Belfast Telegraph

Irish trad beats the drum for Lambeg family told to cut down drumming

Folk artists urge council rethink after noise 'ban'

By Brett Campbell

Members of a traditional music and theatre group in Co Armagh have called on the council to provide an "oasis" for Lambeg drummers to ensure six children can carry on the legacy of their late father.

Dara Vallely of the Armagh Rhymers made the call after Richard Sterritt's widow Kelley received a noise abatement notice severely restricting how much time her children can practise playing their Lambeg drums, a move she branded an "attack" on her family's culture.

"Richard just loved music and drumming, we went to shows up and down the country and had so much fun," Mr Vallely said.

"It's great that these children are keeping his memory alive along with the tradition he loved so much and if the council is going to ban them from practising at home, then they must provide a (rehearsal) space for them."

Drum-maker and folk musician Richard (52), who died in November 2016, began teaching each of the children to play the giant drums in the garden shed, just as his father Ernie had done with him at the same property in Markethill.

Mrs Sterritt was stunned when Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council officials handed her the noise abatement notice a fortnight ago.

Mr Vallely said the council must recognise Armagh's unique heritage, which has resulted in more than 100 Lambeg drummers in the area. "They need to create an oasis for our rich tradition to continue," he added.

"You don't just pick them up and start beating them.

"These children compete in up to four competitions a week and they need somewhere to practise, as do all the other drummers."

Mr Vallely recalled how Richard took part in a milestone traditional music celebration in Coolea, Co Cork, in 1996 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the death of Sean O'Riada, a composer who was influential in the revival of Irish music.

"It was at the height of the Troubles but Richard wasn't worried about the politics," he said.

"He went down with another drummer and they played a mile apart from one another on each side of the Sullane River.

"It was also Sean O'Riada's dying wish to hear the sound of the Lambeg drum.

"Richard helped secure recognition for the Lambeg from the main voices within Irish traditional music circles."

Fellow Armagh Rhymers member Anne Hart said Richard's proudest moment was being invited to participate in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington DC.

"They only invite people who are at the top of their game and actively involved in keeping traditions alive," she said.

"It is important that his children are allowed to do the same."

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