Culture Night … tonight in London..

On the back of Alan in Belfast’s ‘Culture night’ topic, I thought I would share a relevant experience I had last weekend. On the morning of Friday 16th I left home to make my way to London, the occasion being the annual Lord Carson Memorial Parade organised by the London Somme Association. I’ve taken part several times in the past in my capacity as a member of the Apprentice Boys of Derry and a local branch of the Friends of the Somme, but this year I was participating as a guest with a local marching band. The Cormeen Rising Sons of William Flute from Killylea in County Armagh (who incidentally host their annual band procession and competition on St Patricks Day), were scheduled to lead the event.

The Saturday afternoon parade itself passed off well as always, with zero contention, protest or dissent. Three bands accompanied by hundreds of Apprentice Boys and Somme Association members took part in a hour long event that saw us pass Trafalgar Square, Westminster and a plethora of other famous landmarks. It culminated with a moving wreath laying ceremony at the cenotaph. Massive crowds of London tourists witnessed the parade as always, with nothing only a great reception received.

What I want to talk about however is the events of the preceding night, events that raised several important points with me personally in relation to and with relevance to the topic of musical and cultural contention in Northern Ireland.

The band I had travelled with were staying in a Thames side hostel, it being much too expensive to stay elsewhere, and upon arrival on Friday evening settled into the attached bar to ‘make our craic’ before bed and the day to follow. What we didn’t know however was that an open-mic night takes place in the bar every Friday night.

From 7.30pm on a continual line of performers, or x-factor wannabes as I heard some referred to, took to the stage in the corner. A large crowd almost exclusively consisting of back-packers from across the length and breadth of the world was the audience. Australians, Thai’s, an American couple, Germans and French were all represented, and almost to a person they were simply disinterested in the entertainment.

That was to change.  We are a friendly lot, not just us prods of course- all of us Norn Irn people, and the guy in charge of organising the open-mic evening wasn’t long in finding out that the ‘Irish’ guys and girls present (40 of us travelled over) included some flautists. We were promptly asked would a few people perform and the answer was of course yes! To say they didn’t expect what they got would be an understatement, but a positive one.

Our bus was parked outside so a few drums, bass drum and 8 flutes were quickly retrieved. At 12pm a small make shift Ulster marching band took to the stage and floor of the bar. From the second they started playing until the last note, the reception received was amazing!! Those who had ignored the entire preceding entertainment didn’t just turn their heads, they were enthusiastically enjoying the show! Smiles all round, clapping, cheering!

They heard a short marching band set that included Pack up your Troubles, The Sash and Dam Busters. At the beginning the bar owner was a bit nervous of the noise levels, but when he realised that the entire pub was loving it he simply closed the door! All nationalities, races, and creeds in the place loved the show! It went down a storm!

So the question yet again rises, what was different from back home? Why was it that the sound of an Ulster Marching Band could be so well received by so many truly different people when in London, yet at home the same personnel and performance is challenged, demonised and hated by some?

The truth is that the reason that bands are challenged in Northern Ireland isn’t anything to do with what they actually do, it’s because of who we are. It’s not parades that aren’t wanted by those who protest, it’s simply an excuse to allow them to manifest a hatred of a people. Complaints about music, insignia and symbolism are all nonsense. The same music, the same types of regalia and the even similar symbolism are shared by many different cultures and nationalities, sometimes even by Irish Republicans!!

Music is not inherently sectarian. Set aside the hatred for the Protestant/ Unionist Loyalist people and accept it for what it is and either enjoy the music and performance or ignore it. There you go, 90% of parade disputes sorted out overnight.

 

  • I don’t think anyone ever questions the musical ability of any marching band in regards to parades, and I have no doubt your band was well received by the traveling tourists..

    I’d also say very few of them knew they were listening to a loyalist flute band as a opposed to a republican flute band and I’d say far less they cared – you were just a great group of Irish lads breaking out the ceol to go with the craic, and why wouldn’t ye…

    Surely like everything, it’s all about context? What’s offensive in one part of the world isn’t offensive in the rest.. I could cite many examples.

