Arts Council is Instrumental in Community Music
A recent analysis of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland ‘Instruments for Bands Funding Programme’ has shown that all areas of Northern Ireland are benefitting from an increase in the quality of community music-making. The programme helps bands to replace worn-out instruments and purchase new ones.
Commenting on the funding programme, Lorraine McDowell, Director of Operations with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said “Helping bands to fund instruments is an excellent example of how the Arts Council encourages greater participation and enjoyment of the arts, at the heart of society and community.
Often, under this programme, we are funding bands in areas that experience financial disadvantage or have limited access to arts infrastructure, by their rural nature for example. For young people, and the not-so-young, playing music in a band funded under this programme may be the only opportunity they have to access quality musical tuition, to develop the skills and discipline required to play an instrument and to enjoy the social interaction offered by communal arts activity”.
Speaking about their award, Colin Ward from Skeogh Flute Band said “The Instruments for Bands funding allowed us to buy us 17 new flutes and a piccolo.
This meant that we can enhance the musical skills of our young people, not to mention their motivation and commitment, as now that their instruments stay in tune and sound like they are supposed to! We took the new flutes to London, to play in the Lord Mayor’s Parade and they are used regularly, not only in our musical events, but also to raise much needed funds for others, such as the £1,597 we recently raised for CLIC Sergeant Cancer Care. We were warmly welcomed at a recent commemorative event for Armistice day, playing WW1 ‘standards’ to a much higher level than before. We now look forward to competitions with the new instruments where we feel we can compete with the best.
Coa Pipe Band, in Fermanagh, successfully applied for their Instrument for Bands award in 2005/06, describing the benefits of the funding, Colm Farry Pipe Band Treasure, said “We got our funding from the Arts Council a couple of years ago. It was great to get it as before our instruments were cobbled together; from three or four broken sets we would get one working set of pipes, which was still about 100 years old! With this funding we were able to purchase a full Drum section and 16 sets of pipes; this allowed more young people from our very rural area to start learning to play music. Also our established band members had proper instruments that reflected the significant effort and commitment needed to play pipes and drums well. Since then we’ve been able to participated in a number of events, such as the Irvinestown ’Lady of the Lake’ festival, we’ve also been part of local celebrations and played in Sligo and Bundoran. Perhaps most importantly, the people of the area were delighted to see the new instruments and that the band would, hopefully, be around for another 100 years.
Analysis of this funding programme, from its inception in 1995 shows that the
Arts Council has funded bands right across the region, with 95% of funding going to areas outside Belfast.
This year’s funding round closed in June 2008 and 41 bands from across NI, playing pipes, fife and drums, accordions, silver and flutes were awarded a total of £149,311 for 2008/2009. Application assessment includes consideration of the public benefit and demand; providing maximum access to people from all sections of society; the quality and development of arts activity, demonstrating commitment to repertoire and advancement of technical standards along with organisational and project viability. Each applicant band is required to sign up to the Arts Council’s Good Relations Commitment and to complete mandatory equality statements.
From 1995 -2008, 327 awards have been made across NI, totaling £3,903,889. Within that, 18 (to a value of £209,611) have been awarded in Belfast.