Collections: Jackie Witherow - The EVIA Digital Archive Project

Parading Traditions in Northern Ireland (2005)

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A Loyalist Blood and Thunder flute band at an annual Battle of the Boyne commemoration parade during Protestant marching season in Limavady, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland, 2005. Image © Jacqueline Witherow.

This collection contains a comprehensive documentation of the parading tradition in Northern Ireland, focusing on the events of 2005. This project aims to highlight the importance of the band tradition in demarcating political and religious identities in Northern Ireland. Footage includes various band performance contexts, ranging from various types of parade (Orange Order, Ancient Order of Hibernians, competition, commemoration, political), outdoor concerts, indoor competitions to sporting events. The collection also includes documentation of band rehearsal settings, as well as complimentary band material relating to the demarcation of political space, such as banners, flags, uniforms, instrument decoration and sectarian murals.

In Northern Ireland music can be seen as a powerful marker of cultural, religious and political identity within both the Protestant and Catholic communities. One of the most visible musical traditions in Ulster is street parading bands that involve both Protestants and Catholics in urban as well as rural settings. There are various parading band traditions in the Province, which include flute bands, accordion bands, pipe bands and silver and brass bands. However, over the past decade Protestant flute bands have become increasingly dominant. In Northern Ireland music can be seen as a powerful marker of cultural, religious and political identity within both the Protestant and Catholic communities. There are various parading band traditions in the Province, which include flute bands, accordion bands, pipe bands and silver and brass bands.

Traditionally bands were formed to lead religious orders such as the Protestant Orange Order and the Catholic Ancient Order of Hibernians. Since the 'troubles' began in 1969, however, the number of bands and parades in the Protestant community has grown substantially, especially over the last decade, such that the tradition itself has become primarily associated with Protestantism.

To understand the scale of this cultural display in Northern Ireland Jacqueline Witherow produced a database to calculate the number of parading bands in existence today. In total there are 700 parading bands, with 633 from the Protestant community and only 54 from the Catholic community.

This collection is currently in production and is not yet available to the public.

Image © Jacqueline Witherow

Jackie Witherow is presently writing her PhD thesis in Ethnomusicology at Queen's University Belfast, focusing on "The Role of Protestant Flute Bands in Northern Ireland." This research documents the activities of five different flute bands in their preparation for the annual marching season. She has been researching and writing about the parading traditions in Northern Ireland for the past nine years.

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