By Stuart Round

Matthew Stadlen and President Cyril Ramaphosa
The late Sir Nick Stadlen has been awarded the Order of the Companions of Oliver Tambo at a ceremony in Pretoria on Tuesday, 30th April. Sir Nick’s son, Matthew, received the posthumous award on his father’s behalf.

Sir Nick Stadlen KC was an English High Court Judge before his retirement in 2013. He was on a visit with family in South Africa in December the same year when former President Nelson Mandela sadly died. Such was the national and international reaction to his passing that Sir Nick decided to reach out to Denis Goldberg, former Rivonia trialist and comrade of Mandela. From that meeting, and given his own legal career, Sir Nick developed the idea of producing a documentary giving the inside story of the infamous Rivonia Trial.

Matthew Stadlen receiving the award

“Life is Wonderful: Mandela’s Unsung Heroes” was released in 2018 and included revealing insights from many of the key participants, including Lord Joel Joffe, Ahmed Kathradra, Andrew Mlangeni, George Bizos and Denis Goldberg. For most of them, these would be the last detailed interviews they would give as one by one over the next couple of years, old age caught up with each of them.

The documentary won “Best International Film” at the 2018 Encounters South African Documentary Film Festival, and is now available on Amazon Prime. The SA Chamber UK, along with the Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli and Christopher Hayward CC, Sheriffs of the City of London presented the documentary at the Old Bailey in November 2020. He was awarded the Chamber’s “Exceptional Achievement Award” at our 2022 Annual Awards.

Sir Nick himself sadly passed away on 5th October 2023.

Matthew Stadlen said of his trip to South Africa to accept the award from President Ramaphosa, “It was the trip of a lifetime, and we are all so proud of Dad. Other than the ceremony itself, when I was in the company of such great people, the highlight for me was visiting the site of the Soweto Uprising. Of course there are many challenges still facing South Africa, but what a change there has been since the dark days of the 1970s and 1980s.”

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