Last update before Christmas

We would just like to make you aware of a few things before we take some much needed days off for Christmas!

AGM Update
You will all be aware that our AGM was on 4th December and the executive members for 2021 are as follows:

President: William (Billy) Caughey
Vice Presidents: Ronnie Kennedy, Joe Jackson, David Dickson, Bill Clements, Allan Davison, Alan Hunter, Patricia Gibson, Ken McFarland
Chairman: Allan Davison
Vice Chairman: Nigel Brodison
Secretary: Amber MacLennan
Assistant Secretary: Paul Kirk
Treasurer: Stephen Kennedy
Executive Committee: David Leonard, Jeanette Morton, Tommy Barr, Aaron Watson, Bob Quick, Stephen Crooks

We are delighted finally be able to announce that we have elected two new Vice Presidents this year – Patricia Gibson and Ken McFarland – in recognition of all their help and support over the years. 

We would like to say thank you very much to exiting Executive members David Johnston and Joe Sharpe for all their hard work over the last few years.  Please don’t be strangers!  

Congratulations to returning members Allan, Nigel, Paul, Stephen, David L and Jeanette and welcome to new members Tommy Barr, Aaron Watson, Bob Quick and Stephen Crooks.  We are all very excited and honoured to be involved so closely in the BBL for the next year. 

Next Delegate Meeting
The next Delegate meeting will once again take place on Zoom and will be held Friday 8th January @ 8pm.  Please let us know if you are planning to attend so that we can send you the Zoom details and the minutes and agenda.  If your band has anything they would like on the agenda please let me know ASAP.  Both affiliated and unaffiliated bands are invited to attend.

Solos and Ensembles Update
With the current COVID situation we have had to make the tough decision to postpone our Solos and Ensembles event due to be held in February.  It is provisionally being postponed to 10 April 2021 (again, COVID situation depending) and we hope to be able to let everyone know for definite at the start of February when it is being held and what format it will be.  We will keep you all posted!

We are happy (as we are sure most of you are too!) that we managed to get out and bring some much needed festive cheer to our communities by carolling.  We have also been enjoying all the virtual performances that many of you have put together (btw if you would like us to share on our Facebook page please get in touch!). Even though we will have to stop group performances again after Christmas it hopefully won’t be for as long as previous (fingers crossed!). Just a final reminder that any advice you need for carolling is available on our website COVID-19 Information – Brass Band League 

Finally, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all and all your band members.  2020 has been a tough year for many people and we hope that 2021 brings happier times for everyone.

COVID information page added to website

We have added a COVID page to our website were you can also find links to our Risk Assessments along with additional advice and guidance.

Although local government guidelines state that a risk assessment only has to be completed if more than 15 people are participating in an event, we recommend that a risk assessment is completed for each event where more than one player is participating.

You can visit this page here: COVID-19 Information – Brass Band League

As always, any queries please don’t hesitate to get in touch!  

COVID Update 11 Dec 20 – Advice on carolling

Hi everyone,

We are delighted to finally be able to say that bands are allowed to play again!  Please see below for page 30 from the recently published document “In the Bubble of our Making: Reopening the Arts in Northern Ireland”.  The full document can be found here In-the-Bubble-of-Our-Making-Reopening-the-Arts-in-Northern-Ireland-July-2020.pdf (

We have been in contact with Brass Bands England who have very kindly given us permission to use any of their documents and information.  This means over the weekend we will be making the necessary changes to the fantastic risk assessments that they have published to make them fully applicable to Northern Ireland.  We will also to our best to get any brass band specific advice out to you as quickly as possible.  

With that in mind and it being the Christmas carolling season, please see below for some guidance on how to safely get out playing in the community:

  • Limit the number of people involved as far as possible (the red Salvation Army carol books used by many are deliberately written so that only 4 parts are required – see the front of the book).
  • No sharing of stands, music, instruments or mouth pieces.  Each individual should bring their own equipment along with a towel and waterproof bag to collect any “water”.
  • Maintain 2m social distancing. You should maintain social distancing between groups or households at all times.  Players should play back-to-back or side-to-side positioning (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible.
  • Consider the case for performing (or not) given the wider health context of your area with particular regard if vulnerable individuals are involved (remember attendance is not compulsory and it is up to each individual whether they are happy to play or not).
  • Getting there – people should not give lifts to anyone outside of their household or bubble

In addition, we advise anyone collecting money not to handle the collection for 72 hours after and to use gloves when doing so to avoid the risk of transmission (the gloves should be binned or washed immediately after handling any money). We also recommend taking steps to show the public that safety is taken seriously by demonstrating measures taken such as use of bell covers which, whilst not necessary outdoors, can have a positive impact on public perception. We also recommend that you use floor marking to help manage spacing between players and also the general public. 

