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Research Colloquium: Dr Stephen Millar
October 22, 2019 @ 5:15 pm - 6:30 pmFree
Dr Stephen Millar (Cardiff University) | From Belfast to the Somme (and Back Again): Legitimising Loyalist Paramilitaries Through Political Song
During the Northern Ireland conflict (1968-1998), paramilitary groups were supported and sustained by a sociocultural apparatus that helped legitimise their position within the community and disseminate their political message. From the use of flags and murals, to loyalist and republican parades, working-class vernacular culture revealed who was in control of various districts within the Province. For many working-class Protestants, loyalist songs were a key component of this culture, connecting the past and the present. Unlike the better-known marching band scene, which is a huge public spectacle, the loyalist song scene is much more private. Performed in a closed setting, within local bars and clubs, loyalist songs are reproduced for internal consumption rather than outward expression. Yet, in addition to celebrating a particular loyalist culture, such songs also serve an important function in authenticating and legitimising paramilitary groups, connecting them to older organisations, whose legacy they draw upon. This paper will focus on one such song in particular, exploring how ‘The Ballad of Billy McFadzean’ is used to connect the Ulster Volunteer Force of the 1960s onwards, with the 1913 organisation of the same name. In so doing, the paper attempts to illustrate the political utility of song and how songs can be used to launder and legitimise conflict, as well as those engaged in political violence.
About the Colloquia
The Colloquia feature leading figures, as well as younger scholars, from across the world. They present their research in papers on all kinds of music-related topics. Graduate students Annabelle Page and Emma Kavanagh organise the series. Presentations are followed by discussion and a drinks reception.