Queen’s Birthday Honours: Sheffield charity champ awarded British Empire Medal

Honour: Michele France, who gets a BEM.
Honour: Michele France, who gets a BEM.

A SHEFFIELD breast cancer survivor who has raised more than £70,000 for charity today joined a list of showbiz and other folk to be given top awards in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

For years she’s been instrumental in arranging the city’s biggest fancy dress ball - but today Michele France will be thinking about choosing a posh frock instead of her next costume.

She has been invited to Buckingham Palace to receive a British Empire Medal.

Michele, aged 54, a catering assistant at Sheffield Hallam University for 17 years, was today in the company of police officers, a medical professor, community stalwarts, a hairdresser and a headteacher from across South Yorkshire and Derbyshire who have aslo been awarded gongs.

Take That star Gary Barlow gets an OBE for services to the entertainment industry and charity.

He organised the Diamond Jubilee concert outside Buckingham Palace for the Queen and with Lord Andrew Webber he co-wrote the official song and current number one single, Sing, co-produced and recorded around the Commonwealth with Sheffield’s own Eliot Kennedy.

Chart-topping choirmaster Gareth Malone, who conducted the Military Wives on Sing and led them during the Jubilee concert, is celebrating an OBE on the day he is due in Sheffield as a speaker at DocFest.

Actor Kenneth Branagh’s knighthood left his heart “fit to burst” while Kate Winslet said her CBE made her “very proud to be a Brit”.

Charity worker Michele said she was ‘over the moon but very humbled’ to be awarded the honour. She has been recognised for services to higher education and charity, in particular Breast Cancer Research.

For the past 12 years she has been one of three sisters-in-law - along with Barbara France and Sharon Beresford - who have organised an annual fancy dress bash to raise money for the charity.

They started after Michele, of Waterthorpe, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997. Sharon, 55, of Halfway, was diagnosed a year later.

The first event was a huge success with more than 500 people attending.

The ball went on to become an annual event and the parties the girls have thrown have raised in excess of £70,000. Michele was nominated by her boss, Sheffield Hallam University hospitality manager Melvyn Jeffries.

He said: “Her skill and ability to provide customer excellence in all she does is a credit to her. Her constant wish is to please others and she provides an excellent service to everyone she meets without exception.”

Michele said: “This award is not just for me but for Barbara and Sharon and all the people who have supported our fancy dress balls over the years.

And she warned husband Mick: “When I go to the palace I plan to wear something really special. Mick’s wallet will not know what has hit it.”

For full local list and more reaction see The Star on Saturday, June 16, 2012.