Althea Efunshile and Sonia Friedman are among those named in the most diverse honours list in history.

Julia Peyton-Jones
Julia Peyton-Jones

Julia Peyton-Jones, Co-Director of Exhibitions and Programmes at the Serpentine Gallery, has become a Dame in the most diverse Queen’s Birthday Honours list to date: 8.2% of the successful candidates are from a black and minority ethnic background, 5.2% consider themselves to have a disability, and 47% are women

Other top awards were given to the Chair of the Royal Opera House and Aldeburgh Music, Simon Robey, who received a knighthood, and Althea Efunshile, the outgoing Deputy Chief Executive at Arts Council England (ACE), who received a CBE for services to arts and culture.

Commenting on Efunshile’s award, ACE Chief Executive Darren Henley said: “As well as helping to shape our ten-year strategy, Great art and culture for everyone, she has been instrumental in helping us to secure a better than expected settlement in the recent Autumn statement, and in championing our work with children and young people.”

Arts and culture

Of the 1,149 honours awarded this year, four were CBEs for services to the arts. Alongside Efunshile, Patricia Walters, Former Headteacher at Holte Visual and Performing Arts College, received one, as did Chairman of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Dr Brian Lang, and Director of the Royal College of Music Professor Colin Lawson.

OBEs have been awarded to Nicola Thorold, Executive Producer at The Roundhouse; Dr Nima Poovaya-Smith, founder and Director of Alchemy Anew; Dr Geetha Upadhyaya, co-founder and former Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Kala Sangam; Lois Keith, former Equality and Diversity Adviser at the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama; and Baluji Shrivastav, founder of the Inner Vision Orchestra.

In addition, Artistic Director of DaDaFest Ruth Gould received an MBE, alongside Anwar Kassim, Director of the Milton Keynes Islamic Arts and Culture; Bristol City Council’s Assistant Mayor for Business Change Resources and The Arts, Simon Cook; Leicester City Council’s Festivals and Events Manager, Maggie Shutt; founder of Hackwood Art Festival Amanda Aldous; James Blair, Principal Conductor and Artistic Director at the Young Musicians Symphony Orchestra; dancer Kousalyaa Somasundram; Alison Frazer, former Chief Executive of Music in Hospitals Scotland; and Sarah Munro, who provides additional support needs in Ross-shire.

Visual arts

There were fewer honours made for services to the visual arts. OBEs were awarded to Lady Frances Sorrell, co-founder and Co-Chair of the Sorrell Foundation, and Dr Paul Williamson, the former Keeper of Sculpture, Metalwork, Ceramics and Glass at the V&A.

Founder of Art-Lift Dr Simon Opher was awarded an MBE, alongside Linda McClelland, Playfair Education Co-ordinator at the National Galleries of Scotland, and Philip Hughes, Director of the Ruthin Craft Centre.


Three figures in theatre were awarded OBEs: Sonia Friedman, producer and founder of Sonia Friedman Productions; Artistic Director of Bristol Old Vic Tom Morris; and writer and theatre-maker Stella Duffy.

A number of past and present artistic directors received MBEs: Felix Barrett, founder and Artistic Director of Punchdrunk; Muriel Romanes, former Artistic Director of Stellar Quines; Rikki Beadle-Blair, playwright, director and screenwriter; and Kerry Rooney, Artistic Director of Kaleidoscope.