Do we need more funding for musical instruments for bands?

A motion was passed in the Assembly today on the need for funding musical instruments and I wanted to get the Sluggerverse’s perspective on it.

The  motion was proposed by DUP MLA’s Nelson McCausland, Gordon Dunne, David Hilditch and William Humphrey.

Here it is in full text

That this Assembly notes the cultural, artistic and community importance of bands in Northern Ireland; recognises the importance of Musical Instruments for Bands funding programme; expresses its disappointment at the failure of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure to fund the programme this year; and calls on the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure to restore funding for the programme.

Let me know your views.

Update-here is some rationale from Nelson McCausland for introducing the motion

Nearly 30,000 people across Northern Ireland are involved with marching bands, engaging many young people in musical activity that the might otherwise never be involved with.

The Minister likes to stress the importance she places on promoting equality and tackling poverty and social exclusion yet she her actions has cut funding to bands, many of which are based in inner-city areas of high social deprivation, whilst others are in isolated rural communities. The level of funding is relatively modest in terms of the Department’s overall budget, yet whilst many of the Minister’s pet projects escape unscathed she has put this entire scheme on hold.

This is the only example within her Department also where not just one organisation, but an entire sector has had the entirety of its funding withdrawn.

One of the comments in the DCAL Marching Band report comes from Dublin born BBC producer Declan McConnell who said that “the parading culture is Northern Ireland’s best kept secret”. These bands contribute to our society not just musically, but providing structure, discipline and a social outlet for a huge number of young people across Northern Ireland. The parading sector also contributes economically with almost £55million per year generated to the local economy yet the Minister has put funding on hold which has distributed a meagre £500,000 over the last three years.

The Minister’s ambivalence to the marching band scene is deeply disappointing but perhaps not surprising. Instead of marginalising this sector it should be promoted as a vital part of our cultural heritage and tourism offering. The scale and quality of music performed at band parades is unique to Northern Ireland and should be celebrated and promoted. This organic and grass-roots community artistic expression is growing, with parades increasing in both attendance and participation. The Minister should set aside her obvious ambivalence to the marching band scene and ensure that it is treated with the fairness and equality she is so keen to talk about.

, , ,

  • Ernekid

    It depends what sort of bands. Give some kids some guitars and let’s get them rockin!

    Do we really need more Neanderthals creating more noise pollution by dressing in quasi-military regalia like the Praetorian guard of some tinpot dictatorship and banging on Lambeg Drums like a Two year old banging on pots and pans with a wooden spoon?

    Red faced men poorly playing sectarian tunes that foster division and hatred aren’t going to attract tourists from the outside world especially when they tend to be surrounded by drunken teenagers screaming racial and sectarian abuse at passersby. There’s a reason why the beaches of Donegal tend to be packed during the twelfth.

  • DisparityNI

    I can think of fairer ways to encourage members from all sections of the community to take up an instrument – like using the same money to be funded into local schools from both sides of the community in deprived areas or setting up local cross-community bands/music groups.

  • chrisjones2

    Hmmm ….how many hip operations do marching bands perform each year?

    They still don’t get it

    If they want more instruments why don’t they persuade some of their developer / business ‘friends’ to cough up some cash.

    A £50k donation for example would go a long way rather than be wasted on say a small cafe and supplies of take away sugary comestables. It could even be tax deductible

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Attached below Link Worth a read for anyone interested in Loyalist Bands. In relation to David’s question regarding funding for musical instruments for bands at the present time, it has to be remembered that bands are a social activity. They will have to take the pain along with the Arts etc and other cultural, festival and social activities regarding lack of funding for these groups.

  • whatif1984true

    More of the same. Always a lack of original ideas. Fiddling while Rome burns…..

  • chrisjones2

    This is very ageist

    My tight leather trousers from the 70s are just a little too constricting these days and my stairway to heaven tends to have a cup of horlicks at the top of it

    James Last is looking racy

  • notimetoshine

    Was this money just for marching bands or was it also for local brass bands, accordion ‘shudder’ bands and so on?

