FOUR British expats in Spain have been awarded gongs in the 2022 Queen’s Birthday Honours list for their work serving the British community in Spain.

An editor of an expat newspaper in Lanzarote, a founder of Gay Sitges Link, a cancer support volunteer and a former headteacher of a British school in Mallorca are among those honoured for their work in Spain.

Here’s a little bit more about them and why they were honoured, plus comments on the award from the British Ambassador in Madrid, Hugh Elliott and each of the recipients.

LARRY YASKIEL

Larry Yaskiel

Larry Yaskiel, who founded one of the oldest English-language publications in Spain, has been awarded a British Empire Medal(BEM) “For services to the British community in Lanzarote”.

Larry moved to Lanzarote in 1981, in search of relaxation after a hectic life in the music business, where he contributed to the success of many top names.

However, needing an outlet for his creativity and ambition, he soon established the Lancelot Island Journal, a quarterly magazine, which quickly became a valuable source of information for British residents; helping them to integrate into island life.

Larry also used the magazine to share his knowledge of the connections between the UK and Lanzarote, which has proved a valuable resource for both British and Spanish students, and led to his 2018 book “The British Connection to Lanzarote and the Canaries”.

Some of the most fascinating links include the numerous references to Canary wines in Shakespeare and his theory that La Graciosa is the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island”.

On World Tourism Day in 1994, the President of the Lanzarote Cabildo presented Larry with the Distinguished Services to Tourism Award.

British Ambassador Hugh Elliott said: “Larry has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, which makes him a fascinating writer and wonderful company. My wife Toni and I were lucky enough to catch up with Larry and his wife Liz earlier this year.”

“He has an unrivalled understanding of the connections between the UK and Lanzarote, which he has shared in his articles for over 20 years, as well as in his landmark book. Larry has also been a great support to our consulate in Las Palmas, building relationships with Lanzarote decision makers and acting as a spokesperson for the British community.”

“I am delighted that such a longstanding and important cultural ambassador has been honoured for his work.”

 Larry said: “It is humbling to receive the British Empire Medal from Her Majesty the Queen for basically carrying out a job which gives me such pleasure. God Save the Queen.”

“I would never have reached this stage without the solid support of my beloved wife, Liz, who has been my gracious partner in every aspect of my life including the production of Lancelot Island Journal from the very beginning.”

HEATHER MUNTANER

Heather Muntaner

Heather Muntaner, headteacher of Queen’s College in Mallorca for 30 years, has been awarded an MBE for services to the promotion of British education, language and culture in Spain.

During her 30 years as headteacher, Heather made Queen’s College one of the flagship British schools in Spain with many students going on to study and work in the UK, and a raft of successful alumni, including Luis Vidal, the architect for Heathrow Terminal 2.

As well as academic success, Heather instilled a strong sense of values at Queen’s College and the school has directly supported over 20 different charities helping vulnerable British and Spanish people.

Alongside her full-time role, Heather was an inspector of British schools in Spain for many years under the National Association of British Schools in Spain (NABSS) inspection system.

For almost a decade she made a significant, and entirely voluntary, contribution to the NABSS Executive Committee, initially as secretary and later as a member of the Inspection Monitoring Committee.

British Ambassador Hugh Elliott said: “It is thanks to the work and dedication of people like Heather that British education is so well regarded in Spain. I know that not only is she adored by her former staff and pupils, but she is highly respected by the local and regional authorities, who turn to her for advice on the teaching of English.”

“She has also worked tirelessly to promote wider British values, language and culture at every opportunity. I, and I am sure the international education community in Spain, are delighted that she has been rewarded with an MBE for her work.”

Heather said: “I am truly honoured and very happy to receive this award. Working in a British school in Spain with children and young people of all nationalities and languages has been a most gratifying experience, as has the privilege of working with the National Association of British schools in Spain, an association committed to British education and to the development and high standards of all its member schools.”

 “An award is not achieved by one person alone, but by teams working together, so I would like to share this honour with all those colleagues and team members, past and present, who have worked with and supported me. Many thanks!”

BRANDON JONES

Brandon Jones

Brandon Jones, founder of Gay Sitges Link and Sitges English Theatre Company, has been awarded a British Empire Medal for services to the British Community in Sitges.

The longstanding co-owner of the Casablanca cocktail bar, Brandon is a stalwart of the LGBTI+ community in Sitges.

He invests much of his time and energy into a variety of local charitable and cultural projects, often using the bar as the venue for his fundraising efforts.

In 1999, Brandon founded, and later became Chairman of, The Sitges English Theatre Company. In 2011, he co-founded Gay Sitges Link to provide help and assistance to the LGBTI+ community, and with his support it has grown exponentially to offer emotional, psychological and legal support, rapid HIV testing and social activities.

He is also a key proponent of cultural interchange. In 2012, he launched the Irish-Catalan Festival in Sitges, celebrating Irish culture and bringing over 700 visitors from the island of Ireland each year. And, building on this success he launched the Welsh-Catalan Festival in 2019, promoting historical and cultural links between Wales and Catalunya.

British Ambassador Hugh Elliott said:

“Brandon is a true cultural ambassador and his annual festivals have strengthened links between the UK and Spain; in particular between Wales and the island of Ireland, and Catalunya. But it is for his pioneering charity work with Gay Sitges Link that Brandon most deserves to be recognised. The association’s motto is “The Pride of Creating Community” and Brandon has been key to making that happen – bringing together likeminded individuals to create a resource for the community, including the tens of thousands of LGBTI+ visitors who come to Sitges each year. This honour is very richly deserved.”

Brandon said: “Having grown up in the Rhondda Valley in South Wales and as a former keen rugby player, the importance of team and community spirit are part of my DNA. That’s why I’m always keen to help people integrate into the wonderful creative, cosmopolitan community here in Sitges. And to have received an award for something that just comes naturally to me is both a delight and an honour.”

BEVERLEY THOMPSON

Bev Thompson 1

Beverley Thompson, Treasurer and Vice-President of MABS Cancer Support has been awarded a British Empire Medal for services to voluntary charitable work in Spain.

Beverley Thompson first started volunteering for a small branch of MABS in Mazarron after moving there in 2005. After the charity’s accountant left, Beverley stepped in and within a short time was looking after the accounts for MABS across the Murcia region and has acted as treasurer ever since – one of the core team of three running the foundation. She had overall responsibility for the purchase, design and opening of the MABS respite home on Camposol in 2018. The home provides 24-hour respite and palliative care to cancer patients in Murcia and, thanks to Beverley’s tenacity, is now eligible to apply for annual grant funding for the running costs from the regional government.

British Ambassador Hugh Elliott said: “I had the pleasure – and honour – of visiting the MABS hospice in Camposol last year and saw first-hand the extraordinary services they provide to cancer patients and their families. Bev was instrumental in setting this up and she should be immensely proud of what she has achieved. Whilst MABS does not exclusively support British Nationals, they fill the gap for many of my compatriots, who do not have family nearby to help them during a very difficult time. That all this is done on a purely voluntary basis is quite extraordinary and a testament to the dedication of Bev and all the MABS volunteers.”

Beverley said: “Being awarded the British Empire Medal from Her Majesty is just fantastic and I am truly honoured. But I must recognise the amazing job the MABS volunteers do every single day and the strength and support given to me by my husband Keith should not be overlooked. From the bottom of my heart – thank you all!”

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