honour doesn't mean she's reached her peak.

"It feels really lovely. I feel like I'm halfway through, I'm in my prime! I feel like I've got a lot more to do."

That sentiment is being echoed by Dame Miranda.

"When you're given an honour like this, really it's a match or an ignition point to double down and work harder," she said.

"It's not a time to sit back and go 'my work is done'."

Others honoured in the arts for 2023

Sir Haare Mahanga Te Wehinga Williams - For services to Māori, literature and education

Kura Te Rangi Moeahu, QSO - For services to Māori and the arts

Elizabeth Anne Caldwell, ONZM - For services to the arts

Janine Rania Morrell-Gunn, ONZM - For services to children's television and the community

Dr Gina Annette Cole, MNZM - For services to literature

Catherine Mary Cornish, MNZM - For services to the performing arts

Penelope Jane Jackson, MNZM - For services to art crime research and visual arts

Lakiloko Tepae Keakea, MNZM - For services to Tuvaluan art

Marilyn Rhonda Kohlhase, MNZM - For services to Pacific arts and education

Dr Alana Marissa Lopesi, MNZM - For services to the arts

Dr Paul Allan Maunder, MNZM - For services to the arts and the community

Betty-Anne Maryrose Monga, MNZM - For services to music

Rosanna Marie Raymond, MNZM - For services to Pacific art

Charles Beswick Wilkinson, MNZM - For services to arts governance and the community

Naomi Ruth Baker-Wenley, QSM - For services to opera


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