    Isn’t there funding for music from dcal in other cash programmes?

    And surely they can apply to the arts council.

  • Dan

    Buy your own friggin’ flutes if you want to play them.
    Same as with the Irish language..if you want to learn it, do it at your own expense.

  • notimetoshine

    By that reasoning close the libraries, stop the plays and the operas, to hell with museums and set fire to their collections.

  • Dan

    Why would you want to set fire to the collections?
    ….though maybe The culture minster could answer why her terrorist pals tried that

  • the rich get richer

    In fairness its nice to have a band when the ship goes down ! ! !

  • james

    I’d say the beaches being busy in July might have something to do with it being July, old boy. Why so opposed to every culture other than Irish?

  • chrisjones2

    Perhaps that’s the reason for the debate.

    MLAs are good at rearranging deck chairs

  • chrisjones2

    No no no….far better to sell them to somewhere where culture is appreciated and doesn’t involve graves murials or burning tyres

  • chrisjones2

    Give them free access to Guitar Hero on line?

    A virtual flute with a virtual walk Ap that allows you to immerse yourself and walk along any street using google earth!!!

  • notimetoshine

    True but there are some people who appreciate it

  • james

    I’d like to know why the Culture Minister isn’t pressing for the development of the massive tourist potential of the Twelfth of July. Surely we could be raking it in if it was properly marketed in England, Scotland and Wales. Just a thought.

  • chrisjones2

    Fluting ….fiddling is for themuns

  • chrisjones2

    Jeeez …… next you will be making it socially acceptable

  • Ernekid

    The Orange Order is hardly popular across the water. As evidenced by over 20,000 people signing a petition to try to stop the Orange Order march in Glasgow over the weekend.

  • chrisjones2

    We could put thye Ulster Orchestra in Uniform and hire them out

    …..bit of Verdi on Royal Avenue ……. ..Pirates of Penzance on the Lisburn Road …Wagner at Ardoyne

  • LordSummerisle

    That is slightly unfair. There are some very fine melody/silver bands that do not fit your description. I also recall The Regal Band, which had saxophone’s and an almost Mardi gras feel about it. I also think you are very disingenuous about some people who have a genuine talent for music. I am not being an apologist for the Ulster band scene, but I believe that generalisations such as yours only make a feeling of alienation all the more real to that particular fraternity.

  • LordSummerisle

    It would make them more accessible ha ha ha.

  • notimetoshine

    We could indeed. Of course we could then put the bands in the waterfront and the opera house. I’m sure the Mac would make a wonderful venue for the twelth.

  • nilehenri

    utter tosh from nellie, so no change there then. maybe he can get his cronies up in red sky to pony up the cash. to fund the bands is to reward behaviours and attitudes that we normal people have been fighting really hard to eliminate from this particular corner of the globe. the bands are an embarrassment to my country and an affront to masculinity in general.

  • Old Mortality

    Is there any leisure activity in this place that cannot avail of a state subsidy. I’m sure there’s lots more to cut. Thinking about it, wouldn’t it be a good idea to just abolish the department and its entire budget.

  • Old Mortality

    I’m sure you could easily get that number of signatures at Parkhead on a single match day.

  • babyface finlayson

    Brahms and Liszt on the back?

  • james

    Which means that over 96% of the population of that fine city did not sign it.

  • mickfealty

    I don’t think there is any doubt about the answer to that question. Learning a musical instrument is widely supposed to create beneficial effects the cognitive ability of young minds.

    “She’s put the entire scheme on hold…” This is the crunch point. Has the Minister explained why she’s done this?

    Public funding could give government a tighter pinch point at the wilder end of band culture, and tip other resources around it to help improve standards in playing etc.

    Given it’s just a tiny point in the departmental budget it’s a bizarre decision.