As many of you will know, the BBL have been campaigning for many months for brass bands to be able to get back to rehearsals.  We would like to thank the Department of Communities, especially John Ball for all his help with this.  Thanks as well go to the Salvation Army who we are delighted to have been able to partner with any campaign together over the last few weeks.  Thanks go to Brass Bands England who have been giving us their support and advice too. We would also like to thank all the MLAs who helped put our case forward for us along with Carla Lockhart (MP).  We also owe a big thank you to a certain member of our own brass band community who would like to remain nameless for all his help these last few months.  We hope that all the positive relationships we have built up over this time continue on well into the future.

And finally as I always end my emails – if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask!  We will hopefully get more information out to you over the weekend.

In the Bubble of Our Making – Reopening the Arts in Northern Ireland

COVID-19 Update 08 Dec 20

The Brass Band League welcome this morning’s announcement from Carla Lockhart MP regarding the resumption of amateur banding activities in Northern Ireland.

We have received queries from several bands today regarding the announcement and we are currently seeking clarification from the Department of Communities as to what exactly will or won’t be permitted from this coming Friday (11 Dec 20).

We will provide an update in due course.

Carols for Christmas

We have been receiving a few inquiries asking about whether bands can play carols outside this Christmas.Unfortunately Arts Council NI have still not updated their report released 5th August 2020 stating the following:

“Non-professionals should currently not engage in singing or playing wind and brass instruments with other people given these activities pose a potentially higher risk of transmission and whilst research is ongoing”

We are aware brass bands in England are now able to rehearse and perform caroling activities and we find it very frustrating that we are not currently permitted to do the same.

As discussed at the last delegate meeting, we, in conjunction with the Salvation Army, have written to the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, the Department of Communities, the head of Arts Council NI and the Public Health Agency NI.

Tonight we have just finished emailing all the MLAs asking for their support to help get us playing again. We are sorry we don’t have a more positive message for you all at this time but fingers crossed we do soon.



Brass Band League (NI) – Online Solo Competition

It’s been a tough year for brass banders all over the world with band rehearsals, contests and concerts all being cancelled.  Amateur bands in Northern Ireland have been unable to rehearse or perform in public since March and  the Brass Band League has unfortunately had to cancel many events.

Dynamic Brass performing at Brass in Concert in March – our last band event prior to lockdown

Over the COVID months, the BBL consulted with bands across Northern Irelad to see what as an organisation they could do to improve and what could be done to help local bands.  A major concern was that people may put away their instruments and never get them out again.  Buoyed by the success of other organisations running online events – in particular the solo competition held by the Irish Association of Brass and Concerts Bands (IABCB) in April – the BBL decided to hold an online solo event.

Just for Fun

The BBL wanted the event to be as inclusive as possible and to be informal and fun with its main aim to encourage people to get their instruments out and get playing.  A 4 minute time limit was set for performances but competitors could play any piece they wanted, accompanied or unaccompanied.  Entries were split into four classes – 12 and under, 13-15, 16-18 and 19 and over, with the competition open to all brass players, regardless of whether they were a member of a band or not.

19 and over class adjudicator James MacCafferty

The services were secured of no less than 8 fantastic adjudicators – Gael Haslett and Robin Clinton for the 12 and unders, Laura Salt and Martin Wall for the 13-15 age group, Bob Quick and Rachel Bingham for the 16-18 age group and finally James MacCafferty and Brendan Breslin for the 19 and over group (all bios are available to view on the Brass Band League Facebook page).

Organisers were deligted to receive a total of 52 entries with solos arriving from across the island of Ireland.

Competitor videos were broadcast on the the Brass Band League Facebook page from 19th to 27th November and results were annouced on 28th November through a series of short videos featuring our adjudicators. All competitors received a certificate and adjudicators remarks in electronic format.

12 and Under

 Oliver Quinn in the 12 and Under Class

Adjudicators Gael Haslett and Robin Clinton had plenty to discuss in the 12 and under class with 14 entries to review. A splendid rendition of Jock McKenzie’s Tarantella saw Oliver Quinn take first place with Kenan Kaya taking 2nd for The Londonderry Air. Hollie Hamilton and Rebekah Sharpe tied for 3rd place with Rule Britannia and Norman Bearcroft’s The Well is Deep respectively.

13-15 Class

Zeki Kaya in the 13-15 class

The 13-15 class saw Kenan’s big brother Zeki Kaya take 1st place with a controlled perforamnce of John Hartmann’s Wiederkehr. Owen Brannigan took 2nd place with the 2nd movement from Jacques Casterede’s Sonatine while Sophie Hueston took 3rd for Claude-Michel Schönberg’s On My Own.

16-18 Class

Louise Bell in the 16-18 class

Louise Bell was the adjudicators choice in the 16-18s with a simply beautiful rendition of William Himes’ All That I Am. Andrew Milligan’s performance of Rondo by Capuzzi/Catelinet saw him take 2nd place with Peter Alcorn’s multi-track take on Weather Report’s Birdland securing him 3rd.

