Monaghan link will help mark 21st anniverary of Gathering

An accordion band from the Republic of Ireland will take pride of place at this year’s Broadisland Gathering in Ballycarry.

On parade in Ballycarry for the first time will be Drum Accordion Band from County Monaghan, helping to mark 21 years of the Gathering.

Links are developing between Ballycarry and Drum as a result of an initiative funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin and a common Ulster Scots connection is being explored as a result.

A group from Ballycarry travelled to Drum in April, and there are hopes to develop further initiatives between the two community groups in the future.

It is not the first time that musicians from the Republic have taken part in the Gathering, the first band to do so being Raphoe Pipe Band from County Donegal, while another Monaghan band, Clontibrit Pipe Band, have also been to the village.

However, the village Community Association say the planned visit from Drum signals that there is also a link between the community groups.

“We hope to learn from each other in terms of community development as well as exploring a shared Ulster Scots heritage,” said Valerie Beattie, chairperson of Ballycarry and District Community Association. She said the band would be accompanied by locals involved with the community group in Drum.

“We had a wonderful day in Drum in April and we really look forward to welcoming the group from the village to Ballycarry. The band played for us during our visit and we were very impressed, so we know they will be a big hit at the Gathering,” she said.

“We are delighted that the band are coming, as we have developed links with musical groups in both Scotland and the border counties in the Republic over the years,” said Gathering festival director David Hume.

“We look forward to focusing on the links with the community in Drum and exploring aspects of common heritage and community development in rural areas.”

The announcement highlights that, despite concerns over funding earlier in the year, the Gathering is going ahead.

“Funding is getting harder to obtain and this year our budget for the festival is over £22,000. The Gathering is a not-for-profit event so that means that while others benefit from the crowds who attend and the revenue they generate, the one group which does not is the Community Association,” he said.

“We have worked hard at producing a varied line-up of entertainment and we want to make sure that the 21st anniversary is one worthy of note.”

Organisers say there will be lots of entertainment on the day, including musical groups, pipe bands, dancers, the village fair, vintage vehicles, exhibitions and other attractions. Artists from Counties Antrim, Down, Fermanagh and Armagh will be among those taking part.

Part of the development of the Gathering over the years has been the expansion of events in the run up to the event and this year these will include a 1798 History Bus Tour from Ballycarry to Antrim, a concert, exhibitions, a lambeg drum workshop, a coffee morning and a unique drama on the life and times of James Orr.

“The Gathering will mark an impressive landmark as a community festival and we are proud that, whatever the future holds, the Gathering was at the forefront of the Ulster Scots revival and has, over the years, been a very positive story for community development in Ballycarry and district,” said the festival director.

This year the Gathering is being supported by the Ulster Scots Agency, Larne Borough Council and the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin. An appeal has also been launched among supporters near and far, and to date over £700 has been raised through donations from as far away as the United States.