The Londonderry Bands Forum was formally started in November with 6 local bands taking part. The first project with an educational programme was to teach members young and old, about the history of marching bands and their significance to the protestant culture. Workshops were delivered in 7 locations throughout the city with one workshop in St Augustine’s church hall seeing the first engagement in the City between the bands forum and the nationalist community. Kenny McFarland, chairman (Londonderry Bands Forum) stated in October 2011.
“Bands are too often politicised and misrepresented in the press. The Bands Forum has been set up so that the bands involved can avail of media training, share good practice such as codes of conduct and child protection as well as creating a strong cohesive voice for the bands”. The current membership of the Forum is 15 bands an increase of 50% in 10 months.
In June 2011 the Londonderry Bands Forum joined the Confederation of Ulster Bands, a body which at that time constituted of the 14 other bands forums in Northern Ireland. This organisation now represents almost 450 marching bands out of the total 60 in 17 bands forums.
The Forum has delivered a number of workshops on the History and Culture of Marching Bands throughout the city as part of an engagement process to help challenge preconceived perceptions of our culture to wider community. The forum was aware of the lack of knowledge with the band members around our shared history and were involved in running two history course were called “Rebels, Radicals, Royalists & Loyalists” they were run in the Waterside/Fountain and rural areas around the city and for the first time it was a detailed look at the history which a lot of people in the Protestant, Unionist, Loyalist community were never taught.
A “Moving on Music” project began in October 2012, composer/workshop leaders Brian Irvine and Sid Peacock were able to work with Forum member bands to create new pieces of music by exploring musical ideas and the history and traditions associated with the bands. BandMembers played a central role in shaping the direction of the project along with composers who created new music based on the outcome of the collaborative work with flutes, drums, saxophones, guitars keyboards during intensive rehearsal sessions. The project culminated in a great night during Music City Day in June 2013 at the Playhouse Theatre in Londonderry.
The exciting ties created by the UK City of Culture saw the Bands Forum members diversify into areas never seen before. Two of the bands performed in plays by local playwrights with great success, “Coming Home for Christmas” by the late Sam Starret, a storey of the First World War took place in November
Pride of the Orange and Blue Auld boys were involved in a re-run of the “Pride” Play in July, Written by Jonathan Burgess about life in a flute band. Venues for the performance includedWaterside Theatre and “An Culturlann” the Irish culture centre held during the “Fleadh.
August 2013 was a very busy month for the Londonderry Bands Forum and saw three member bands Churchill, Hamilton and William King Memorial Flute Band take a leading part in two performances of Shaun Davey’s “Relief of Derry” symphony in the magnificent St Columb’s Cathedral. They were joined by professional musicians “Festive Flutes” and leading Irish traditional flute player Marcas O’Murchu and singer Doreen Curran.
After a great deal of debate between the Forum and band members it was decided to send four bands Churchill, Caw, Pride of the Orange and Blue and Burntollet Son of Ulster to represent the “Marching Band Tradition” of the city in the All Ir5eland Fleadh which was held for the first time in Northern Ireland.
All four bands did themselves and our unique culture proud as they performed on the “Gig Rigs” in Londonderry during the Fleadh to enthusiastic crowds of people from all areas of Ireland. This event moved forward one of the Londonderry Bands Forum main objectives of taking and presenting our music and culture to everyone in a positive, entertaining form and counteracting negative press and assumptions about “Marching Bands”. Since the employment of a full-time coordinator on September the full potential of the LBF has been shown to great effect. The forum has expanded by % in membership and our influence has been evident in major events in our city.
The “Pan Celtic” festival saw us working in partnership with organisers to showcase the traditional music of the marching bands and also the ability to interact and perform with musicians of other styles and cultures to spectacular effect. The LBF will again have a major influence in the Walled City Tattoo in Londonderry.
This year also sees us travel to Sligo for the All- Ireland Fleadh bit in a playing and workshops capacity, a trip we are all looking forward to.
The creation of a “Marching Bands Activity sheet” in partnership with Derry City Council good relations team has allowed us to take our culture and ideas into schools and encourage debate into our way of thinking and the outward expression of our culture. The expansion of the project will allow us to tie the classes into key stage three of the national curriculum to boost our involvement in the classrooms.
Our input into the “Maiden City Accord” gave us the opportunity to have a major input into a document to have a major input into a document that could widen and stimulate debate into major issues surrounding the processions in our country, as well as define guidelines and ideas for the organisation and conduct of these events.