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within her Department also where not just one organisation, but an entire sector has had the entirety of its funding withdrawn.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

David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs