The Orange Institution and the marching band fraternity have come together in a bid to further enhance and strengthen links between both movements.
Plans are at an advanced stage for a new joint initiative, under the umbrella of the Ulster Protestant Parading Cultural Partnership (UPPCP), which will serve to promote and preserve the longstanding musical and parading traditions in the Province.
Following initial discussions between senior Grand Lodge and bands’ personnel, the Loyal Institution is currently in the process of appointing a designated band liaison officer for each of its 126 districts.
A formal launch of the innovative project will take place over the coming weeks.
Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Harold Henning, himself a bandsman, welcomed the announcement.
He said: “The Orange Institution recognises that marching bands are an integral element of contemporary Ulster society, not only for the positive role they play in demonstrations and processions but also for the spirit of community that emanates from its existence throughout the Province.
“Hundreds of thousands of people, varying in age and social background, rehearse, socially interact and participate in parades, on a voluntary basis, through membership of approximately 650 marching bands. In doing so, they express a diverse range of music in a cross section of band types and indeed add to the pageantry while accompanying 3,600 lodges, chapters, preceptories and clubs at demonstrations throughout Ulster.”
He added: “The Orange Institution is immensely proud of its longstanding and intertwined relationship with the marching band fraternity, and is delighted to be an integral partner in this exciting new venture.”
A marching bands’ spokesperson said: “We hope by strengthening links between all those involved in organising and participating in parades, this new initiative will positively unite and constructively address the challenges we face together.
“As well as improving perceptions, especially among those not involved in parading, we hope to foster a greater acceptance and respect from those of differing backgrounds, and further endorse open mindedness and cultural tolerance about Protestant parading traditions.”
He added: “We believe our formal partnership with the Orange Institution will be a positive experience, ensuring a sustainable parading tradition for future generations.”