Wednesday 23 January 2019


British Council Director of Music, Cathy Graham has been honoured with a major orchestral award from the Association of British Orchestras (ABO).

The annual ABO Classical Music Awards, sponsored by Classic FM, took place at Titanic Belfast this evening (Wednesday, January 23, 2019) honouring excellence in the fields of orchestral, concert hall and artist management.

Cathy, who joined the British Council in 2006, was awarded the prestigious ABO award for her work across all genres of music on projects which create trust and understanding between the UK and the rest of the world. 

Credited as an invaluable partner to the ABO, Cathy has served on many boards and is currently Chair of Streetwise Opera, the award-winning charity that uses music to help homeless people move forward with their lives. Her deep love of the music, her support at so many concerts and performances, are evidence of the depth and the quality of her support and enthusiasm for the work that UK orchestras do.

The ABO Award is presented annually to the individual or institution considered by the membership to have made the most important contribution to the orchestral life of the UK and past recipients include Conductor, Sir Simon Rattle and the Royal Philharmonic Society.

Other awards went to Angela Sulivan, of Sulivan Sweetland Ltd, who won the Artist Manager of the Year, Orchestra Manager of the Year went to David Wilson, Director of Planning at the London Symphony Orchestra and Concert Hall Manager of the Year went to Suzanne Rolt, Chief Executive of St George’s Brandon Hill in Bristol.

The awards closed day one of the ABO annual conference which, for the first time in 20 years, welcomed more than 300 delegates to Belfast - with keynote speakers including Steve Brosvik of the Nashville Symphony, John Kieser of New World Symphony, and Sir Roger Scruton.

The conference - focusing on borders and supporting inclusion and diversity –  opened with the premiere of Béal by Ryan Molloy, which was especially commissioned for the Ulster Orchestra and performed by its brass musicians. 

This was followed by the Čhavorenge choir, part of a project by the Czech Philharmonic – and supported by British Council Northern Ireland – to rehabilitate the reputation of the marginalized and stigmatised Roma community in the Czech Republic.

This year’s conference is hosted by the Ulster Orchestra at ICC Belfast and runs until Friday, January 25. Find out more:

The British Council is the UK’s leading cultural relations organisation. For more information on current opportunities in Northern Ireland, visit, or follow on Twitter: @BCouncil_NI

Notes to Editor


The ABO Conference is the UK’s leading conference for the classical music industry, with delegates including chief executives, senior management staff and musicians from across the ABO membership, as well as the wider classical music industry including concert halls, festivals, broadcasters, and funding agencies.  The 2019 Conference is hosted by the Ulster Orchestra and held in the ICC Belfast, with a concert in the Waterfront Hall.

Speakers include Mrs Fionnuala Jay-O'Boyle CBE DL, Lord Lieutenant of Belfast, Sean Rainbird, Director, National Gallery of Ireland, Steve Brosvik of Nashville Symphony, John Kieser of New World Symphony, UK Disability Champion for Arts & Culture Andrew Miller, conductor James Rose, and conservative thinker and polemicist Sir Roger Scruton. 

The ABO is delighted to celebrate seventeen years with Principal Media Partner Classic FM, and to announce a new relationship with Help Musicians UK as Charity Partner, as well as welcoming International Arts Manager as Media Associate. Classical Music magazine, newly acquired by the Mark Allen Group, continues its association of eight years as Print Media Sponsor for the conference and the ABO/Classical Music Awards which will be hosted by Jane Jones from Classic FM. The ABO is grateful for the support of Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and its hosts the Ulster Orchestra.

About the Association of British Orchestras

The ABO is the national body representing the collective interests of professional orchestras, youth ensembles and the wider classical music industry throughout the UK.  The ABO's mission is to enable and support an innovative, collaborative and sustainable orchestral sector by providing advice, support, intelligence and information to the people who make British orchestras a global success.  Recent initiatives include Resonate in association with PRS for Music and BBC Radio 3, which supports the best orchestral music of the last 25 years, and Find Your Way which identifies and offers training to future sector leaders.  The ABO campaigned successfully for Orchestra Tax Relief and continues to lobby for the sector at the highest levels.

For further information please contact: 

Claire McAuley, Communications Manager: T +44 (0) 28 9019 2224 | M +44 (0) 7856524504 Twitter: @BCouncil_NI, Facebook – 

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We work with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year we reached over 65 million people directly and 731 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. We make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government.