The coordinator of the Londonderry Bands Forum, which has been working for a number of years to promote loyalist band culture and dispel the misconceptions surrounding the tradition, says ‘education’ is his main focus.
Derek Moore was speaking at the official launch of the Forum’s Peace Impact Programme at St Columb’s Park House on Tuesday (April 15).
He explained: “Education is the most important part of the overall project. There’s a need for bands to encourage their young members in areas of school work and academic achievement with the need to reach out as an important cultural group to our neighbours to understand what we are actually all about.”
His comments were timely following the publication of Dr Paul Nolan’s third annual assessment of the peace, which whilst hailing the city as one of ‘post-conflict culture’ following Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013, also warned educational under-achievement of a ‘section of socially disadvantaged Protestant males’ was a ‘seedbed for trouble.’
This is something the Bands Forum feels it can take the lead in.
Mr Moore told the audience: “I’m working on ideas to put the culture of the band tradition out to schools, youth clubs and adult groups in order to engage and educate about the misconceptions and preconceptions and let people know what the band scene is all about and about the direction we are moving.
“This initiative is relevant to all sections of the community and it’s our main focus area and priority.”
He continued: “In association with local community groups we are encouraging bands from some of the more marginalised parts of the city to take an active approach to issues and developments in their own areas.
“We are actively working with the bands over issues of contention such as flags, emblems, bonfires or alternatives to bonfires.”
Chair of St Columb’s Park House, Sarah Quilty, said the issue of educational attainment in Protestant working class areas was critical.
“One of the important directions, I think, is on the issue of young people’s education and achievement.
“The recent report from the Community Relations Council has identified for us a problem that has been ongoing in our society for far too long and that is the underachievement of young people from Protestant communities and young people from deprived communities in general in Northern Ireland in relation to educational achievement,” she said.
Dr Adrian Johnston, Chair of the International Fund for Ireland, which is supporting the Forum said: “Bands have a unique standing in communities. They have the ability to reach out to young people. They have the ability, in a positive way, to provide influence to young people.
“And this project then has the ability to support young people through some very difficulty things that they would have had to face in future.”