Northern Ireland Pipe Band Festival Heading for a Sell Out/ Province Stages Live Outdoor Solo Piping and Drumming

When the RSPBA NI Branch abandoned their contest programme they resolved to hold a series of Pipe Band Festivals and they get underway this Saturday, 7th August, with the Antrim & Newtownabbey Pipe Band Festival.

It will take place at the Antrim Castle Gardens and it is supported by the local council and will feature bands, drum majors and Highland dancers performing under the RSPBA’s jurisdiction for the first time since the last Ulster Pipe Band Championships in August 2019.

By Gilbert Cromie, Northern Ireland Correspondent

Featured bands are Cleland Memorial, Bready Ulster Scots, Kildoag, William Kerr Memorial, Culybackey, Matt Boyd Memorial (pictured above), Syerla & District and Colmcille. They will each play a ten minute set of tunes of their own choice.

A Drum Major troupe made up of Jorja Turkington, Louise Smiton, Kathy Hunter, Jamie Cupples, Louis Anderson, Erinn McIlwaine, Jason Price and Lauren Hanna will give a display and the Michelle Johnston School of Highland Dance will also perform throughout the day.

Performances will commence from 2pm and run until 4pm with everybody coming together for a colourful finale at 4.30pm when the salute will be taken by the Chieftain, the Worshipful Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Councillor WJ Webb MBE JP.

Cullybackey competing in 2019

In traditional style the massed bands will play a salute to the Chieftain, Scotland the Brave. Keeping things ticking over during the day in the role of Compere will be Alastair Patterson a former World Champion Drum Major and current RSPBA Drum Major Adjudicator.

Chairs will be placed out in a socially distanced manner so that spectators can have a seat whilst watching/listening to the performances. Numbers attending have been restricted to 1000 tickets. There is a token charge of £1, the money going to the Mayor’s charity. 

Tickets can be booked online here or by contacting Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough council on 02894 481338. Well over half of the tickets have been purchased. There will be no admission without a ticket.

Online bookers must bring along the email confirmation as proof of purchase while a printed list of sale ticket names will be held at the gates for those who booked over the phone so that they can be admitted. Only Disabled parking will be available within the grounds of the Antrim Castle Gardens however public car parking spaces are sited very close to the event location or within the Antrim Town car parks which are a short five minute walk away.



On Saturday the 21st of August the Mid Ulster Solos, the second of the Pipe Band Festival Showcase events, will take place in Cookstown. This event is being mainly organised by the Mid Ulster Section of the RSPBANI Branch with the main sponsors being the Mid Ulster District Council.

Top judges have been lined up: Richard Parkes MBE, Ken Stewart and Norman Dodds for piping and Paul Turner and John McFetridge for drumming.

The contests will take place in the very popular and accessible grounds of Cookstown High School (kindly granted by Governors and Principal of Cookstown High School). This is a FREE event and ample car parking is available within the school grounds under the supervision of stewards. This is the first ‘live’ competitive piping and drumming event to take place in Northern Ireland since 2019. 

The draw for the various competitions can be viewed on the RSPBANI website competition area while the running order can be viewed on the website’s news items section. 

The piping events get underway at 10.00am with the Novice Practice Chanter, Pipe Chanter and C Grade Piping events taking place in Piping Tent 1 with the adjudicator being Ken Stewart. From 12.30pm the Advanced Practice Chanter, U14, U16, U18 and B Grade Piping will take place in Piping Tent 1 with Adjudicator Richard Parkes MBE.

The ‘A’ Grade Piping will take place from 2.30pm in Piping Tent 2 with Ken Stewart and Richard Parkes MBE adjudicating. The Piobaireachd Tent competitions will be adjudicated by Norman Dodds, ‘A’ section from 11.30am and ‘B’ section from 1.30pm] with Ken Stewart covering the U14 and U14 sections in Piping Tent 1 from 12.00 noon.

In the Drumming Tent the adjudicator will be Paul Turner starting with the Novice and Advanced Drum Pad from 11.30am and then the U14 to A Grade Drumming from 1.00pm. At 3.00pm John McFetridge will take over to adjudicate the U14, U16 Tenor and Open Bass Drumming sections. 

The prize giving is expected to commence at approximately 4.30pm. 


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