  • james

    Heaven forfend! Does somewhat fly in the face of the official SF policy that Ulster’s Protestants don’t even have a culture, never mind socially acceptable

  • LordSummerisle

    I really think it unfair that every type of marching band in Northern Ireland has to be tarnished with the same brush, whether through deliberate or genuine ignorance. To equate, for example a melody band such as Ballykeel Conservative Flute, or an accordion band such as The Albertbridge Accordion Band, or even a silver band such as The 1st Old Boys Silver Band with the likes of the paramilitary linked blood and thunder sect is wholly and utterly unfair. The other thing that causes consternation amongst young musicians in particular, is that they are perceived to be enemies of civilisation, akin to Italian snobbery of the Goths. This has given rise to the slogan, “No one likes us ! We don’t care”. Why should that be the case ? So perhaps it would be better to examine the band scene in more detail rather than assume that all the young men and women who are involved are barbarians hell bent on destruction and the bastardisation of proper culture. A lot of young men and women quickly discover that they have a talent for music and that can only be a good thing. As I said below, I am no apologist, but neither do I believe that the band scene should be brushed aside, as a band hangover from the days of yore. There is worth in everything.

  • Granni Trixie

    More to the point re the Irish language – in context of today’s scarce resources why have we to endure the sight of advertisements for jobs in Irish as well as in English. Yes,in an ideal world I can accept the rationale that this policy is to add value to the culture and language but the country just can’t afford it.

    Last week for instance I noticed a quarter of a page DE advert x 2 – must have cost thousands for that one edition in BT but probably it appeared in Irish News also and or other papers. Wasteful or what?

  • james

    Also they generally aren’t surrounded by drunken teenagers screaming sectarian abuse, except in the areas where SF activists have “put the work in” to bring that about. Odd that you caricature the concerned residents in those harsh terms, mind you.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    The usual pointless debating society rubbish up at Stormont – passing motions allowing the tribes to stake out their position without ever having to commit to anything.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I’m actually quite disgusted with the idea of a petition being used in this way.

    If there was a petition to stop the gay pride parade in the city and it got this number of signatures would that be a reason to stop it ?

    I don’t agree with the whole idea of “Orangefest” but provided it is lawful and well managed – which it seems to have been – nobody has any business trying to stop it.

  • ranger1640

    My daughter’s boyfriend is in a flute band, and the guy does not have a political bone in his body. He likes the band for what it is, a band and he and his mates enjoy the band scene. His mates all young men enjoying the camaraderie, the parading, the performing, the competitions. He also teaches the new and younger members how to play and look after their instruments and their uniform. How they are expected to turn out for a parade, and how they must act when parading nothing more nothing less.

    He goes to work, pays for car, goes to the band, likes football and going out, hardly a radical Loyalist.

    However no doubt someone on here will demonise him for being in a band. Yes I do think they should get money, if money is being dished out. Why would a Sinn Fein minister not want to give these working class bands men money, their not looking for millions. After all it’s all about equality!!!

  • ranger1640

    Strange that a minister who bears allegiance to a flag and a state that alleges to give an equal status to the Orange section of society, why is she being so petty??? Or is it a case of the mask slipping when the opportunity arises. Hardly winning hearts and minds there Carol.
    As for the comments about Nelson, yes he did play fast and loose with a housing executive contract. However he didn’t potentially put his constituents and his party’s electorate in serious harm’s way.

  • notimetoshine

    But surely there are other culturearts funding streams from which to get support from? And can your ordinary brass band accordion bands avail of this funding that has been put on hold.

    Though in terms of cognitive development and the wider dissemination of culture here, I’m sure the ulster orchestra and music provision through schools would be a better option for funding resources.

    I note that in the press release from the minister that she intends to bid for monies for this programme this month.

  • mickfealty

    The UO as one of those extended resources I mentioned, yes. But hardly in terms of outreach. Those bands are irreplaceable in that regard I suspect.

