Scottish Opera chief, beloved writer and panto director receive royal honours

Figures from the worlds of opera and pantomime and a beloved writer are among those from the arts in Scotland who have been recognised in the New Year Honours list.

Alex Reedijk, general director of Scottish Opera, becomes an OBE for services to the performing arts in Scotland.

Author Alexander McCall Smith, creator of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series, is knighted for services to literature, academia and charity.

Robert Fyfe, honorary president of Runway Theatre Company, receives a Medal of the Order of the British Empire for services to the arts and to the community in Glasgow.

Mr Reedijk is the longest serving general director in the history of Scottish Opera, having joined the company in 2006.

He took up the role following four years at the helm of the NBR New Zealand Opera and has worked for many opera companies and festivals around the world.

Alex Reedijk
Alex Reedijk has been general director of Scottish Opera for almost two decades (James Glossop/PA)

During his time with Scottish Opera he has toured productions, both large and on smaller scale, the length and breadth of the country, bringing live opera to local venues as well as bigger city-based theatres to open up access to opera.

Whilst recognising the importance of presenting popular titles, he has also been adventurous with new compositions.

This has included the commissioning the 15-minute chamber operas, Operas Made in Scotland, by composers including Craig Armstrong and Stuart MacRae and writers including Sir Ian Rankin, Sir Alexander and Louise Welsh as librettists.

Mr Reedijk said: “I have been so lucky to have been part of the rich cultural life in Scotland over the past 35 years, principally with Scottish Opera as its general director since 2006 but also as part of the team at Assembly Theatre in the Edinburgh Festival, Mayfest, and more recently with the Citizens Theatre and the Beacon Arts Centre.

“Success in any field of endeavour but especially the arts require three key ingredients: very hard graft, passion and being able to work with amazing people who are all equally determined, talented and creative every day. Many thanks to you all.”

Scottish Opera said Mr Reedijk has also helped the company remain a “trailblazer” in community arts engagement with programmes including its Primary Schools Tour, which during his tenure has so far reached more than 250,000 children in the arts across all 32 Scottish local authority areas.

Alexander McCall Smith
Writer Sir Alexander McCall Smith is knighted (Danny Lawson/PA)

He has also overseen an array of new initiatives for young people, and for people living with dementia, including what is said to be the world’s first dementia friendly opera performances in 2016.

Mr Fyfe, who lives in Glasgow, retired this year after 40 years with Runway Theatre Company, 27 of them as chairman and director.

Originally called the Glasgow Airport Drama Club, the amateur dramatics company, now based in Giffnock, East Renfrewshire, has been running for more than 50 years and performs traditional pantomimes and “rare, new and lesser known musicals”.

Mr Fyfe said: “I am honoured to receive this award for my involvement in amateur theatre, particularly with Runway Theatre Company.

“It has been a joy over the years to combine my passion for the arts while helping to raise funds for causes close to my heart.

“This recognition reflects the collaborative efforts of a dedicated community of volunteers.”

Sir Alexander said he feels “most honoured” to be knighted.

Other people from the arts recognised include Morag Deyes, former artistic director of Dance Base in Edinburgh, who becomes an OBE for services to dance.

Blair Parham, director of music and principal conductor of the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra, becomes an MBE for services to Scottish music.

He joined the Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra at the age of 10 and in 1995 joined the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra, going on to fill numerous roles there.

Mr Parham said: “I’m deeply honoured and incredibly thrilled to be awarded the MBE for services to Scottish music.

“It’s hard to get my head round but I haven’t stopped smiling since I received the news, though keeping it a secret until now has been pretty challenging.

“Of course, if it weren’t for the wonderful musicians I’ve worked with and the generous audiences we’ve performed for, I wouldn’t be in the very fortunate position I’m in, so a massive thank- you to them all.”