New Chairman succeeds Sir George Bain

Stephen Peover was elected yesterday as the new Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Ulster Orchestra, succeeding Sir George Bain who has retired after five years of highly dedicated service in the post.

Stephen’s appointment comes at a historic and significant period in the Ulster Orchestra’s half-century of music-making in Northern Ireland. The Orchestra is midway through its critically acclaimed 50th Anniversary Season and is enjoying a period of management stability and growth in its audience and supporter base. The Ulster Orchestra acknowledges the major support it receives from its principal funding partner, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and is grateful to the Northern Ireland Department for Communities for its very constructive engagement with the Orchestra about the organisation’s future plans.

Stephen Peover is a passionate advocate for education and culture and worked in the Northern Ireland Civil Service for thirty-nine years, spending thirteen years in the Department of Health and Social Services and then fourteen years in the Department of Education. In 2003 Stephen was appointed Permanent Secretary to the Department of Environment, before moving to his final post, as Permanent Secretary to the Department of Finance and Personnel in 2009. He retired in June 2014 but has remained busy ever since. He is Chair of the Chief Executives’ Forum (the umbrella body for senior public sector staff), a Director of Cultúrlann McAdam-Ó Fiaich and a member of the Board of Governors of St Patrick’s College Bearnageeha.

Stephen lives in North Belfast with his wife, Frances McCandless, who is Chief Executive of the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland. Stephen was educated at St Mary’s Christian Brothers Grammar School in Belfast and at Queen’s University Belfast where he received a BA in Philosophy (a subject which he subsequently taught, part-time, for fourteen years). He also has an MSSc in Irish Studies from Queen’s. In anticipation of his appointment with the Ulster Orchestra, Stephen recently stood down as Chair of the Irish medium education body (Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta) and as a Director of the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education.

Of his appointment, Stephen Peover said:

‘It has been fascinating to begin to get to know the musicians, board, artistic team and staff of the Ulster Orchestra and I am enormously honoured to be appointed as Chair of this hugely impressive organisation which is a crucial element of Northern Ireland’s cultural life. I am especially excited about the Orchestra’s commitment to engaging with its local communities and with young people across Northern Ireland. The passion, energy and talent of this incredible group of musicians is always to the fore, whether they are performing on the concert stage, giving a concert in a hospice, working with disadvantaged school children or even playing at a dance event to an arena full of thousands of young clubbers. Taking over from Sir George Bain is a daunting prospect but I look forward to building on his tremendous contribution and to working with Music Director Rafael Payare and Managing Director Richard Wigley and their teams.’

Richard Wigley and Stephen PeoverRichard Wigley, Managing Director of the Ulster Orchestra said:

‘I am very pleased to welcome Stephen to the Ulster Orchestra, he brings invaluable experience and wisdom to the Board at a vital time. I look forward to working together to realise the Orchestra’s multi-faceted, ambitious vision for the coming years.’

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added:

‘The Arts Council is delighted at the appointment of Stephen Peover as Chairman of the Ulster Orchestra.  Stephen brings an immense amount of talent and experience to the role and we wish him every success as Chairman and look forward to continuing to work with the Ulster Orchestra under his Chairmanship, to drive the vision of this internationally acclaimed organisation forward.’