'An act of vandalism' - Arts Council denies funding to Armagh Pipers Club

One of the longest-established traditional music teaching organisations in Ireland, Armagh Pipers Club, has been refused Arts Council Lottery funding for the coming year.  The Club’s funding application was submitted via an online portal operated for the Arts Council by an American company.  Although the Club insists that all the documentation was uploaded before the deadline, the portal did not register the application as completed and so did not forward it to the Arts Council.  

The loss of grant aid threatens the services provided by the small charity, which since its foundation in 1966 has had a major impact on the Irish music scene.  Its innovative tutor books are used around the world, and it has had a central role in the revival of the uilleann pipes, as well as teaching many other instruments.  Earlier this year its excellence was recognised with the “Good Tradition” trophy in the annual BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, and it has also been the subject of a BBC TV series.

The charity’s founder, the artist Brian (J.B.) Vallely, described the Arts Council’s decision as “an act of vandalism, and a shocking dereliction of its duty to support the arts”.  The Club has received funding from the arts quango for 45 years.  In recent years this amounted to about a quarter of the charity’s income.  The funding was mainly to support the Club’s education programme, which delivers up to 50 traditional music classes per week to over 200 students from eight counties.  It also supported the annual international William Kennedy Piping Festival, which draws thousands of pipers and pipe music enthusiasts to Armagh every November. 

The Pipers Club was told two weeks after the May deadline, but before applications were assessed, that its application had not been received, so the Arts Council would not consider it for funding. 

“There is nothing rational or proportionate in maintaining that a technical glitch justifies a complete withdrawal of support from one of the Arts Council’s longest-established and most successful clients”, said Vallely.  “The Arts Council was made aware, before it started to assess applications, that we had submitted everything on time, yet it decided that our application should not even be looked at.” 

The loss of funding for 2018-19 threatens the viability of the charity’s education programme, now in its 53rd year, and may mean the end of the piping festival it has run for 25 years.

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