    If you can’t answer the basic question at the root of your post i.e;

    “Why was it that the sound of an Ulster Marching Band could be so well received by so many truly different people when in London, yet at home the same personnel and performance is challenged, demonised and hated by some?”

    ..then I fear you have very little understanding of the “parades issue” in Northern Ireland?

  • The only place I would be circumspect about admitting my own national-cultural-“whatever you wanna call it” identity would be my own home city.

    Everywhere else from Boston to The Swan in Stockwell, people have been prepared to give the space to explain where I culturally and politically come from.

  • damon

    It would help if the bands cleaned up their act and didn’t look so obviously pro the paramilitaries of the past. Even when it’s ”just” in rememberance of a former band member. Random tourists in a hostel in London are going to be unaware of any of that.

  • ..Set aside the hatred for the Protestant/ Unionist Loyalist people and accept it for what it is..

    Quincey,
    You wouldn’t be a tad paranoid, would you?

  • Joe Bloggs

    Excellent piece Quincey.

    I’ve paraded in Scotland and England many times – always to a positive and warm reception – especially from tourists.

    Just shows the tourist magnet the 12th July parades could be for Northern Ireland if our fellow countrymen would rid themselves of their sectarian hatred for everything protestant/British.

    Glad to hear the weekend went well for you.

  • between the bridges

    QD good piece, cormeen are a cracking wee band. Re the rest it’s simple logic as only 3% of parades are ”contentious” the problem doesn’t come from those parading.

  • I’m pleased too that Quincey had a great time. We should all have them.
    But let me paint a scenario for him and Joe Bloggs.
    Let’s say you are a church-going Protestant living in a “Protestant area”. You are attending a church service and the Minister is delivering a sermon. You hear music in the distance; a “republican” band comes closer, stops outside your church and plays “rebel” songs, drowning out the Minister. Honestly, how would you feel; happy, sad, calm, angry, or something else?

  • Dec

    Leaving aside the underlying theme that catholic/nationalists are inherent bigots, this line jumped out:

    ‘We were promptly asked would a few people perform ‘

    I’d go further than Quincey’s 90% and confidently state 100% of parade disputes would be resolved if the loyal orders paraded only where asked to.

  • JH

    “Music is not inherently sectarian. Set aside the hatred for the Protestant/ Unionist Loyalist people and accept it for what it is and either enjoy the music and performance or ignore it. ”

    White sheets aren’t inherently racist either. It’s when you use them as a symbol to chastise and harass other people for whom they represent oppression and hatred that they become a problem.

    You can’t march a band commemorating a sectarian murderer past the community of the man he murdered and then hold your hands up and say “Woah, wait – it’s culture! They just hate us because we’re Protestant!”. If you’re going to engage in that kind of activity then at least assume your share of the responsibility for the rift between your music and the people who are offended by it.

    Personally I think it’s great that you received a warm welcome and the music went down well. I just think that it’d be easier to embrace over here if it was used as a hammer.

  • JH

    *wasn’t

  • between the bridges

    Joe let me paint you another scenario, pro’s…a unique culture phenomena which attracts at least 10% of the population as active participants or supporters and attracts a at least third of the population to its main event…con’s 3% of its activities are not liked by some.

  • between the bridges,

    I know i didn’t pose the question directly to you, but would that be an evasion rather than an answer?

  • And let’s not forget that elected representatives of our two principal political parties came up with a proposal in the near past to deal with the 3%, and an unelected, stuck in the past, organization turned out to have a veto.

  • Davy McFaul

    “We were promptly asked would a few people perform”

    There’s your answer there Quincy. There’s a big difference being being asked and insisting. Nationalists find contentious Orange marches provocative, it’s that simple, if the OO want to march in contested areas then they’ll have to make the contested marches more acceptable to the host community through dialogue or otherwise. It’s a very simple equation. JH’s hammer metaphor hit the nail on the head.

    “Only 3% of parades are ”contentious”

    If BTB’s stat is correct then it kinda blows the MOPEy

    “Set aside the hatred for the Protestant/ Unionist Loyalist people”

    Out of the water does it not?

