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Culture Minister hopeful of securing extra cash for marching bands despite huge funding cuts

By Noel McAdam

Published 02/06/2015

Funds bid: Caral Ni Chuilin
Funds bid: Caral Ni Chuilin

A Sinn Fein minister is making a bid for extra funding for marching bands - despite massive spending cuts at Stormont.

Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin also told MLAs a scheme to provide band instruments is "on hold" because of reductions in her departmental budget.

She said she was submitting a bid under the June 'monitoring round' which redistributes cash unspent by other departments, and said she hoped the freeze would end "in the not too distant future". Ms Ni Chiuilin said she valued the role which marching bands have to play and concurred with new DUP MLA Gary Middleton that marching bands events can boost the economy.

The Foyle MLA, who replaced Maurice Devenney after he stood down in March, said such funding through the Arts Council was value for money and asked the minister to ensure it is "a priority".

Ms Ni Chuilin said bands from all traditions across Northern Ireland had received a total of £700,000 over recent years under the scheme, which had supported 660 bands in all, involving 25,000 members. I have made a very robust bid for June, and I hope that that is met," she said.

Responding to a further question from the DUP's Sammy Douglas, the minister said: "Given the demand and the need for marching bands from all traditions right across the North, there is a demand for that funding pot to be increased.

"Fundamentally, we need to look at not just the role of marching bands but music, even for young people and not-so-young people who want to pick up a musical instrument and get involved in jazz, traditional music or other forms of music."

The Music Industries Association, which represents bands, had warned the cuts would have "significant ramifications on the substantial number of bands in Northern Ireland".

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