  • chrisjones2

    The Teletubbies theme at Stormont … with rumours around who is Tinky WInky

  • chrisjones2

    Being serious for a moment – and its hard when this is about the clown fest at Stormont – the fundamental issue is the utter stasis in the Executive and the lack of flexibility. The reality is that the Police College and Casement Park are both dead ducks . Nobody really needs them. That could free up say £80m of capital for redeployment into all sorts of areas eg part of the A5 or a new smaller police college or road repairs. But it wont be because they are all dug in the Stormont trenches fighting long gone battles for / agin each other

  • Robin Keogh

    I actually agree with this, it would be possible to rake it in if the Orange festival was managed a bit better and some PR work was done to present it in a positive light. I have been to a couple and I thought they were great craic altogther. However, in terms of outside preceptions of the Oroang, there is a fair bit of work to do.

  • Robin Keogh

    James thats not really the point. Every large city has dozens of different types of festivals throughout the year. The Chinese New Year, Saint Patricks Day, Gay pride etc. etc. They dont attract such a petition from the citizens which suggests that if 30 thousand people go to the bother of signing one, then there is a problem in terms of perception. Its not surmountable, I think one of the ways the Orange order could get over it is if they managed to attract special ‘guests’ to act as patrons.

  • Robin Keogh

    I think it is important to promote all areas of the Arts even in times when cash is a bit tight. Thelong term benefits can be very positive for the individuals involved in terms of gaining a skill and passing the art on, not to mention the monies to earned in the future if the musician becomes accomplished. The loyalist working class areas are in a bit of bother at the moment with poor educational attainment and high unemployment levels. While i accept there are questions around the attitude and behaviour of some of the bands, I don’t believe they are in the majority. It would not be logistically impossible for the department to divvy up a few quid to those bands that refrain from unsavoury activities. If equality is the issue here, why not spread the available monies between a few cultural disciplines, The Bands and irish Dancing etc. At least then nobody could claim bias.

  • chrisjones2

    Yes…. we should set up a NI Graves Tour (if there isnt already one)

  • chrisjones2

    “a few quid to those bands that refrain from unsavoury activities.”

    So you advocate political discrimination in the award of grants then?

  • james

    In point of fact the gentleman said 20,000, not 30. I think every parade of any kind will have some who object to it – certainly there are plenty who oppose gay pride – but I don’t think 3% should really be allowed to dictate terms. If a 3% petition opposed a gay pride festival, would you also feel that was sufficient to stop it?

  • murdockp

    most are rubbish. the republican bands are truly dreadful. Gary larrson get it just right when people enter the gates of hell and the devil says here is your accordion.

    most marching bands in Ireland (bagpipe bands excluded) are crimes against music

  • murdockp

    accordions music..are you having a laugh. the favoured nstrument of the tone deaf

  • ranger1640

    Equality on republican terms, seems republicans don’t have a problem with demonizing bands men, women and children and pigeonholing then as second class citizens.

  • Reader

    But if it keeps them off the streets rehearsing in band halls for 355 evenings a year, the other 10 days may be a price worth paying?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Please equate the words “While i accept there are questions around the attitude and behaviour of some of the bands, I don’t believe they are in the majority” with “demonizing bands men, women and children and pigeonholing then as second class citizens. ”

    Really, how does that work?

    Did you even read Robin’s post?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Not political discrimination Chris, behavioural discrimination.

    If a group involves itself in unsavoury or sometimes criminal behaviour then it deserves to be blackballed.

    That applies to everyone, whatabouterists…

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Accordions have an unfair rap.

    Yes, hymns and what not may not be enthralling but I sometimes wish I had been press ganged into the local accordion band so it would set me up for some of this (it’s a foundation, innit?):

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    (Sorry Robin, couldn’t help it… 🙂 )

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    ” I think one of the ways the Orange order could get over it is if they managed to attract special ‘guests’ to act as patrons.”
    Indeed, or if they could just better regulate the behaviour of some of their not so special guests. That would be a big help.

  • chrisjones2

    Oh dear. Poor James Last just stopped looking racy

  • chrisjones2

    The unsavoury behaviour is the political test and in N I we have 2 kinds of Marmite

  • PeterBrown

    CJ2 has become the tolling bell – you wouldn’t like to take orders for some names we might like you to drop would you?

