Information on UK Pipe Band Championship and Northern Ireland Season

Cleland Memorial inaugurated a contest at Bangor in the 1950s

The RPSBA has announced that the United Kingdom Championships will be hosted in the city of Bangor, County Down and facilitated by the Ards & North Down Council on Saturday May 18th .

I have little doubt that the local NI Branch will have had a major input into achieving this outcome as they would in any event have been discussing the annual local contest which generally takes place either in Bangor or the nearby town of Newtownards.

By Gilbert Cromie, Northern Ireland Correspondent

Bangor has a century old tradition of hosting band contests initially for brass and flute bands and then pipe bands firstly as part of the North of Ireland Bands Association’s Open Air March competitions in 1938, 1939 and 1955.

A few local pipe bands held contests in the early 1950s until a regular event, the Bangor Highland Gathering, was initiated in 1958 by the local Cleland Memorial Pipe Band. It was very popular in attracting bands from the IPBA and occasionally Scotland before it ceased in 1973.

The North Down Championships were initiated in 1978 and was held annually on the last Saturday in July and prospering for the best part of thirty years punctuated by the occasional award of County Down and Ulster Championship events and in 1997 the European Championships which took place at Bangor Rugby Club’s Uprichard Park attracting one hundred and seventeen bands.

Bangor, despite having also become a commuter base for Belfast, remains one of Northern Ireland’s major seaside resorts, along with Newcastle and Portrush, and like the others it long been a popular venue for pipe band contests.

It has numerous attractions right on the doorstep of the competition ranging from the obvious traditional seaside attractions of arcades, funfairs, ice cream parlours to a wide range shops and of course coffee shops. Bangor is located on the southern side of Belfast Lough some 13 miles east of Belfast City Centre to which it is linked by the A2 road (mostly dual carriageway), the Belfast–Bangor railway line, and the George Best City airport is just eight miles away.

For a band arriving in Northern Ireland via ferry port or airport, the journey to Bangor will range from between 90 minutes to 30 minutes. Bands or spectators deciding to stay overnight will have a large choice of hotel and associated accommodation within the city or within easy reach.

For those wishing to take a longer break there is no shortage of attractions including nearby National Trust sites and museums. The venue for the contest has been confirmed as Ward Park which is a short distance from the centre of the city, however I would expect that shuttle bus service is likely to to be in place.

  • Entry forms for all major championships are now available here.

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RSPBANI Branch announce 2024 season.

The RSPBA Northern Ireland Branch Executive has announced the following local championship dates for the 2024 season:
April 13th Ulster Solos, Lisburn
April 20th County Down Indoor Full Band Championships, Dromore High School
May 4th Irvine Memorial Mini Band Contest, Fivemiletown
May 18th UK Pipe Band Championships, Bangor
May 25th County Fermanagh Championships, Enniskillen
June 1st Mid Ulster Championships, Cookstown
June 15th Branch Contest, Venue TBC
June 29th Branch Contest, Venue TBC
July 6th All-Ireland Championships, Donabate
August 3rd Ulster Championships, Venue TBC
August 10th Branch Contest, Venue TBC
September 7th United Kingdom Solo Drumming, Venue TBC
September 21st All Ireland and JAC Solos, Lisburn

The Executive are obviously in discussion with a number of councils with regard to the venues for the Ulster Championships and three other Branch Contest dates and they will release updates as soon as they are confirmed.

It is good to see Enniskillen back on the circuit and hopefully Newcastle and it would be nice to see Portrush back as well. The All-Ireland Championship which is jointly run between the RSPBANI and the IPBA will take place on Saturday 6 July at Newbridge House in Donabate, Co. Dublin, which is reputed to be an excellent venue.

It is great to see a band willing to organise a mini band contest something that was prevalent up to the Millennium. This is the type of competition that gives bands who perhaps haven’t the numbers to compete outdoors a chance to  participate something that is often forgotten.

Many congratulations to the County Down Section for organising the first Indoor Pipe Band competition to be held in Northern Ireland since May 2009. This is scheduled to take place on Saturday 20th April 2024 in Dromore High School and further information regarding playing requirements and entry forms will follow in due course. Anyone with any queries should contact codownsection@hotmail.com


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