Upper Bann MLA Sydney Anderson has hit out after a funding scheme to finance instruments for bands in Northern Ireland was cut.
The Arts Council distributed around £500,000 from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure to bands through the Musical Instruments for Bands Scheme over the last three years.
However, funding for this scheme has been cut altogether for 2015/16. Mr Anderson is greatly concerned at these “severe reductions”.
“A 2013 study by the Department of Social Development noted that there are over 660 bands in Northern Ireland with an active membership of over 25,000 people.
“Also bands contribute over £19 million of charitable donations and social capital to community life as well as spending over £8 million per year in the economy on instruments, uniforms and transport costs.
He continued: “Notably, bands offer access to structured tuition, instruments and performance opportunities in many places where there is no other engagement with arts activities.”
“I am angered by the fact that the Minister has set aside no money for the Musical Instruments for Bands Scheme in the year ahead. This could have a detrimental impact on many of our bands and they may struggle to purchase instruments. It would also appear that the Minister has overlooked the fact that large scale band competitions and events draw high numbers of domestic tourists alongside visitors from outside of Northern Ireland.”
He concluded: “I am aware the Minister has submitted a bid in the June monitoring round for funding of this scheme to possibly recommence later this year. It is vital this funding is restored as soon as possible so that our bands sector do not suffer.”