  • Alan N/Ards

    The police college could be moved to the old Borstal ( now the Prison Service training school ) in Millisle. It appears to have plenty of land and it also has the former Lisnevin Home for junvenile offenders attached to it. Just a thought.

  • Alan N/Ards

    LOL! Has Robin mellowed a bit. It’s good to see.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    BTW, do pipe bands receive much in the way of funding?

    NI’s bagpipe scene is literally world class and we punch above our weight at the various big competitions (or at least used to, I’m going by memory).

    I think they deserve special attention given the expense and difficulty of maintaining a pipeband. (No disrespect to blood & thunder flute bands but you can train a basic fluter (sic) in a matter of months (just about, obviously not to a high standard), the same cannot be said for pipers).

    Plus, bagpipes have a very marketable aspect which is handy for tourism and wot not.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Chris, I’m sorry, I don’t know understand your point. Probably a bit too deep fur ich.

  • LordSummerisle

    Each man is governed by their own taste. There is no accounting for mine or for that matter yours.

  • LordSummerisle

    Festival is is now ? When I was wee it was called a demonstration.

  • Gingray

    Mick, would you support public funding for bands which belonged to an organisation which demonised Jews or Muslims in its charter, and banned it’s members from attending their ceremonies?

    Bands could be a great outlet, and they do already do a good job in some communities but I would oppose funding any blatantly sectarian group, regardless of whom their target is.

    Perhaps the Orange Order themselves, which already get a disproportionate amount of public money spent on their activities, should use their own money for this rather than buying land to stop catholics getting it?

  • Gingray

    I don’t care that he is in a band, I’m just wondering how much public money we should spend on an organisation that is openly sectarian right down to its rules, and bans Catholics from participating or its members from attending Catholic services.

    Can you think of a parallel?

    We already provide massive public funding to the Orange Order and their events.

    Why should we the public be using our money to prop up a group who use their own funds to stop Catholics buying land?

  • Gingray

    If it was a parade from a group that banned Jews from being members, banned it’s members from attending Jewish services, had a fund to ensure Jews couldn’t buy land, had bands with a history of playing anti semitic tunes, was linked with an annual event where the burning of Jewish religious and political symbols took place etc etc

    Do you think any part of the UK would allow them to parade?

    Swop in Muslim or Hindu. You could stick in black or aboriginal. Lots of parallel groups, full of hate.

  • Gingray

    Or they could change some of their rules – just because Willie married Aoife doesn’t mean he should be banned from doing a damn good job as a piper in a band.

  • Gingray

    I wonder if they tried that would it be too successful – people here turn out in numbers for all sorts of weird non sectarian events

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Indeed, My Lord, some of us even enjoy the great Irish war-pipes, or even their Scots cousins………….

    My old friend the late Cris Caswell was an excellent piper as well as a harper:

    I first met him through Robin Williamson, as Cris played the pipes for the performances of “Robin’s Merry Band” in the 1970s. It’s amazing how any real musician can quickly shift any prejudice against any instrument. Going back to the accordion, my neighbour is a brilliant accordion player, whose inspired playing has lifted my own distaste for the instrument lasting over fifty years!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I can think of a few……..

  • SeaanUiNeill

    You’re absolutely right Granni, it’s a waste of money. But instead lets stop the advertising of jobs in English, and then the applicants would show that at the very least they could use Google Translate……..

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Hardly winning hearts and minds there Carol.

    You demand respect and support from a person but you won’t even use their desired spelling of their name.

  • Carl Mark

    maybe Wagner,but not the Ride of the Valkyries.
    perhaps something nice and calming, Gamelan Bali anyone!

  • Carl Mark

    and who would be Chucky ar LaLa.

  • LordSummerisle

    Modest Mussogorsky Night on Bald Mountain.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Another thing:
    Why not just automatically blacklist from funding opportunities any band that has the insignia (or ‘faux insignia’), banners or flags of a proscribed organisation?