19 and Over Class

Kelly Kaya in the 19 and over class

A tough class of 25 very high quality entries meant that adjudicators James MacCafferty and Brendan Breslin had their work cut out. However, it was Kelly Kaya’s seemingly effortless performance of excerpts from William Rimmer’s The Carnival of Venice that saw her chosen as the class winner. Tom Black’s emotional performance of Salvatore Cadillo’s Core ‘Ngrato saw him take 2nd place with Hannah Calderwood’s classy performance of Larsson’s Love Cannot Fail gaining her 3rd place. Worthy of a mention by adjudicators was Paul Wilson’s ‘chocolatey’ performance of Dave Brubeck’s Stereogram No 3 and Kevin Teer’s performance of the 2nd movement from Forgotten Oath by Lucy Pankhurst.

To Conclude

The BBL’s Amber MacLennan commented “As organisers it has been wonderful to see the support given to the competitors by banders – in particular the support for younger players has been amazing to see.

We hope that the event has helped to inspire everyone to get their instruments out and get playing.  We would like to congratulate our prize winnders thank all of our competitors – they all did a fantastic job and should all be very proud of themselves.“

The BBL would like to say a massive thank you to all 8 of adjudicators for giving up their time and energy to help us with this event.  They would also like to thank Bob Quick seperately for giving us the idea to run the event and also Kevin Teers and the IABCB for all of the help and support in helping to organise the event.

All soloist videos will be available to view on the Brass Band League Facebook page until 6th December so please check them out: Brass Band League NI | Facebook

Participants: 12 and under (Adjudicators: Gael Haslett and Robin Clinton)
Oliver – 1st, Kenan – 2nd, Hollie – 3rd, Rebekah – 3rd
Holly, Mollie, Francois, Erin, Peter, Kevin, Evan, Hugh, Laura, Christy

Participants: 13-15 (Adjudicators: Laura Salt and Martin Wall)
Zeki – 1st, Owen – 2nd, Sophie – 3rd
Aaron, Aoibh, Daniel, Ruairí

Participants: 16-18 (Adjudicators: Bob Quick and Rachel Bingham)
Louise – 1st, Andrew – 2nd, Peter – 3rd
Daniel, Michael, TylerParticipants: 19 and over (Adjudicators: Brendan Breslin and James MacCafferty)
Kelly Kaya – 1st, Tom Black – 2nd, Hannah Calderwood – 3rd
Paul Wilson – 4th, Kevin Teers – 5th
Kirsty Kerr, Claire Hueston, Graham Smyth, Neal O’Kennedy, Boris Pinto, Gary Dodsworth, Richard Whiteside, Samuel Brodison, Julie du Plessis, Stephen Cairns, Aaron Watson, Ian Wilson, Mark Boyd, Nigel Hylands, David Hamilton, Bert Shaw, Nathan Moore, Stephen Murray, Chrissie Harris, David Lamb

Congratulations Desi Graham!

A massive congratulations to Desi Graham on receiving an Order of the British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2020. Desi has been a player/conductor/supporter of Third Carrickfergus Silver Band for many years and through that has helped to inspire many generations of musicians.

At least two members of our current Executive Committee have been lucky enough to have been mentored by Desi throughout their time playing in bands and would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to Desi for all his help over the years.

So Desi – on behalf of everyone in brass bands you’ve helped – thank you!

Request for further questionnaire feedback

A massive thank you to all 29 bands who completed our questionnaire.  Your feedback has already been invaluable to us.  We have finished collating all the information and have attached it for you to view.  The information has been collated into three presentations:

Part 1: Rules

Part 2: General Information

Part 3: Contests

As you will be able to see we have received lots of different suggestions for changes to make.  What we would like to be able to do is to condense this down further in order to be able to discuss the issues more easily.  When reading through the presentations you may come across suggestions that your band didn’t make but you agree (or disagree!) strongly with.  To this end, we would ask you in your committees to look through the information and get back to us on which suggestions you think we should be focusing on.  In particular, as our AGM is only 2 months away, we are really keen to see which Rule changes bands would like us to move forward with.

As with the questionnaire, we really need your support in order to continue moving forward with this.  If you have any questions about anything, please don’t hesitate to ask.

BBL Zoom meeting 02 Oct 20

The details for our Zoom meeting have been sent out today to everyone who has confirmed they are attending.

If your rep doesn’t receive them, please let me know so we can get it sorted for Friday!

Please remember that every affiliated band is allowed up to three representatives and unaffiliated bands are also invited to send one representative.

We made the decision to discuss the BBL and NIBA rules in the first part of the questionnaire as our AGM is only 2 months away and it would be fantastic to be able to get some of the changes implemented then.  The other sections of the BBL Questionnaire will be presented separately soon.

If any of you have any questions prior to the meeting please let me know!  All agenda items we have received have been incorporated into the agenda so don’t worry if you don’t see them mentioned – they will be covered by one of the other topics.  I have also made our Chairman aware of who has sent in what agenda points so he knows who to address. 

Along with the details for the Zoom meeting, the following documents have also been sent to secretaries and the delegates:

Agenda for October meeting

Minutes of February meeting (Draft)

Minutes of June meeting (Draft)

BBL Questionnaire Part 1 (Covering the following: Background info, BBL Rules, NIBA Rules)