Community and marching bands are ready to play a bigger role in removing blockages in the peace process and offer positive options for vulnerable young people, the Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland said this morning (Tuesday, April 15).
Speaking at the launch of a new Peace Impact Project with the Londonderry Bands Forum and St Columb’s Park House, Dr Adrian Johnston said marching bands are geared towards enhancing community relations and supporting a new generation of better skilled and employable leaders.
Dr Johnston said: “The bands in the forum are already doing a lot of outstanding work and want to have a greater role in supporting positive change across the city. This project is about enabling them to engage with some of the most vulnerable young people in society and leverage their influence in a way that can increase educational attainment and employability options.
“It will have a stabilising effect on young people who might otherwise engage in anti-social or unlawful activities.
“Sadly people wrongly see community bands as being about politics rather than musical or cultural traditions.
“Overcoming that misrepresentation continues to be a major challenge, but it has not limited the ability or ambition of the bands to make progress on the difficult issues that matter most to communities.
“In many places, the bands are providing solutions rather than the blockages to community development. That must be recognised and encouraged.”
The Londonderry Bands Forum draws together 14 bands from across the city to collectively improve leadership, upgrade constitutions and policies and offer training and accreditation that can support Bands Masters and young band members to have a broader positive influence in their communities.
Derek Moore, Coordinator of the Londonderry Bands Forum said the project represents a challenge that the bands in the forum have been asking for: “Bands have a unique standing and respect within their communities and offer leadership and positive influence to younger members of society.
“This is a totally new path for these bands and is the first time some will have worked together.
“This project is about encouraging and challenging young people to raise their expectations of themselves and get involved in training and learning activities that improve their employability and leadership skills.
“There will be transferable learning for other communities too on cross-community and cross-border basis meaning the benefits can span across society.”
Funded through the International Fund for Ireland’s Peace Impact Programme, the new Londonderry Bands Forum project operates across the city and district.
It encourages and promotes the engagement a range of good relations and community development activities including training for band leaders and young leaders; a focused conference; networking events; workshops; community festivals and musical master classes.
Last month the Londonderry bands Forum also unveiled a new educational initiative with Derry City Council aimed at promoting wider understanding and awareness of band culture through schools and youth groups.
It includes a ‘Marching Bands Activity Sheet’, pitched at young people from 11 – 15 years old, and covers topics like reactions to marching bands, associations with them, the instruments, the history, information on parades and debates around different views on parades.