    As to your “the same personnel and performance is challenged, demonised and hated by some” allegation this :

    http://www.indymedia.ie/attachments/feb2006/5orangefingers1992_1.gif

    kind of behaviour on the Ormeau Rd doesn’t really help your case.

  • Tweedybird

    To highlight Quincey’s “Culture night……” There is a annual Orange parade every 1st Saturday of July in Rossnowlagh, Co Donegal and to date there’s no problems, ie. protests by residents, playing offensive music etc..In fact they’re all (bands & orangemen) made most welcome in Rossnowlagh and treated most courteously by the Garda Síochána. What better example could you have of two cultures embracing each other. Could someone please explain this anomaly ?

  • Rory Carr

    Moving contentious parades away from areas in Belfast where they only create disharmony to march instead down Whitehall, sounds cool to me, Quincy.

    You wouldn’t be causing any offence as hardly anyone goes near the place on a Saturday except for people like this fellow, who chanced upon you by mistake and enjoyed the whole thing so much (I think) that here you all are featured in his blog in all your splendour:

    http://bit.ly/qHKZ7x

    Bet you never in your wildest dreams thought that you would feature in a London is Cool blog. It’s ll those Carnaby Street Sergeant Pepper costumes that did the trick I reckon. Wicked, man !

  • Munsterview

    quincy, good for you and I have no doubt If I had there personally I would have enjoyed it every bit as much, but as others point out it is not the music per se that is the problem.

    I have a special interests in Trad and Pipe band music. Hundreds of Six County non Nationalists play trad and down here; other than hearing them occasionally specifically asked to play some Orange tunes, there I see nothing to set them apart from the other players there.

    It is also usual in trad circles to give a brief explaination or a story around a tune. Most times their ,take’ on historical events would be different to the Nationalist view, yet not once can I remember a single argument arising from the narrative given.

    It is just a case of agree to differ and play the music!

    In piping I listen to the players and airs for the quality of the performance, not to guess where the band is from or whether it is mainly orange or green.

    I can however relay one horible incident to you from my own direct experience. Around twenty-five years ago an Internationally known artist friend of mine was on his way home from his studio in a certain Six County City when this event happened. He had trained abroad, he was liberal in his views, completely oposed to violence and one of the founders of Civil Rights in his home area.

    With the outbreak of Armed Force, he disengaged from civil protest for around fifteen years and he had publically spoken out against the armed conflict.

    It was marching season, as he walked past a Uniformed guest Orange band from outside the town, one of the locals pointed him out and said “He was one of the Bastards that started the Civil Rights off around here”

    The members of both bands in full uniform attacked him. Two middle aged protestant women managed to drag him into a hallway and fought back the bandsmen until they could close the door. They called an ambulance and poliece.

    My friend had been stomped on, kicked, punched and headbutted among other things. He had broken and cracked bones everywhere and after a few days hisw whole body was one discoloured mass of bruises. He lost eight weeks work, he could have lost his life and some of his injuries were causing problems years later.

    Quincy, you cannot separate most Six County flute bands from their underlying political associations.

    Getting back to Pipe Bands, Can you name for me one pipe band of Unionist background who have been invilved in any intercultural clash in the last four decades ? Can you name one pipeband piper or drummer that have been convicted of a sectarian offence?

    If not why do so ? Why are the pipe band members so different ? Are they any less ‘patriotatic’ in their politics than the Orange Bands ? Where then is the difference and why ?

  • You wouldn’t be causing any offence as hardly anyone goes near the place on a Saturday except for people like this fellow, who chanced upon you by mistake and enjoyed the whole thing so much (I think) that here you all are featured in his blog in all your splendour

    Rory,

    Unless William Wallace (and with that name I guess he could well be) is a time-traveller, then it wasn’t Quincey’s specific parade he was watching/enjoying/being offended by:

    Posted by William Wallace on Sep 19, 2010

  • lamhdearg

    “The members of both bands in full uniform attacked him. Two middle aged protestant women managed to drag him into a hallway and fought back the bandsmen until they could close the door.”

    the killer bandsmen,defeated by two middle aged ladys, their heart’s just where not in it.

    “if the loyal orders paraded only where asked to” can someone draws us a map where these ok places are?
    i suspect it’s soon to be anywhere not within earshot of a irish nat with an axe to grind.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Munster, most pipe bands are also “Orange Bands” or originate as such, some are also AOH in origin, its not the type of band or its history where problems arise but the cultural background they come from, but things have changed from the time of your story which is probably older than 99% of most modern band members.

  • Rory Carr

    Oh, thank you for pointing out my error, O’Neill – and there was I all excited that I had some nice little tidbit to offer up for Quincey’s delectation. But nevertehless somebody noticed the event least year at least (though it doesn’t look as if he was inspired to return this year – or at least to let it be widely known if was.)

    I would go myself next year only, having checked my diary, I see that I am down to stare vacantly out the window on that date.

  • Davy McFaul

    Some nice pictures Rory. I’m glad to see that those nice chappies from the British Ulster Alliance, that fine group of quasi facists run by the equallt congenial Frank Portinari, the UDA’s “London Brigadier”, were in prominant attendance

    Shhhh, we wouldn’t want to upset the watching tourists, even those with a darker coloured skin. After all, the might’nt all be Taigs.

    “The killer bandsmen,defeated by two middle aged ladys, their heart’s just where not in it”

    Yes, it’s a pity that they weren’t there when Margaret Wright was murdered.

  • lamhdearg

    Gusty Spence has died. Worth a thread?.

  • Munsterview

    MV : “My friend had been stomped on, kicked, punched and headbutted among other things. He had broken and cracked bones everywhere and after a few days hisw whole body was one discoloured mass of bruises. He lost eight weeks work, he could have lost his life and some of his injuries were causing problems years later.

    Lamhd… “the killer bandsmen,defeated by two middle aged ladys, their heart’s just where not in it.

    A half dozen or more mature women were involved, I specifically referenced the two who pulled him into the hallway.

    The fact that the account of the event did not merit any comment other than your inanity says all there is to say about ‘change’ and ‘progress’ in certain quarters.

  • derrydave

    Enjoyable story Quincey, sounds like a good night, with everyone enjoying the craic.

    A bit stupid though to try to link it in any way to the parades issue in NI the way you have. Let’s say you had entered the same bar in London the next day when the locals were watchng the football, and decided to re-live your wee performance from the night before – result, thrown out & barred ! It’s all about the context.

  • lamhdearg

    munster, how about that map?.

  • Munsterview

    lamhd, re map please remind me again as to what it was about?

  • lamhdearg

    In my comment, the one that you responded to already, “killer bandsmen”, you may care to read it all. Please dont think, that i think what happened to your friend is in any way acceptable, it was just that in my experience when mob mentality takes over, it’s unlikely to be stopped by a couple (or even a group)of middle aged ladys. You seem to enjoy pointing out such incidents as proof of the base nature of bandsmen, O.O. members,Loyalist’s, Unionist’s, Brits,and prod’s in general, do you also believe that when the mob beat and handed over the two Corporals, to be shall we say done in, was this proof of the same base nature of funeral going Irish nationalists.

  • lamhdearg,

    Although the horrible murder of those two corporals was a stomach churning event, mentioning it in this context is sheer whataboutery.

  • lamhdearg

    joe, it is, i am pointing out by whataboutery, my view that people in glass house’s bla bla bla.

  • Munsterview

    Lamhd, : ” be shall we say done in, was this proof of the same base nature of funeral going Irish nationalists. ”

    It was absolutely nothing of the sort!

    In the case of my artist friend, he had ceased to attend demonstrations once the Armed Conflict started, not out of fear but out of principle, he was totally committed to non violence. He was also a highly respected figure among Unionists as well as Nationalists, in fact his art sales went about fifty/fifty between both communities.

    The two soldiers you referred to on the other hand were not ‘innocent parties’ first they were soldiers of a Crown force who had collectively been involved in a ‘shoot to kill’ policy against both armed and unarmed Irish Insurgents of the Irish Republican Army at various periods over the 20th, century. This British Army also had a kill record against an innocent Irish civilian population during the same periods..

    Those armed soldiers were not wearing uniform or in a recognizable military vehicle. These two soldiers were part of an British Army undercover unit that deliberately wore civilian clothes and used a civilian cars to operate.

