The Chief Executive of East Midlands’ professional orchestra Sinfonia Viva, has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to arts and culture.

Peter Helps has been at the helm of the Derby-based Orchestra since 1995 – steering it through challenging times.

Over the past 20 years Sinfonia Viva has gained national recognition for high quality classical music in diverse settings from major venues to village halls and for its innovative education and community work.

Key achievements have included developing a long-standing relationship with Rolls-Royce plc and securing funding for the Orchestra’s mobile venue to enable performances and community outreach creative projects in both inner city and rural parts of the region.

The quality and vision of Sinfonia Viva’s work has been recognised in many ways over recent years from being a finalist in the National Lottery awards for ‘Dark Clouds’ which marked the start of WW1 centenary to being nominated for a Grammy through its collaboration with  Gorillaz.

The Orchestra is best known locally for its performances at the annual Darley Park concert which attracts audiences of around 35,000 every year.

Mr Helps has also been recognised for his voluntary work to support the Arts both locally and nationally including involvement in the Association of British Orchestras, the Family Friendly Arts Campaign, Derby Arts Forum and Cultivate East Midlands.

Mr Helps, who worked in hotel and theatre management before joining Sinfonia Viva, said: “I regard this honour as an accolade for everyone at Sinfonia Viva – the trustees, management team and players alike.

“So many people past and present have played an important part in making this Orchestra a success and their commitment will ensure that we continue to navigate the challenges that face us as an Arts organisation.”

Peter Knott, Area Director for Arts Council England said: “We’re delighted to see Peter awarded an MBE for his services to arts and culture.

“Under Peter’s leadership, Sinfonia Viva has developed significantly over the years and it is very much an orchestra in the community, working with thousands of children and young people every year and more recently with older people in care homes and community settings. This is a well-deserved achievement for Peter and Viva - many congratulations.”


Media enquiries: Sarah Jenkin-Jones, JJPR, Tel: 01332 515102; 07951 945665; [email protected]

Note to Editors

Sinfonia Viva

Grammy-nominated Sinfonia Viva is a virtuoso ensemble delivering original and extraordinary creative musical experiences. Founded in 1982, Sinfonia Viva has a national reputation as a leader in creative music activity in the UK. Its work offers relevant and enriching possibilities for all.

Sinfonia Viva is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. For more information about all of Viva’s other performances, visit the website,

Arts Council England (ACE)

Arts Council England is the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to visual art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2018 and 2022, we will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.


Peter Helps, Chief Executive Sinfonia Viva

Peter trained in hotel management and worked in hotels in Geneva, Toronto, Bournemouth and Brighton (narrowly missed being bombed there) before running off to join the 'circus' in 1985, when he managed theatres for English National Opera and Scottish Opera. In 1995 Peter joined Sinfonia Viva, a creative music charity providing orchestral, educational and performance opportunities and projects in, with and for local communities. Whilst ensuring concert giving of the highest standard Peter is also passionate about the role music can play in the development of the social skills and educational attainment of participants in the Orchestra’s nationally acclaimed project work.

Peter Chairs the LeicesterShire Music Hub Executive Committee and is a trustee of Magna Vitae, a culture and leisure trust based in Lincolnshire as well as being a Director of Magna Vitae Enterprises, the Trust’s trading arm. He has just assumed, for a second time, Chairmanship of the Association of British Orchestras' Chamber Orchestras Managers' Group. He is a Director of Sinfonia Viva Events Ltd, the Orchestra’s production company.

Peter was a Board member of the Association of British Orchestras for six years and during this time co-chaired the Education Manager’s Group. He served on the original Family Friendly Arts Campaign Project Board. He was a founding Director of Cultivate, East Midlands' audience and organisation development agency and served a full six year term on its Board. Peter participated in Capitalise, an Arts Council funded cultural leaders programme run in the East Midlands.

Peter has led on many creative projects including being producer and tour manager of Sinfonia Viva’s Cabinet of Curiosities Tour of five locations using its inflatable venue and being the local content producer for two original, created pieces that opened and closed the Olympic Torch Relay Evening Celebration Event in Derby in June 2012. He is currently working on the culmination event for Derby City’s area opportunity fund year-long project This is Derby in July 2019.

He has been invited to join many Arts working groups in Derby where currently he sits as a member of the City’s Strategic Culture Group.

Peter's interests in the arts are wide ranging including music, opera and theatre. Peter is an avid skier and tries to get as much time on the piste as his employer will allow.