Needs of bands must be met

Derek Moore.
Derek Moore.

The coordinator of the Londonderry Bands Forum, Derek Moore, says Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín needs to introduce a needs-based approach to how grass roots bands are funded in Northern Ireland.

He made the comments after the Minister announced she doesn’t have the money to fund a musical instruments for bands programme at present due to a shortfall in her department’s budget.

Mr Moore told the Sentinel that whilst several of the Forum’s member bands have benefited from the programme in the past the issue of funding needs to be looked at in the round.

“Our argument is that you can’t pigeon-hole bands,” said Mr Moore.

“For example, some of our bands would have been eligible for funding and would have been able to buy a load of flutes for £4,000 or £5,000 for younger players but other bands would only be buying one or two instruments for that but they would be instruments that would last for 100 years,” he said.

“Each band is different and funding needs to be directed at where there is need,” he said.

“It’s not enough to say you’re going to have funding of £200,000 and open that up to a movement that has 30,000 members and say that will do.”

Chair of the Londonderry bands forum, Kenny McFarland, agreed members have benefited from the scheme in the past and that he hoped the scheme would be reinstated.

“The band community is shocked by the timing of it, I suppose, but we are not really surprised given the cuts that there have been across the board,” said Mr McFarland.

“At the present moment in time it’s been postponed rather than cancelled.

“What we’ll be doing over the next few weeks is liaising with the Confederation of Ulster Bands to ensure that we can lobby and ensure the postponement doesn’t become a cancellation,” said Mr McFarland.

“We hope it will be reinstated,” he said.

Meanwhile, former Culture Minister Gregory Campbell urged the Minister to reconsider the temporary postponement and said the scheme had given a good return on investment throughout its existence.

“In the investments that were made by myself, by previous Ministers and by the Minister, in this area, we produced a very good return,” said Mr Campbell.

“It was an investment that was richly rewarded in that many bands improved their competence as a result,” he added.

“Obviously, the applications are open to all bands but when you look at the Protestant band movement and the membership of that, the silver, flute, accordion and pipe bands, you would have concerns they would be disproportionately affected by this decision,” Mr Campbell added.