    This was just one step away from using Loyalist undercover sectarian gangs to do their killing for them. Very often it was these highly trained ‘no questions asked’ undercover operatives that orchestrated the local Loyalist sectarian terror gangs or carried out ‘missions’ where civilians were murdered by these State killers..

    In this instance they had first used the car as a battering ram against a peaceful Republican and Nationalist gathering in a time of heightened tensions and in a situation where there had been mass public killing attempt against Republicans in the days previous.

    Those two unfortunate soldiers had the same rules of war applied to them as the British would have applied to any German soldier caught in civvies behind British Lines or indeed the same rules that the Germans would have applied to any British found in similar circumstances during WW2.

    The IRA rational was they had been handed two soldiers caught in mufti who were armed and captured before they could have indulged in goodness only knows what mayhem in that fraught situation. They were executed within the rules of war.

    Now a question for you, do you even accept that there was a war, much less the legitimacy of that war for Republicans ?

  • lamhdearg

    munsterview, do i accept?, the brits did not apply the rules same rules of war as the ira did, if they had every time a ira man had been captured, the brits would have beaten him/her senceless and executed him/her there and then. My comment was about mob mentality, you just tell us how one person (the one you agree with) should not be attacted, but another (from the side you do not) is fair game to be treated in any way your side chose.

  • between the bridges

    I wouldn’t get too worked up about limited views jacknorys, from the time he read the proclamation, right through fighting the blue shirts, Idi Amin’s cultural adviser, and his last post as Muammar’s manicurist. He has constantly reached out and befriended proddyorangebigots. His years and years and years of wisdom have made him realize not all proddyorangebigots are bad it’s just the one’s he doesn’t know personally that are…

  • Munsterview

    Lamhd….

    As I pointed out the Nationalist person attacked by the local tugs in band uniform and a visiting, uniformed and equally thuggish band was a respected artist and a peaceful man. Indeed he still is.

    If you are saying that because he is a Nationalist and a Catholic, he was fair game, then you are no different to those young tugs in band uniform. The fact that you could hold such views brings us right back to the face painted slogans in the faces of those Orange teenage Girls as photographed by Moochin in 2010.

    I have a horrible feeling Lamhd that you are far more representative of a significant slice of bedrock Loyalist culture than the damage limitation squad that used their intellectual resources to explain it all away.

    That Church Of Ireland funeral service that I attended yesterday afternoon for the late Desmond Fitzerald, Knight Of Glin was held in a Roman Catholic church where two masses had been said earlier in the day. The C of I Bishop began by thanking the Roman Catholic parish priest and Roman Catholic community for making the church available for the funeral service. Over half of those in the Church for the funeral service were Catholic.

    It was a beautiful service with traditional music in the interval between the hymns. Afterwards when speaking with one of the Ministers there who had experience of a Northern parish, I remarked that it was such a pity that what we had here could not be seen up there. We just had a moments silence on that one, there was sadly, no more to be said.

    Slugger too is a community ‘lamhd’ and sadly as part of that community you thinking seems to be closer to that of the Shankill Butchers than anything in that church yesterday afternoon. Lamentable as that may be, I do not have as much of a problem with you as I do with others of Unionist and Loyalist sympathies who in other matters can pen a fine polished polemic, but in the face of something like you have just posted, take a passive stance and so by their silence, condone.

    And then we wonder why nothing much change ?

  • between the bridges

    MV ‘I remarked that it was such a pity that what we had here could not be seen up there’…
    sorry to spoil your delusions old bean but i was at a funeral today c of i, nice service for a true gent that passed away, 2no (male and FEMALE) c of i ministers, a gospel minister and local priest all took part in the service and a mixed congregation…

    I almost remarked that it was such a pity that what we had here could not be seen down there…

  • Munsterview

    Between : this blog is about music and how OO music by an OO band was appreciated outside Northern Ireland.

    My fault if I did not make myself clear, I was not commenting just on the fact that it was a C of I funeral in a Catholic church, or of the presence of a Catholic Priest. Thankfully these things are, in most areas of Ireland, no longer remarkable and that is as it should be.

