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DUP Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart has written to the Communities Minister to highlight the financial impact of COVID-19 on local marching/concert bands, making clear that they must be part of a forthcoming support package for the arts.

DUP North Belfast MLA Paula Bradley, who also chairs the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Communities Committee, has also been pressing Department for Communities on this matter.

Ms Bradley said,

“The arts and culture is an important sector and has helped grow brand Northern Ireland across the globe therefore I welcome the award of £29m to help support this sector. But the funding must recognise the breadth of the performing arts and culture in Northern Ireland. We must support each area which has been so drastically impacted as a result of this pandemic.”

Carla Lockhart said:

“The Communities Minister has a rather blotted copy book when it comes to marching bands. In her term of office as DCAL Minister, the Minister decided at the stroke of a pen to suspend the Musical Instruments for Bands Funding Scheme.

Now that money has been secured within the Executive for the arts, our marching bands are rightly watching with interest to see if the Minister will exclude this core section of the local arts community. Thousands of people are involved in these musical organisations, and like every other sector of our local arts community they too have been hugely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Financial assistance is needed. Many have lost out on the income received from annual band parades and concert performances. It would be inexplicable if this group of artists were to be excluded from DfC support.

I have written to the Minister to clarify her position on this matter. Equality is a word we have heard on many occasions from the Minister. Let’s see her actions support her words, or will it once again be a case of do as I say, not as I do from Sinn Fein.”