The re-developed Harmony Hub in the middle of Ballymena is set to host a free performance by a visiting pipe band from Australia. Knox Grammar School from Sydney will entertain shoppers on Friday 5 July from 4pm ahead of their competitive appearance at the 74th All Ireland Pipe Band Championships at Ballymena Academy on Saturday 6 July.
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council is partnering with Ballymena BID to deliver a “preview afternoon” on the Friday featuring the Aussies and our very own local Broughshane and District Pipe Band. There will also be some surprise “pop-up pipers” at secret locations around the town and Q Radio will be broadcasting live from the town centre.
This prestigious competition will bring thousands of visitors to the town with Council and Ballymena BID keen to maximise the economic benefit. With a free shuttle service from the competition venue to Wellington Street, visitors and residents can shop and enjoy both the town and attend the event.
The championships rotate each year between a venue in the Republic and Northern Ireland. It is one of the key outings in the pipe band calendar and always attracts a strong entry list.
Organised by the Joint Association Council of the RSPBA NI Branch and the Irish Pipe Band Association in partnership with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, the contest gets underway at 11am.
Up to 2,000 musicians from 60 pipe bands and 45 drum majors from all over Ireland will be joined by two Australian bands. Twelve-times World Champions, Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band, has also confirmed its participation.
At the end of the competition there will be the spectacle of the Grand Finale March Past and Salute to the Chieftain, when all the bands come together and play as one before the prize giving.
As well as the band competitions, there will be classes for drum majors and Scottish Highland Dancers.
Alderman Tommy Nicholl MBE who led the campaign to secure the All Ireland Pipe Band Championships in the Borough said he was delighted the prestigious event had been secured, which he said would provide a fantastic boost for the local economy and tourism.
He said: "I am thrilled and looking forward to Mid and East Antrim coming alive to the sounds of the best pipe bands on the planet.
"Our community will be able to enjoy the excellent spectacle of the pipe bands, the skill of the drum majors and the highland dancers, with a brilliant atmosphere that all the family can enjoy.
"I am so excited and pleased that we have the opportunity to welcome them to our beautiful Borough.
“We are expecting to have a big crowd and Council staff are liaising with retailers and the hospitality industry to ensure that visitors will receive the warmest of welcomes. We are laying on a free shuttle service between the venue and the town centre for the spectators to enjoy our strong retail offering.”
Ald Nicholl added: "This event will be an incredible advert for Mid and East Antrim and will boost our tourism, hospitality and retail sectors, as well as the local economy generally.
"The decision by the organisers to host the championships in our Borough is a great endorsement of Mid and East Antrim."
Ballymena BID Manager, Kathleen Mc Bride, commented that this was a great chance to showcase the town centre and link it to such a prestigious event. “Shopping very much completes the Ballymena town experience and with the free shuttle out to the venue there is no excuse not to enjoy both. Retailers are ready to welcome all visitors and residents alike.”
For the first time the competition site will also host a tented circus skills workshop where spectators can learn new skills and put on a show of their own.
RSPBANI President, Winston Pinkerton, said: “We are so pleased to be hosting the event at an exciting new venue, a perfect spot for these championships.
“There will be hundreds of competitors from near and far entertaining the crowds on the day. As always the standard will be of a high level so the competition will be tough. With excellent music, good food and fun-filled family activities – this is truly a day out not to miss!”
Admission is free and for regular updates visit midandeastantrim.gov.uk/events