    The 29 Knight Of Glin was also a true gent and a man who made an immense contribution to both Irish Culture, the culture of these Islands and that of Europe and North America. What moved everyone there was the way the selection of what is considered ‘Gaelic ‘music was interleaved with the prayers, hymns and address of appreciation.

    All the Southern C of I there could totally associate with that, many talked openly about how moved they were and discussed the roots of the music afterwards with me. Desmond Fitzerald never compromised on his Protestant heritage, yet his funeral was that of an Irish Chieftain, which in fact he was.

    The remarkable fact was about the funeral when contrasted to the North was how much all the C of I there could associate and take ownership of a common heritage including the liberal use of Irish Language. This language was used in a natural, integrated way to claim heritage and add dignity to the funeral service of an Irish Chieftain.

    In the Northern Assembly democratically elected representatives of the Republican /Nationalist /Catholic community cannot still use ‘the cupla focal’ ( couple of words) in Irish, while in the assembly without a chorus of mocking monkey sounds from other elected representatives of the Unionist community who are often foremost themselves in demanding ‘respect’ for OO culture.

  • lamhdearg

    lets keep this simple(for my sake),
    is this your perspective?
    Irish nationlist attacks on non irish nationlist’s, ok,
    non Irish nationlist attacks on Irish nationalist’s, not ok,

    “Please dont think, that i think what happened to your friend is in any way acceptable”, this is what i typed, how can you read that as, “If you are saying that because he is a Nationalist and a Catholic, he was fair game,”
    Munsterview in you comment at 1:46 25th, you do not state the your friend is a Nationalist and a Catholic, and i did not think to put two and two together.
    Please address this it you will, from your 9:39, “They were executed within the rules of war.”,
    Would it not follow that within the rules of war as you put it, it would have been legal and right for the British army to execute those ira members caught, out of uniform and who were armed but captured before they could have indulged in goodness only knows what mayhem, surely you do not have one rule for your side and one rule for the other?.

  • Munsterview

    Lamh : “…Would it not follow that within the rules of war as you put it, it would have been legal and right for the British army to execute those ira members caught, out of uniform and who were armed…”

    Yes save for one little particular: The British government never admitted fighting a war in Ireland and that included the War Of Independence as well as the recent Insurgency and Counter Insurgency Armed Conflict.

    You might remember that Tatcher as did all British Prime Ministers before and since and all British Ministers, that they insisted that it was not a ‘war’, that it was a ‘policing action’ and as such a clear set of policing rules should apply. They did not as while British Ministers were telling other Governments and Parliaments that they were dealing with armed criminal gangs, they were involved in a full scale war situation.

    Incidently lamhd if you look up the Freedom Fights where Britain was kicked out of her appropriated and colonized countries, Britain never fought against Freedom Fighters, it was always against ‘bandits, tugs and criminals’ etc. in every anti-Liberation war it fought.

    While they were calling the North a ‘Poliecing Action’ in public open forums, the British Special Forces led by General Kitson, and Co were touring Nato Security Conferences telling attentive audiences of other securicats how ‘they were winning the War against the IRA’ and spelling out the real aspects of the Insurgency War and their own Counter Insurgency measures in that same war.

    I have posted references to these CO’IN conferences in several previous posts.

    So Lamhd before we can start arguing about the rules, we have to identify the game. Was it a ‘Policing Action’ or an ‘Insurgency War’ ?

  • Reader

    Munsterview: Incidently lamhd if you look up the Freedom Fights where Britain was kicked out of her appropriated and colonized countries, Britain never fought against Freedom Fighters, it was always against ‘bandits, tugs and criminals’ etc. in every anti-Liberation war it fought.
    From your point of view it must be depressing that the Irish nationalists have failed where everyone else has succeeded. I suspect it was their failure to win the the battle for ‘Hearts and Minds’.
    Munsterview: You might remember that Tatcher as did all British Prime Ministers before and since and all British Ministers, that they insisted that it was not a ‘war’,
    Yep – she was pretty easygoing, all in all. Fortunately for most of the illegal combatants that passed through the prison system.