The virtual (and virtuous) marching bands


The other day youtube took down a number of marching bands – you know, the ones that strut and swagger on the Twelfth and for months before and after too. Valerie Quinn, who is chairperson of the Ulster Bands Forum, figured the removal of the videos was in response to “a concerted and organized attack on the marching band community.” You see what Valerie did there? She transformed loyalist bands, usually oozing self-confidence, not to say triumphalism, into victims of a conspiracy which is out to get them. To ram the point home, Valerie promises that “those who wish to hinder the promotion of marching bands will not succeed in their mission.”

To be fair to Valerie, she was at pains on Radio Ulster/Raidio Uladh yesterday to disabuse me of any notion that the loyalist bands are Orange bands. Nothing of the sort – quite separate, apparently. Yes, they march on the Twelfth and the success of Twelfth events and others leading up to and after the Twelfth are judged by the number of marching bands they attract. But the bands are totally separate from the Orange Order. They work together but they are not one.

Either way, there is something vaguely hilarious about these bands feeling victimised by youtube, who took down about 10 of the 21,000 band-marching videos mounted on youtube, and all at the behest of sinister, organised and nameless complainers.

Should the videos have been taken down? Youtube claimed they were “promoting terror organisations”. Personally, I don’t think terror organisations use youtube as their main recruiting centre, and even if they did include the occasional banner honouring the Red Hand Commandos (not to be confused with the Red Hand Defenders, a completely different group, it seems), I don’t think it’s worth getting exercised about.

In fact I see this youtube affair as an opportuniy. Just as the Beatles got to a level of sophistication where their work was at its best when done in recording studios rather than rock stadiums, the marching bands may be approaching a point where their playing has become so sophisticated, it only really works when it’s assembled online, and the real-world performances become increasingly rare.

So I say more power to a person referred to as “Neill”. Apparently “Neill” works tirelessly, sometimes seven days a week (which must include the Sabbath) putting up, among other things, hundreds, thousands of marching bands:“My whole aim is to promote a positive image of the loyal orders and the bands, so I would never put anything vulgar or offensive up. I’ve spent thousands of hours editing them and putting them on to YouTube.When I saw they were deleted I was gutted and just started crying.”

So if you get a chance, go onto youtube and give “Neill” a thumbs-up. Not only will it help him dry his tears, it’ll encourage the marching bands to focus on making their vdeos really good, and who knows? One day, what will matter will be these subtle musical masterpieces on youtube, and the rest of us won’t have to be inconvenienced each summer as traffic is diverted, time wasted, money spent on police presence, and both marching bands and loyal orders will assume a virtual existence, leaving the grubby real world behind for the rest of us  to inherit.



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