  • mickfealty

    Membership of the Orange institutions is based on a shared religious belief. Do they really demonise Catholics, because we have laws to deal with that? They certainly oppose Catholicism.

    Not sure that that also applies to all bands. I don’t think the Orange benefits disproportionately to other civil society actors. At a time when we are pumping millions into the GAA, I doubt it.

    In a pluralist society a strong and confident republican project would be keen to invest in all the people of NI. I don’t know what’s holding matters up (the minister has a habit of doing this sort of thing).

    But I see an opportunity for leadership spurned.

  • Gingray

    Mick, you could be a politician the way you avoid answering the question 😛

    The orange order states on its own website that catholics are anti Christian and members of the order are banned from attending Catholic services as a guest, let alone a participant.

    Can you imagine any part of the UK allowing an organisation that explicitly demeans another faith, receiving public funds?

    You also have failed to address the ‘Protestant lands in Protestant hands’ fund that the Orange Order openly maintains.

    Imagine the situation if an organisation maintained a policy of blocking people of African descent from purchasing land – would you so easily dismiss this out of hand and tacitly support it?

    Hmm the GAA continues to be used entirely incorrectly – it’s a sporting organisation and there millions you speak of are easily out matched by the funding going to football and rugby, both of which remain strongly unionist orientated.

    But it has no relevance really, you have thrown it in to distract from your illogic supporting funding a quasi political/cultural/religious organisation which is engaging in sectarianism both in its rules and it’s land practices.

  • mickfealty

    Thanks for the, err, ‘compliment’.

    So, let’s get down to brass tacks then. Quotes rather than clever paraphrasing would be more useful don’t you think?

    Also, can we not shift the goalposts mid argument? You said the Orange not ‘strongly unionist orientated’ sporting bodies.

    Also, and you are free to treat this as a technicality, but it is nonetheless true, but the bands are not the Orange itself.

    NOw stay with me one stage further. I see you have not commented on my point about Republican leadership. This is key to our different perceptions.

    I see bands as a commitment to a native culture. Not mine, for sure. But authentically Irish, none the less.

    It goes back to my point about pro active engagement, allowing a more inclusive (for which you might read, genuinely republican) politics shaping our futures for the better.

    Think of it as a form of ontological design.

    If the future you have in mind is one that permanently alienates Ulster Protestant culture from the rest of the island’s culture, then you are committed (at a pretty deep level) to ‘cultural partitionism’.

    To bust the jargon what we design, then in turn designs us as social beings back. Providing leadership on that level means not ignoring the past, but using the lessons we’ve learned to try and re-design the future.

    The ‘smashing human heads and bodies’ design only gets you so far…

  • Gingray


    You have still avoided the question 🙂

    Can you imagine any part of the UK allowing an organisation that explicitly demeans another faith, receiving public funds? And if so can you give an example?

    The Orange Order maintains its anti Catholic stance, as set out in Qualifications of an Orangeman for example “scrupulously avoid countenancing by his presence or otherwise any act or ceremony of Popish worship”.

    This is based on the Reformed Christian theology that the Roman Catholic mass is idolatry and non Christian as set out by Martin Luther.

    You guys on Slugger even had a good old discussion about the rules in 2008 when it was mooted that the Order in Ireland would remove the anti catholic references:

    As long as the Order maintain such a stance, then they will be effectively, as you put it, remain committed to ‘cultural partitionism.’ I understand why you want to make sure blame is on republicanism for this, but it is in the OOs rules, for as long as they are there, very little will change.

    And do you really think providng more funding will end cultural partitionism?

    Also Mick, I note you have yet to comment on the fact that you want to fund an organisation which is quite happy to spend its money ensuring land is denied to catholics.

    Can we assume you would happily use public money to fund a cultural organisation which also buys land to ensure blacks/poles/jews etc etc are not able to purchase it? Because it is no different.